Real Weddings

A Summer Wedding at Lake Como’s Villa Cipressi

Photography by Montana Lee Photography.


Notions of Italian grandeur and the softness of summer were woven throughout every poignant detail of Erica and Payton’s ceremony. The surrounding view of Lake Como, swelling and spilling floral installations, and the striking drama of the terrain crafted a scene of otherworldly imagery. 

Under a canopy of vines and cascading twine chandelier, the pergola on Villa Cipressi’s veranda made for a stunningly intimate reception, complete with a four course Italian meal, arrangements of dahlias, and custom notes tucked in each guest’s menu.   

This romantic Italian wedding was captured by Montana Lee Photography.

Our Story

Names / Erica Serrano & Payton Ball

Location / Varenna, Lake Como, Italy

Wedding Date / August 5th, 2023

Guest Numbers / 23

Budget / $60K

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How We Met

We met at a mutual friend’s birthday party several years prior to our first true meeting. We hardly remember our conversation, just that I(Erica) came up to Payton and his girlfriend at the time to introduce myself as a photographer. I asked if I could take photos of them because I thought they were a beautiful pair. When I reached out six months later, they had broken up so that was that and nothing came of it. Three years later and not a single interaction between us, and I sat across the table from Payton at a Mexican restaurant. Before we knew it, we shared everything about ourselves with each other and felt like we had known each other our entire lives. We became best friends and inseparable, and inevitably fell in love. 


Our Engagement Story

Payton and I photograph weddings together, and we were really excited about this specific trip because it gave us the opportunity to document a wedding in Italy, which we had never been to before. After the wedding, we planned the remaining part of our trip at the Dolomites – a bucket list place for us both. With only two nights there, we were bummed that the first day was rained out causing us to cancel our hiking plans we initially made. We shifted some of our plans and headed to Lago di Braies the next day hoping we could convince them to give us a ticket to take a canoe out although there were no available tickets left online. Upon arriving, we walked up confidently to the desk asking for any remaining tickets. They informed us that their system was down but would allow us to use the one remaining canoe they had available at no cost! How lucky were we! Once we canoed out to the middle of the lake, we realized there wasn’t a single person out on the lake with us, and it felt like a fairytale moment. Payton then asked if we wanted a photo while we were out there, and set up a tripod. He pressed record on his phone and played our favorite song, and then asked me to stand up in the canoe so he could ask me an important question. That was the moment I realized September 30th was about to be my favorite day, and the love of my life was going to be my person forever. He then proposed to me, and I wept. It was a magical day.


What we love most about each other…

Payton about Erica – “I love Erica’s heart for people. Not just for me, but everyone around her.”

Erica about Payton – “I love Payton’s ability to hold space for me emotionally. His ability to empathize and make me feel seen is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.”

The Setting


Wedding Location

We got married at Villa Cipressi. The hotel was perfectly placed in the middle of the most beautiful and quaint village that is Varenna. This was actually the venue we had photographed our first wedding at in Italy, and we fell in love with it’s charm and beauty right away. Every inch and detail inspired us, and the backdrop behind both our ceremony and reception was out of a dream facing the lush views of Lake Como. 



We knew we wanted our day to look and feel like art while also preserving italian culture in the details. The venue spoke for itself since it was perched in the middle of a botanical garden, but our romantic florals and personal design pieces really brought our whimsical vision to life. We also knew we wanted our wedding weekend to feel intimate and intentional beyond how beautiful we knew it would turn out to be. We love to host our friends and I will take every opportunity to turn a gathering into a dance party, so the overall aesthetic we were hoping to achieve was the feeling of a romantic backyard dinner party that transitioned into the energy of a club by the end of the night.


On the morning of my wedding, I had breakfast with my all of my favorite girls. It continued to be a really sweet and peaceful day, as I had my hair and makeup done afterwards with my twin sister and younger sister. Then the rest of my friends showed up as I was putting my dress on to send me off to my first look. 

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lake como wedding

lake como wedding


Montana Lee photographed my wedding day. I knew this part in the wedding planning process would be the most important to me since I’m also a wedding photographer, and I anticipated it would take some time to think through who the perfect fit was for me. I know and look up to so many incredible artists, so I really reflected on how I wanted my wedding images that I’d show my kids someday to look and feel like. Putting it into that perspective gave me clarity. Montana’s storytelling blew me away. Every time I’d see a new image she’d post, I felt speechless and blown away by not only her coloring but also her attention to detail. She captured our favorite moments so purely and artistically. 



Our videographers, Michael and Cally from Cally Films, made our wedding film so creative and emotional. They captured the love and vibrance of our day in such a unique and incredible way, and we felt like we were watching a stunningly romantic film. 

Style Notes


Ceremony Décor

The ceremony decor encompassed Italian bistro chairs and an abstract floral installation to envelope our couple nestled on the more petit veranda of Villa Cipressi. This gave the party a very cozy and uninterrupted moment in time to exchange their vows and tie the knot. The florals were to frame, not overwhelm. Our floral designer Jenn with Meraki Blommor sourced local blooms and produce to give a nod to the incredible Italy and its culture. She tied more traditional rich tones with lighter pastels to create a softness similar to the sunsets in Como, then mimicked the rolling hills of the lake in the shape of the backdrop. 


Reception Décor

Carrying the theme of nods to Italy with modern bistro touches, we centered a long family style table under the vined pergola of Villa Cipressi’s main veranda over looking the gem that is Lake Como. Meraki Blommor created custom butcher twine fringe chandeliers that were crafted piece by piece to hang over the center of the table where they could gently sway in the summer breeze. They created gorgeous shadows and shapes across a table full of traditional flatware, farm sourced dahlias and woven baskets of spilling local fruits. Honey + Thyme Events garnished the table with black edged linen napkins and custom menus as a collaboration with Hannah Turner Studios. The menus held a handwritten note written to each guest from the couple – a sweet moment while everyone read their love letters! 

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lake como wedding

Wedding Planner & Stylist

We hired Honey + Thyme Events to make our wedding day dreams come true. Having worked on so many weddings together prior to ours, so I knew it would be extra special and an honor to have them stand alongside of me in my wedding journey. We had a strong connection from being in the same industry, but I also knew they were the best of the best at their craft and would make every detail feel different and more inspiring than anything I’d seen before. After our initial meeting about what words I wanted to use to describe my wedding day, they elevated my vision and blew me away!! 


The bouquet was formulated very organically. With the great honor of being able to travel to Olga’s Flower Farm in Como and clip from her gorgeous garden, the vision of the bridal bouquet changed. Jenn let the florals speak to her which resulted in a bouquet that was truly Italian made. From the soul – full of love, appreciation, devotion and of course fresh blooms. Finished off with a light blush hand-dyed silk ribbon. 

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I created my own save the date from Canva with an image from our favorite shoot we modeled for in California. Our wedding invitations and stationery were designed by Hannah Turner Studio. She made our “soft Italian vogue” dreams a reality with her timeless designs.

Favors & Bonbonniere

We wanted our guests to feel the weight of our love and appreciation for each of them in our lives, so we wrote individual love letters to all of them. The notes were tucked into their menus, so they were surprised with them as they sat down for dinner.



We had a fruit tart for our wedding cake!


Food & Beverages

We’re both big foodies and Italy is known for it’s phenomenal food, so we decided on a four course meal that showcased our favorite meals we’d had there. We had signature his and hers cocktails, that represented our favorite cocktails we enjoyed on our date nights. My signature drink was a blackberry bourbon smash and Payton’s was a classic daquiri. 

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lake como wedding

lake como wedding

Fashion & Beauty Notes


Bride’s Dress & Shoes

Rita Vinieris designed the dress and bolero top I wore for my ceremony. I loved pairing the strapless sweetheart A line matte satin dress with a romantic lace bolero top to make it more unique. I changed into a fun and whimsical roman style custom bolero top for my reception that Meagan Kelly Designs created.


Wedding Rings, Jewelry & Accessories

We bought all of our wedding rings from a designer named Artemer. I’ve always been drawn to the art deco style and loved Emerald cut. Payton picked mine out and loved the additional baguette diamonds that connected the main diamond, making it more unique. Payton’s wedding band is also from Artemer and is gold, sleek and timeless.

I did an earring change between the ceremony and reception to match the two different bolero tops I wore. Both earrings were from Revolve.


Hair & Makeup

I had my hair pinned back on the sides with a middle part and bangs left out on both sides to frame my face.  


Groom’s Attire

Payton had a custom suit made from Enzo Custom. He wanted something classic, and I knew black would be elegant and lux.

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The Details



Since our wedding venue was in the town were were staying in, we were able to take a short walk from the place we got ready to the ceremony and reception.



We decided to spend two weeks after our wedding with our immediate families and traveled down to the Amalfi Coast together. We went to Tuscany, Florence, Sorrento, and Positano. We can’t recommend Sorrento enough, although everywhere in Italy is magical – it was our favorite!

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lake como wedding

Wedding Songs

Down the aisle song – Biblical by Calum Scott

Ceremony – we had novo amor, sleeping at last, and sweet instrumental songs playing throughout the entire ceremony so that every moment was filled with music

Bride + Groom First Dance – The Vow by Ruth Anne 

Bride + Brother/Bride + Father in Law Dance – Dancing in the Moonlight by Toploader 

Groom + Mother Dance – Landslide 2018 Remastered by Fleetwood Mac



We had a DJ that played mostly at night clubs in Sicily. He was a riot! I sent him a playlist for inspiration throughout the entire day and during the dancing portion at the end of the night. The music ranged from hip hop/rap, latin music, and EDM.



My brother was our officiant, and that was hands down one of our top favorite decisions we made on our wedding day. My older brother has played the role of the father in my household growing up and has helped carry me through hardship and heartache, so I knew my redemptive love story with Payton would be the most special with my brother leading our ceremony.

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Our Advice


A memorable moment…

We loved how emotional and intimate our first look was as well as our boat ride moments after we became husband and wife officially.


One thing I wish I knew before I started my wedding plans…

Payt – “If I could change anything about the wedding day, it would have been to really pause throughout the day and soak in every detail of the day so that it was cemented in my mind.”

Erica – “I don’t know that I would’ve changed anything about our planning process and wedding day. It really was that amazing. When we first got engaged, I spent a couple of weeks really reflecting on how I wanted our day to feel as opposed to how I wanted it to look first and foremost. Then, I took time to find the vendors I knew were in alignment with my vision and trusted them to take care of the rest. That allowed me to be really present and grateful for every detail and moment on our wedding day, because I knew I didn’t have to micromanage anyone or be in host mode.”


Sources of inspiration…

Take time to celebrate your engagement and honor the season of marriage preparation most importantly. Having a dream wedding with all of your favorite people in one place is a big deal and you should celebrate exactly how you want to, but it is only the beginning of a lifetime journey you’re taking with your partner. Don’t let the growth of your relationship during your engagement season take a backseat to your planning. And when it comes to planning for your wedding day, make sure every vendor you choose is in alignment with you and understands the vision of your day. Even if that takes time. Write down words to describe your wedding day, save images you feel drawn to, and once you’ve chosen your people – trust their creativity. It will be a game changer for your wedding day and will leave you inspired. 

I’ve photographed a ton of weddings, so every time I noticed a unique detail or element that I felt really drawn to, I’d make a note of it in my phone. I also follow a lot of artists and wedding planners/venues, so I saved tons of images from features online, Instagram, and Pinterest. 

Our Contacts


Wedding Venue / Villa Cipressi

Wedding Stylist & Planner / Honey + Thyme Events

Photography / Montana Lee Photography

Videography / Cally Films

Bride’s Dress / Rita Vinieris & Meagan Kelly Designs

Wedding Rings / Artemer

Hair / Hair by Nataliya

Groomswear / Enzo Custom

Stationery / Hannah Turner Studio

Florist / Meraki Blommor

Cake / Villa Cipressi

Catering / Villa Cipressi

Celebrant / Dustin Serrano

Entertainment / DJ Vito Avanzato

Vespas / Lake Como Scooter Rent



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