Real Weddings

An Elegant Lake Como Wedding at Villa Pizzo

Photography by Stephan and Nakita.

 

Amidst the imposing foothills of the Alps and Villa Pizzo’s palatial composition, Caroline and Shane held a Lake Como wedding

Built in the 17th century, remodeled in the neoclassical style, and nestled between the villages of Cernobbio and Moltrasio, the Villa is anchored in atmosphere and architecture. The bride chose pale pinks and whites to delicately compliment the rich details and design of this nostalgic space. 

For the ceremony, a semicircle of chairs wrapped elegantly around the darsena, each row capped off by meandering blooms, while Lake Como undulated around them. Afterward, the reception took place in the whimsical glasshouse installation under lush trees and fairy lights.  

The wedding was soulfully captured by Stephan and Nakita.

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Our Story

Names / Caroline Ryde & Shane Crawford

Location / Lake Como, Italy

Wedding Date / September 30th, 2023

Guest Numbers / 100

Budget / 170, 000

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How We Met

Shane was living in Hong Kong for work while Caroline was based in London. In November 2016, chance would have it that we both found ourselves in Las Vegas at the same time, Shane for business and Caroline to celebrate her grandmother’s 70th birthday. We met at a nightclub, where we danced into the early hours before trying our luck at the casino. We both left Vegas thinking we’d likely never see each other again Then texts turned to FaceTime calls, which turned to Shane booking a flight to visit Caroline in London.

Despite the challenges of time-zones and living on opposite sides of the world, we decided to give it a real go. After a year of Shane flying back and forth between London and Hong Kong, Caroline packed up her life in London and moved to Hong Kong. We may not have won anything in the Vegas casinos, but still it turned out we had hit the jackpot.

Our Engagement Story

During the pandemic, we adopted two dachshund puppies, Dave and Larry. They brought us so much joy during a difficult time of frequent lockdowns and inability to see our families. Shortly before we were traveling to Europe to see Caroline’s friends and family, she woke up from the dogs jumping into the bed at 6am, with a curious bell-like sound coming from their collar. When she turned on the light to check what was making the noise, she found a charm attached to Larry’s collar asking ‘Will you marry me?’, while Dave had the engagement ring around his neck.

What we love most about each other…

Caroline: I love Shane’s never ending positivity. He always sees the best in people and situations that arise. He is always in a good mood, excited and easy to love. I also love the safe space Shane is for me. I have moved around a lot in my life and we might move again in the future. Regardless of where we end up, Shane feels like home.

Shane: I love Caroline’s innate compassion and her endlessly supportive nature. I also love Caroline’s curiosity and sense of adventure, which is epitomized by her commitment to merge our lives by taking a leap of faith and joining me in Hong Kong.

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The Setting

 

Wedding Location

Shane is half Thai, so we had originally planned on inviting our friends and family to celebrate with us in the north of Thailand, as we thought it would be such a unique experience. Two weeks before we were scheduled to visit venues in Thailand, we were on a family holiday in Lake Como. On the second to last day we decided to go look at some venues, just for fun. We saw some incredible villas, one of which was Villa Pizzo, and we realized, standing on the darsena where we would exchange our vows, that our decision had been made.

There was no other place we’d rather get married than right here. Villa Pizzo is truly such a unique place. It’s the longest waterfront property in Lake Como, with gardens stretching along the lakeside backdrop. The different segments of the day were all in different areas of the property, making the most of Villa Pizzo’s exceptional beauty, much to our guests’ surprise and delight.

We ended up having a 3 day celebration on the shores of Lake Como, wanting to make the most of this precious time with all our guests.

Aesthetic

Villa Pizzo is a venue that is stunning in and of itself. The beautiful gardens, color of the villa and the intricate artwork inside the villa are next to none.

We wanted our aesthetic to compliment Villa Pizzo’s, rather than take away from it. With this in mind, we kept our decor to a minimum, going for a classic but formal look. Our flowers were a palette of soft pinks and whites, enhancing the romantic ambiance without overshadowing the venue’s stunning architecture and colors.

Preparation

We both got ready with our respective bridal parties. Caroline is a perfectionist and couldn’t handle the thought of showing up to the venue for the wedding without having inspected and approved of everything before, so she got ready at Villa Pizzo with her bridesmaids and mother. She was also more emotional and easily moved to tears on the morning of the wedding, so taking in the impact of the importance of the day and its beauty in private was very special. Shane spent the morning with his groomsmen and parents at our hotel, Villa Flori, where they had breakfast and got ready together.

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Photography & Videography

We were extremely picky when choosing who to hire to photograph our wedding. We wanted to work with someone who we felt a personal connection with and who would make us feel at ease. Neither one of us are great at posing or being serious, so we wanted to hire someone who could make us laugh and capture us in our natural ways of being. We had also decided that we didn’t want to spend too much time on bridal portraits following the ceremony, and instead join our guests at our cocktail hour, where our photographers could capture candid shots of us together. After a lot of research, we came across Stephan and Nakita. Their aesthetic is timeless, candid and beautiful and we were drawn to their calm and professional nature. We quickly decided we wanted to hire them for photography and videography.

Stephan and Nakita were so much more than just wedding photographers that weekend. Their efforts in calming a nervous bride were so appreciated, and their kindness and genuine passion for their work made them both a very special part of our day.

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Style Notes

 

Ceremony Décor

The darsena where we exchanged vows is relatively gray compared to the rest of the property, so we knew that we’d add floral arangements to brighten up the space, whilst complementing the dramatic backdrop of Lake Como and its surrounding mountainscape. Our ceremony decor was elegant and simple. We decided to arrange the seating in a fan shape, rather than straight on, to ensure everyone could see the ceremony, regardless of where they were seated. Rather than an arch, we opted for two large pillars of flowers for our altar, and lined the seated rows with bunches of the same flowers.

Reception Décor

We hosted our cocktail hour in the gardens of Villa Pizzo, where the blossoming flowers, fountain and lake-view spoke for themselves. We had white iron wrought furniture scattered around in the shade of the big trees, while our caterer, AFM, provided a beautiful grazing table for our guests to enjoy along with canapes being served.

One particular detail we wanted after visiting Villa Pizzo for the first time was to really make the most of the gardens. We worked with our florist, Mainardi Fiori, to bring our vision to life of having the seating plans hanging from the tree branches with flowers and candles. So when guests were making their way to the dinner area, they’d stop by this beautiful tree to find their seat.

Villa Pizzo had a brand new permanent glasshouse installed a few months before our wedding, which we had never seen in real life. It was pretty challenging to decide on decor for a space we’d never experienced. We were also unsure of how much of Villa Pizzo would be visible now that we’d be in this glass building. We spent a lot of time on Pinterest and also checking out the geo tag for Villa Pizzo to check out the weddings happening there before ours to see how other couples had done it, which was very helpful. Sticking to our theme of white and pale pink florals,  we decided on round tables and fairy lights for a warm ambiance.

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Wedding Planner & Stylist

Given that we hadn’t planned to get married in Lake Como, we went with the first wedding planner we could find that could take us to look at wedding venues with only a day’s notice. We had an unfortunate experience with that planner and realized we wouldn’t be able to work together at a critical point of our planning when we were making our deposit payments to Villa Pizzo. We then intensively researched and spoke to several other planners before getting connected to Hannah at Love Story Italy.

From the first call we had, Hannah and her team put us at ease and were a fantastic group to work with. They were patient and understanding, while giving great advice based on their years of expertise. They were also accommodating to the fact that Caroline wanted to be very hands on and involved in the wedding planning, having a growing passion for planning events herself and wanting to save euros wherever she could. We loved working with them so much that we now find ourselves missing them!

Flowers

Caroline absolutely loves flowers so we spent a lot of time researching and looking at inspiration. Wedding flowers were also one of the biggest surprises to our budget once we started speaking to vendors, and it quickly became apparent that we needed to be creative. Love Story Italy introduced us to Mainardi, a fantastic florist in Florence. They patiently worked with us and entertained all of our ideas for how to cut costs and repurpose flowers throughout the day, ensuring beauty and sustainability were front of mind.  As mentioned earlier, Caroline was quite emotional on the morning of the wedding, easily moved to tears. When Mainardi showed up with the flowers, she happily cried at the sea of pinks and whites before her.

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Cake

We were playing around with not having a wedding cake and instead having a sit down dessert, as we’ve experienced in many weddings that the cake barely gets touched and is more of a ceremony than something everyone enjoys. However, our caterer AFM told us about the traditional Italian wedding cake, which is a massive millefoglie cake covered in fruits. We tried it during our menu tasting and we were sold.

After our sit-down dinner, they brought out the cake half finished for Shane and I to finish decorating, which we did to the tune of Dean Martin’s ‘That’s Amore’ and it was one of the most fun moments of the wedding and something none of our guests had ever experienced. And the cake was delicious too!

Food & Beverages

We had an amazing cocktail hour with a beautiful grazing table of Italian anti-pastis, hot and cold severed canapes, while the Aperol Spritz’s were flowing. Following this, we had a seated three course dinner with wine pairing before our incredible wedding cake. As the party got started, our open bar got busy too. Shane is known amongst our friends and family for loving espresso martinis, so we knew we had to have an espresso martini bar, waking everyone up after the big dinner and cake. We also had a dessert buffet for our guests to snack on when their feet needed a break from the dance floor.

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Fashion & Beauty Notes

 

Bride’s Dress & Shoes

I found my absolute dream dress the first day I looked, while visiting a friend in New York City, but didn’t want to commit that soon. It was a strapless, simple, and elegant ball gown, with a long train and subtle U shaped back. When I got back to Hong Kong, I just couldn’t find anything similar to the one in New York. I finally found one from Nicole Milano that had a similar skirt and waist style, but with a square neck and straps, and settled on it as the best possible option. During my first fitting appointment, I was still hung up on the straps and the dress in New York so we made the decision of cutting the straps of the dress off. As soon as we had done that, the dress became everything I had ever dreamed of and more.

Given that the dress was so big, I wanted to get a second dress to change into after the reception. Since my wedding dress was so minimalistic, I thought it’d be fun to go for something a bit more fun for the party dress. I found this beautiful Annasul Y. ball gown made up of tulle, with a deep V neckline and back. It had beautiful pearl beading all over the bodice, fitting in well with my accessories. The skirt was huge, so it wasn’t any more practical than my actual wedding dress. We decided to do a bespoke cut again and turned it into a perfect princess tutu dress fit for the dancefloor.

Both dresses fit perfectly with the ever classic Manolo Blahnik‘s Hangisis’s I’d bought in a blush pink color.

For our rehearsal dinner, I kept it the simplest, with a slinky dress from Norma Kamali.

Bridesmaids

I wanted my bridesmaids to fit with the palette of our flowers, so they wore dusty pink slip dresses with a square neckline. They also wore pearl jewellery and hair pins to tie back to my pearl headband.

Wedding Rings, Jewelry & Accessories

Shortly after Shane and I met, one of his best friends had proposed to his girlfriend with the classic Tiffany Setting engagement ring. I told him that if we ever made it that far, that would be the ring I wanted, and he remembered for the next 5 years. For our wedding bands, we went with very classic simple bands, Shane’s in platinum and Caroline’s in gold.

Both my dresses for our wedding weekend were very simple, but I wanted to tie it all around a pearl theme. On the night of the rehearsal dinner I had a small pearl handbag as well as a pair of pearl and diamond earrings that my mother-in-law had gifted me.

On the wedding day, given how simple my wedding dress was, I wore a big pearl headband as a statement piece to go with it and a silk band trimmed long veil. I also wore a diamond bracelet, which was the first piece of jewellery Shane ever gave me, as well as a pearl bracelet I had inherited from my great grandmother. In my ears I had simple diamond studs.

Hair & Makeup

When thinking of what to do with my hair and make-up for the wedding, the most important part for me was making sure I still looked like myself. I didn’t want to look back at our wedding photos and not relate to the person in them.

I did a trial with Studio Como six months before our wedding and they couldn’t have done a better job. It was amazing to not have to worry one second about this leading up to the wedding, and to have Ania, the make-up artist who did my trial show up on the morning of the wedding, immediately put my nerves at ease. Given how emotional I was that morning, she stuck around till after the ceremony for all the touch-ups needed. Staying with the classic and simple theme, I wore my hair in a tight low bun and my make-up was in natural and pink hues.

Groom’s Attire

Very early on in our wedding planning, we knew we wanted a very formal wedding, so we landed on a black tie dress code. However, we still wanted Shane to stand out amongst all the tuxedo jackets, so we had a white tuxedo jacket tailor made for him. His groomsmen wore black jackets but matched their cummerbunds, bowties, cufflinks and shirt studs with him.

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The Details

 

Transport

One of the most frustrating things of planning a wedding on Lake Como is that there aren’t a lot of taxis around. With this in mind, we arranged transport for all our guests to and from their hotels to the rehearsal dinner location as well as the wedding venue.

Our planner and other Lake Como brides told us it was an absolute must to take photos on a Riva boat on the lake, preferably during the cocktail hour of the wedding. Given how much money we had spent on the cocktail hour and how rarely we get to gather all our loved ones in one location, this simply wasn’t an option for us. Instead, we hired a boat to transport us from our hotel to our rehearsal dinner location, getting the pictures taken, and surprising our guests with a boat arrival. This was one of the best decisions we made.

Honeymoon

We wanted to do something different for our honeymoon and decided to go to Turkey for 2 weeks. We split the time between a luxury relaxation beach holiday in Bodrum, adventure with hiking and air balloons in Capadoccia, finishing up with history and culture in Istanbul.

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Wedding Songs

We decided on the ceremony song very early on. One of Caroline’s all time favorite movies is The Holiday, and we both absolutely love Hans Zimmer. We wanted to choose a song that evoked emotions for us both and that truly captured the beauty and tenderness of the moment I was walking down the aisle. We hired a pianist and violinist to play the song, and it was perfect.

Fun fact is that Caroline was listening to this song on repeat for months leading up to the wedding, trying to desensitize herself to avoid crying on the big day. It didn’t work…

We are extremely lucky to have some exceptionally talented singers in our friend-group. Two of Caroline’s bridesmaids graciously performed during the day for our guests to enjoy. Hanna sang Sam Smith – Lay Me Down during the ceremony, while Cathrine performed a jazzy version of Stay Together. We had a Jazz band perform during our cocktail hour and dinner, while we had a show band turn up the dance floor and a DJ for the afterparty.

We weren’t sure if we wanted to do a first dance. Shane is not a great dancer, and we both felt this moment can be a bit awkward and boring. In the end, we decided to dance to “Sweet Caroline”, requesting for our band to start the song in a slower, more romantic style allowing us to dance by ourselves, then really ramp it up for the chorus and have everyone join us on the dance floor. It was such a great kick-off to the party!

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Our Advice

 

A memorable moment…

There were so many memorable moments throughout the day, making it impossible to only pick one.

Living in Hong Kong, with family and friends in New Zealand, Thailand, US, UK, Norway and elsewhere, the most memorable part of the weekend was to bring all these people together. This was the one thing we knew we wanted to achieve with our wedding and we are so grateful for having made that happen and to watch parts of our lives meet for the first time and form special bonds.

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

Planning a wedding in Italy can be culturally challenging. We are used to the efficiency of Hong Kong and felt a bit frustrated at times where planners and vendors took several weeks if not months to reply. Italian vendors are busy year round, either with actual weddings or wedding planning. All this made us realize just how important it is to work with the right planner. Hannah and her team at Love Story Italy had vendors they had worked with in the past who provided excellent service, and her team reassured us constantly that everything would come together in the end, which it did.

We also wish we were more prepared for how hard it would be to stick to our original budget (and by hard we mean impossible).

Sources of inspiration…

Caroline joined different Italy wedding planning groups on Facebook, spent hours on Pinterest and stalked the geotags on Instagram. One thing that helped us massively was Caroline connecting to previous Villa Pizzo brides on Instagram. She was able to get insider knowledge from brides who had already gotten married there and their tips and tricks.

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Our Contacts

 

Wedding Venue / Villa Pizzo

Wedding Stylist & Planner / Love Story Italy

Photography / Stephan and Nakita

Bride’s Dress / Nicole Milano

Bride’s Shoes / Manolo Blahnik

Hair & Makeup / Studio Como

Groom / YSL

Bridesmaids Dresses / Asos

Florist / Flower Design Mainardi

Cake & Catering / AFM Banqueting

Entertainment /  Italian Jazz Trio & The Shakes Show Band

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