A Relaxed, Wine-Fueled Wedding on Lake Como
For Kate Kennedy and Greg Fodell, it all started with pizza. In January of 2010, Kate, founder of home dĂ©cor company Be There in Five, was at a birthday party on New York Cityâs Lower East Side when she and a friend decided to head to nearby Artichoke for a pie. âMy friend had an âinâ behind the counterâmeaning we could skip the 45-minute line!âand Greg overheard us and asked to tag along,â says Kate of her now-husband. âHe was a complete stranger, but we gave him a shot!â Sharing their pizza connection turned out to be worth it when, five years later on Kateâs birthday, she headed to the coupleâs Chicago backyard to find Greg in a tuxedo, surrounded by candles and holding cue cards Ă la Love Actually. âIâd been so frustrated that he spent my whole birthday in the basement doing laundry, when he was actually sneaking baskets full of dĂ©cor out our basement door to propose to me,â says Kate.
When the couple, with friends and family spread from Michigan and Virginia to New York, Chicago, and North Carolina, started planning their wedding, they knew it would be a destination âdo no matter what. âWe realized it would mean more to us to share a unique experience with the people we love than to just throw a party, so we decided to invite our guests to Varenna, Italy!â Kate says. They kicked off their wedding weekend with a pizza-filled rehearsal dinner, naturally, then had their wedding overlooking Lake Como and the Italian Alps. âWe wanted people to come to our wedding, but more importantly to come away with us and spend time together in this incredible part of the world,â Kate explainsâwhich led to their theme, âComo Away With Us.â Guests traveled to Italy on the weekend of May 13, 2017 to join in the wine-fueled festivities. The photos, by Katelyn James Photography, will have you reaching for your passport!
âThe Lake Como area has the best of everything,â Kate says. âPastel villas, tiny street-side cafĂ©s, and rustic cobblestone streets that are quintessentially Italian, plus majestic mountain and lake views that make Varenna feel so much more relaxed and inviting.â The bride and groom celebrated in one such villa, Villa Cipressi, and their softly hued celebration popped against the structures peach-toned walls.
Kate tried over 50 dresses before finally finding one that felt right. âI didnât realize I wanted something so different until I tried this dress on,â she says of the sequined Karen Willis Holmes design. With cap sleeves, a v-neck, and a flowing silk georgette overlay, it met all of her requirements: glamorous yet ethereal, a modern silhouette with a vintage feel, form-fitting, but still comfortable. âMost importantly, it didnât wrinkle in my carry-on!â she laughs. Greg wore a bespoke midnight blue tuxedo, sleek enough for the romantic setting but relaxed enough for an evening of fun.
The ceremony took place at Chiesa di San Giorgio, a medieval cathedral that was consecrated in 1313 and is decorated with historic frescos and marble. Says the bride: âThey ring the bell at the beginning of every wedding ceremony, then again during the recessional. By the time we walked out of the church, most of the town (including waiters, bartenders, and vendors weâd been interacting with all week!) had gathered in the piazza to congratulate us!â
Following the ceremony, the newlyweds took a picturesque walk through the area for photos.
âVilla Cipressi is the farthest thing from a blank slate,â says the bride. âThe views and gardens are breathtaking, and I wanted our dĂ©cor to fit right in.â She opted for pinks, greens, whites, and creams, using garden roses and peonies to keep everything soft and breezy. The brideâs parents surprised the couple with their family tree, illustrating all the twists and turns life took to get the couple where they were that day.
For dinner, guests sat at tables featuring gold candelabras, where they were treated to a traditional Italian meal. The menu included lobster ravioli, lamb ragout, sea bass, and slow-cooked beef, all served with local white Chiavannesca and red Sassella wines. Says Kate: âWe invited our families and best friends to give toasts between courses, and with such a feast, we didnât get to the dance floor until 11pm!â
The brideâs toast was especially memorable, a poem with a rhyming couplet devoted to each of the 70 guests in attendance.
The brightest pop of color was in the form of wedding favors: Individual bottles of limoncello with tags that read, âWhen life gives you lemons, make limoncello!â
Kate created the gold âPer Sempreâ (âForeverâ) cake-topper herself, and tucked it into a traditional Italian wedding cake topped with rings of fresh strawberries. âWe also served lemon basil sorbetto, a buffet of house-made gelato, and doppio espressos to get everyone on the dance floor!â says the bride.
The couple shared their first dance to âAll My Lifeâ by K-CI & JoJo. âWe love 90s music, and apparently our guests do, tooâour first dance turned into an impromptu sing-along!â Kate remembers. âIt was like sharing that moment accompanied by a live chorus.â
Another favorite moment was the pairâs boat ride around the lake during cocktail hour. âWe snuck off with our photographers to take some photos," says the bride. "The captain was blasting Andrea Boccelli, the weather was perfect, and we had some time to ourselves. It was definitely a âpinch meâ moment!â
Says Kate: âIf youâre planning a destination wedding, make sure youâve been there before, and make another trip during the planning process. Planning remotely is challenging, and I donât know where I would have started if weâd never been to Varenna before. I wish weâd gone back during our engagement, because there are details it took hundreds of emails over six months to organize that we could have figured out in just a few hours if weâd been there in person.â Sounds like a pre-honeymoon is in order!