A Not-So-Secret Elopement in Lake Como, Italy

After Tyler Henry proposed to Brandy Joy Smith on April 9, 2017, the pair decided to elope, just the two of them. But the couple—a real estate developer and fashion stylist who met on Tinder in 2013—soon realized they needed witnesses, which led them to update their plan: They would each invite two couples. For the venue, Tyler and Brandy decided on northern Italy, where Tyler’s family is from, and found the perfect circa-1913 villa (on Airbnb!) in the small village of Mandello del Lario on Lake Como. “We wanted the wedding to reflect who we are as a couple,” Brandy says. “We love being outside, so it was important to have the outdoors as the background to our evening.” And on May 17, 2017, just 38 days after Tyler’s proposal, it was.

Keep reading to see how Jenny Fu captured this Brooklyn-based couple's Lake Como elopement. But fair warning: It may have you ready to escape for an intimate celebration of your own!

The couple took decor cues from Villa Confalonieri, and let their photographer select the location for the ceremony and reception based on how the lighting would be at the time of each event. (Which, obvi, made for beyond gorgeous photos!)

Han Writing created a watercolored invitation suite, which featured an illustration of the villa at the top.

Brandy describes the morning of her wedding as "magical." Everyone took on their assigned tasks—from picking up the booze to ironing the linens—before the girls gathered for hair and makeup.

As a fashion stylist, Brandy has a very distinct vision of what she would wear on her wedding day—but that's not what she ended up with! "I had never imagined wearing a dress like that," she says. "I pinned all these mermaid dresses that I thought I'd wear, but when I went to try them on, I was like 'Woah, this is so heavy and not right!'" She decided she was not a traditional dress girl and called on Wendel Johnston, a tailor she frequently works with, to create a custom, high-necked piece together. "If you know me, you know this dress is exactly my style," she adds.

Brandy was also set on not wearing a veil but changed her mind the moment she tried one on. “I was like, 'This is so dramatic!'” she says.

For her bouquet, Brandy worked with a florist she found on Instagram to create an undone design that was inspired by the Italian countryside. The result was a textured arrangement of piano roses, peonies, ranunculus, and silverstone roses.

The bride's shoes were a gift from her good friend, Montana Rader, who owns a shoe rental company. "She bought me a pair of silver block heel Aquazzura sandals with a sunburst in jewels on the back," Brandy explains. "They were so perfectly me!"

The groom looked dapper in a suit by Sandro, which the couple selected at the store near their home in Brooklyn. And funny story: The night before the wedding, Brandy was convinced they'd forgotten Tyler's pants in the States. "I thought we were going to have to go to Milan the next morning but we weirdly found them under a shirt in his suit bag," she says, laughing.

The couple did their first look in front of the door where they would exchange their vows.

The women guests (all bridesmaids!) wore long gowns in shades of lavender, lilac, and purple.

With tall trees and the villa’s huge front door as a backdrop, the couple exchanged promises—they wrote one long vow together and each recited half—before just 10 guests (four bridesmaids, four groomsmen, their officiant, and a photographer). “We’re both behind-the-scenes people. That’s kind of why we eloped,” says the bride.

Following their emotional ceremony, the newlyweds exited down a grand staircase as their friends showered them with rice.

After group photos on the lawn, Brandy and Tyler led their guests through the tiny village’s cobblestone streets—“It was so cute; the church bells were ringing and people were hanging out of windows like in a fairy tale,” she says—for a cocktail cruise (with champagne and dancing!) on the lake. And when they returned from their epic hour-and-a-half ride, the townspeople had a surprise for the newlyweds: “Everyone from the village had gathered at the dock, and they were cheering for us,” Brandy remembers. “At that point, we were all holding back tears!”

Back at the villa, the couple posed for more photos on the lawn as their timing was perfect: It was golden hour!

Next came a five-course dinner at the villa, with a tablescape designed by the bride and one of her bridesmaids. They achieved their vision for an elegant-meets-organic look by setting the table with a gray runner (brought in Brandy's carry-on), candelabras (from the Airbnb), and simple tableware (from Ikea). (The groom and a groomsman created the night’s playlist—which featured Spanish songs at dinner and rap later on.)

For the newlyweds, the best part of dinner was the company. “I got to talk to everyone and enjoy every single conversation,” Brandy says. And the setting helped, too: "It was so gorgeous—my face hurt from smiling that day," Brandy adds.

Black bistro chairs were draped with burgundy blooms, as the couple sat in the center of the table. "My husband took off his shoes at one point," Brandy remembers. "It was so us."

This moment took place by candlelight, after dark: “We were celebrating, dancing, and cutting the cake at the same time,” says the bride.

The celebration continued with limoncello shots and Italian wedding cookies before everyone headed inside to change into comfy clothes—and later, jump into the pool. “We were all dancing and smiling, and everyone was so relaxed,” Brandy remembers. “All the tasks were done and we were able to just take it all in.”

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