Shining Stars on Lake Como
Lucy St Louis is used to being in the limelight – after playing the part of Diana Ross in the London West End musical Motown, she knows how it feels to be the star of a world-class show. So when she caught the eye of Musical Director and Choreographer, Ben Clare, the sparks began to fly and the couple’s love story began. Three years later, she and Ben were centre stage again, this time in their own grand production, when they married at the fabulous Villa Balbianello on Lake Como.
FINDING THE ONE
BEN: We met working on the original London Company of South Parks ‘The Book of Mormon’. I was taking dance auditions and Lucy was the only person in the room who hadn’t learnt the combination yet. So I singled her out and brought her to the front so she could see properly! There was definitely chemistry there from the very beginning. She remembers my calves – I remember her abs!
I proposed to Lucy at Pimalai resort in Koh Lanta, Thailand, a breathtaking resort that we booked through Brides Abroad Travel. Before we departed I created an album of our favorite photos capturing the amazing times we had shared together. The final photo was of me at home in our kitchen, on one knee and holding the ring, and written on our ‘chalk wall’ the words: “Will you marry me?” I planned to propose after a romantic dinner on the second day of our holiday. We would come back to our villa, where I would have decorated our four poster outdoor sunbed with blue lights to recreate our ‘special’ place – beneath the blue and silver illuminated trees on London’s South Bank. I would surprise Lucy with the album, then, before she turned to the final page, flick the blue lights on, play our favorite song ‘You are the sunshine of my life’ then pop down on one knee. However, on the day we arrived the setting sun was particularly spectacular, then the heavens opened and the tropical rain fell! And I knew I just had to propose there and then! So, after all that preparation, I asked Lucy if she’d mind me proposing again the way I had actually planned, and thankfully she said yes for a second time!
I had been to a wedding abroad and everyone had the best time. I loved that you can continue your wedding celebrations with your loved ones over several days. We have always loved the vibe, beauty, food, wine and weather of Italy and went on a 10-day trip exploring different wedding options in Italy, including Lake Como, Tuscany and the Amalfi coast. Villa Balbianello on Lake Como was only the second venue we saw and we both instantly cried, as it was the most beautiful place on earth!
We did lots of planning and preparations ourselves but we couldn’t have done it without the help of our incredible Wedding Planner Aurora Fallini www.lakecomoweddingsandevents.com. We arranged our own flights and car hire and planned everything to within an inch of its life! We wanted our time in Italy before the wedding to be as fun and stress-free as possible. We even did a pre-wedding trip a month before, to take over decorations and go through exact details with Aurora, so that the day would go perfectly – which it did!
We had 60 guests who joined us on the day and made their own travel and hotel arrangements. We initially invited 70 people but a few had to decline because of work commitments. Most people made a holiday of it. The people who are really important in your lives will do anything to be there on your special day.
We hired an amazing farmhouse for the week – Podere Brughee in Tremezzo. It had seven bedrooms and accommodated our immediate family, best man and maids of honor. It was so secluded, and had excellent facilities including an outdoor pool and hot tub. We even hosted a pre-wedding pizza party, where everyone wore white and a post wedding BBQ for over 50 people at the villa!
Getting the look
LUCY: I had always dreamed of going to Kleinfelds in New York for my wedding dress, so I set up a vacation to NY to visit friends and go dress shopping. In the meantime, Ben recommended I try on a few dresses in the UK first and, as I love the couture designer Riki Dalal, and I had seen my ‘dream dress’ on line, I made an appointment and went along with my mum and Maid of Honour. All of Riki Dalal’s dresses are stunning and I tried a few on. I saved the one I came for until last and, the moment I put on the dress, I cried and knew it was ‘the one’!
As I was already booked to go to kleinfelds I kept the appointment and went accessory shopping instead. I found the most amazing pair of shoes but was told they only had one pair left in ivory. I thought I’d try them on anyway but when she bought the box out and opened it up they were in white! To make things even better they were actually in the sale! I also bought a pair of diamond and pearl earrings on the same trip and bought my hairpiece from Liberty in London.
I was so lucky to have two of my dearest friends with me to do my hair and make up and I trust them 100 per cent! Getting ready was so much fun – when I saw myself I was so overwhelmed that I nearly ruined my make up!
Something old, something new?
My Something Old and Borrowed was my grandma’s diamond pin with her initial on it. I had the florist attach it to my bridal bouquet so she was with me when I walked down the aisle. Something New was my dream dress and I wore a garter, which had a Something Blue ribbon on it.
Groom & Bridesmaids
Ben had a tailor made three-piece suit from Hackett. It was classic dark navy with a high collared white shirt and black loafers. To add the finishing touches he accessorized with a gold tiepin, pocket watch and a fob that was his grandpas, which was a surprise I gave him on the morning of the wedding.
For the bridesmaids, I knew that I wanted something long, floaty in a blush vintage pink. I chose multi-way dresses from designers Eliza and Ethan, which look amazing on all body shapes. Initially I thought everyone would choose a different way to wear the dress but they all went in unison and looked beautiful.
Our ‘theme’ was classy and romantic. I chose peony for my bouquet, as they have always been my absolute favorite flowers. The bridesmaids had a similar style but I added freesias as they have such a beautiful scent. The cake was a three-tier sponge with strawberry and vanilla cream. Pinterest was our best friend and we crafted it to our own tastes and designs. We also bought lots of candle holders over from the UK which saved us lots and sourced some scented Yankee Candles too, so not only did it look stunning the smell was out of this world!
ARRIVING AT THE CEREMONY
It was really important to us that when we said, “I do” it was official so we needed a civil ceremony. Villa Balbianello has a license to perform civil ceremonies provided it is held under the arches. The view of Lake Como and it’s spectacular surroundings from the alter was breathtaking. With all the officialities, translations and our personal vows, readings and songs the ceremony lasted around 30 minutes. We were married by the Mayor of Tremezzo but it was also required that we hired a translator (otherwise we wouldn’t have a clue what was going on!) My mum gave me away and it was perfect!
We hired the whole of Villa Balbianello and had our welcome drinks in the fountain area – people just could not believe the views, it was like they were on a movie set, which actually it had been as both Star Wars and Casino Royal were filmed there! After the ceremony we had our appertivo in the canforna then we ate in Segre area then had the party of all parties outside as the night set in. We had a traditional four-course Italian menu washed down with bottles and bottles of white Lugana Catulliana Pratello and red Sangiovese Toscana Caparzo. Afterwards we had a dessert buffet and an open bar. Sunlake Catering provided all these services and was exceptional.
FIRST DANCE & ENTERTAINMENT
A friend of the family was a Frank Sinatra impersonator who happened to be in Italy, so we booked him to join our party. Our First Dance was always going to be ‘You are the sunshine of my life’ so who better to sing it live than old blue eyes himself! He also provided entertainment during the aperitif. Once we finished the First Dance the DJ and musicians kicked in with ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’.
We initially wanted a live band from the UK but the astronomical fees were almost the price of the wedding itself, so we shelved that idea and hired a saxophonist and percussionist through a company called Bluenotte, to compliment the DJ. They were a fraction of the cost and they created the most amazing vibe to our party. After the meal, the dance floor was full for the rest of the night. Nobody sat down! It was the party of a lifetime under the stars!
When we saw Cristiano Ostinelli’s shots we instantly fell in love with his style – his photographs are pure art! He also has a videographer on his team who we booked and, as an extra treat we paid for a drone, which took the most breathtaking aerial footage of Balbianello! Immediately after the wedding service we took a boat trip on Lake Como to take romantic photos of just the two of us, this allowed us special time to be alone together and let the wonderment of what had just happened truly sink in. Cristiano Ostinelli has just been awarded World Wedding Photographer of the year 2018 – so we definitely chose well!
After a stressful build up to the day we both woke up, looked out of our separate bedroom windows and saw that it was the perfect summers day and felt an overwhelming sense of calmness and excitement, knowing that this was going to be the best day of our lives!
We had a few potential disasters – the shop lost Ben’s suit the day before we flew, then we got it back and one arm was longer than the other! Cosmetics spilt on bridesmaids dresses; Mother of the groom’s suitcase got lost and never showed up in Italy; Bridesmaid flying from London getting stuck in Paris – the list goes on! However, the actual day was beyond perfect and absolutely the best day of our lives!
It was a bit over our budget but worth every penny!
Whilst I got ready for the wedding I stayed at the spectacular Grand Hotel Tremezzo, we also spent our first night as Mr and Mrs Clare there. The next day the entire congregation headed over to our Farmhouse for a BBQ and pool party. After that we drove for a few hours to an island off the Tuscan Coast called Elba and stayed at the Hotel Hermitage for four nights. Thank you Brides Abroad for this recommendation, it was idyllic!
The wedding took place at the stunning
Villa Balbianello on Lake Como
Tell us about your wedding
Did you marry abroad? Whether you said “I do” on a palm fringed sandy beach or in a French Chateau, or even in an Icelandic winter wonderland with the Aurora Borealis dancing in the skies above, we would love to hear from you, and feature your wedding on our website .
“Villa Balbianello on Lake Como was only the second venue we saw and we both instantly cried, as it was the most beautiful place on earth!”
Need help planning your wedding?
Brides Abroad, in conjunction with Brilliant Honeymoons can help you every step of the way, from finding the venue, arranging the details and helping with the paperwork to organising the flights, accommodation and transfers for you and your wedding party.