A Dual-Ceremony, Two-Day Wedding in Lake Como, Italy

Planned by The Lake Como Wedding Planner

couple

Photo by Ross Harvey

Neither Lauren Sommers Smyth, an attorney, nor Dr. Om James “OJ” Neely, a neurosurgery resident, had never been on a blind date when a mutual friend set them up. Neither of them had seen the mutual friend in a few years either.

“She felt strongly that we should meet,” Lauren says of the friend. “We went to a local Thai restaurant, and the connection was obvious. Our relationship grew from there.”

Four years later, the Dallas-based couple invited 54 close friends and family to Lake Como, Italy, for two days of wedding celebrations at stunning (and famous) villas in the area. On the first day, they were married in a Hindu ceremony at Villa Giuseppina, where a dhol player and a decadent Indian buffet added to the festivities. The second day, the couple said “I do” in a traditional Western ceremony, framed by the famed arches of Villa Balbianello. This was followed by a formal reception, where signature cocktails flowed and three opera singers performed during dinner. It was one of their favorite memories, says Lauren, “watching our guests’ reactions when the three tenors began their performance.”

In fact, surprising and delighting their guests was one of the top priorities for the wedding. “We kept the guest list small, making it easier to spend time with each invitee,” the bride adds. “Since our guests spent time and resources making the journey to Lake Como, we focused on their experience and comfort.”

Read on for all the details on the couple's stunning Hindu and Western ceremonies and receptions, planned by The Lake Como Wedding Planner and photographed by Ross Harvey.

bride and groom
Photo by Ross Harvey 

Lauren and OJ legally married at the Federal Courthouse in Dallas a few weeks before their celebration in Italy. It allowed them to invite family, such as Lauren’s grandmother, who would not be traveling to Europe.

bride and groom
Photo by Ross Harvey 
couple holding hands
Photo by Ross Harvey 

For the Hindu ceremony, Lauren donned a maroon lehenga and choli from Ushnak Mal Madan Lall, a bridal shop in New Delhi, India. Her jewelry had special meaning: The necklace was a 150-year-old family heirloom that OJ’s grandmother wore for her wedding.

outdoor wedding ceremony
Photo by Ross Harvey 
hindu ceremony decor
Photo by Ross Harvey 

The ceremony at Villa Giuseppina took place overlooking Lake Como. The mandap was covered in bold blooms in a rainbow of colors, and two large rattan chairs sat like thrones for Lauren and OJ.

colorful mandap
Photo by Ross Harvey 

The Indian ceremony was an explosion of color, with the focal point being the massive Mandap covered in red, yellow, and orange flowers.

rattan chairs
Photo by Ross Harvey 

“The Indian ceremony was an explosion of color, with the focal point being the massive Mandap covered in red, yellow, and orange flowers, created by the ever-so-talented Tulipina,” Lauren says of their floral design.

wedding ceremony
Photo by Ross Harvey 

The couple’s intimate guest list of 54 people wasn’t an easy task. “Destination weddings are a toss-up: You may end up with more people than you planned or far less,” the bride adds.

hindu wedding ceremony
Photo by Ross Harvey 
hindu wedding ceremony
Photo by Ross Harvey 

The couple’s close family friend, Dr. Ramakrishna Rao, officiated the ceremony. He adapted parts to highlight OJ’s Indian upbringing and translated Sanskrit into English for the guests.

hindu wedding ceremony
Photo by Ross Harvey 

Lauren and OJ exchanged garlands, a tradition which signifies that they both accept each other into marriage.

hindu wedding ceremony
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride and groom
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride and groom
Photo by Ross Harvey 

The Hindu ceremony included many traditional parts, like tossing rice into the sacred fire and taking the seven steps.

groom kissing bride's head
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride and groom
Photo by Ross Harvey 

“The ceremony paid homage to OJ’s grandmother, who played an integral role in his childhood,” Lauren says.

lounge area
Photo by Ross Harvey  

Guests mixed and mingled during an alfresco cocktail hour set in a cozy lounge of rattan furniture. The couple had two signature cocktails, a Moscow mule with lychee, guava, and mint, as well as a margarita with coffee and chocolate.

tent
Photo by Ross Harvey  
reception tent
Photo by Ross Harvey 

An Indian feast took place under a sailcloth tent, where guests sat at two long tables flanked by folding garden chairs.

table
Photo by Ross Harvey 
table settings
Photo by Ross Harvey 
colorful floral centerpiece
Photo by Ross Harvey 

Gold vases overflowed with orange, yellow, and pink flowers that coordinated with those on the mandap.

menu
Photo by Ross Harvey 

The Indian buffet included vegetable biryani, spiced chicken, Hyderabadi lamb shank, and, of course, dal.

mother zipping bride's dress
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride putting on heels
Photo by Ross Harvey 

The next day, the couple awoke to get ready for a second ceremony at Villa Balbianello. Lauren donned a long-sleeved, Reem Acra lace-and-chiffon gown and diamond earrings.

bride and mother
Photo by Ross Harvey 

Lauren’s mother, wearing a blue Coutures by Laura dress, helped her get ready.

first look
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride and groom
Photo by Ross Harvey 

Lauren snuck up on OJ for a first look in their traditional Western clothes. OJ wore a made-to-measure Ermenegildo Zegna tuxedo that he paired with his favorite watch, a Patek Philipe 5227G.

flowers
Photo by Ross Harvey 

Tulipina also designed the boutonnieres, which coordinated with the rest of the day's more muted florals.

bride stepping onto boat
Photo by Ross Harvey 

We thought transporting our guests via Italian water taxi would provide a lasting impression of the weekend.

bride and mother on boat
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride walking up stairs
Photo by Ross Harvey 

One of the details that Lauren and OJ loved about Villa Balbianello is that you must arrive by boat. Not only did it make for a great entrance for the bride, but also all the guests got a memorable experience. “We thought transporting our guests via Italian water taxi would provide a lasting impression of the weekend,” Lauren says.

lake como
Photo by Ross Harvey 

Villa Balbianello is well known for its appearance in movies, including Casino Royale, as well as the wedding site for Bollywood superstars Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh.

wedding altar
Photo by Ross Harvey 
wedding ceremony
Photo by Ross Harvey 

As a string quartet played, OJ awaited Lauren’s grand entrance under the villa’s loggia.

bride and father
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride and father walking down aisle
Photo by Ross Harvey 

Lauren’s father escorted her down the aisle to an instrumental cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” She carried a bouquet of lilies.

wedding ceremony
Photo by Ross Harvey 

The couple wanted to make the most of the impressive loggia and stunning lake views, so they kept décor to a minimum.

wedding ceremony
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride and groom at wedding altar
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride putting on groom's wedding band
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride and groom
Photo by Ross Harvey 

“He customized the ceremony to make it simple and elegant with a theme of thanks for everyone’s efforts to celebrate the occasion with us,” Lauren says of their officiant, Fabio Albonico.

bride and groom lighting candles
Photo by Ross Harvey 
bride and groom lighting candles
Photo by Ross Harvey 
first kiss
Photo by Ross Harvey 

The couple also lit a unity candle to symbolize their families coming together. Since family is so important to them, they found sweet ways to honor them in the two days, like including Lauren’s brother as a bridesman instead of having bridesmaids.

newlyweds
Photo by Ross Harvey 
groom and bride kissing
Photo by Ross Harvey 

“On the special day, take five minutes to yourselves to look around and just take it all in,” Lauren advises.

floral arrangement
Photo by Ross Harvey  
escort card
Photo by Ross Harvey 

The reception was filled with Black, white, and gold from the moment guests entered the clear tents. They found their names on place cards calligraphed by Avenue Litho London.

cocktail menu
Photo by Ross Harvey 
signature cocktail
Photo by Ross Harvey 

They were also greeted with a second set of signature cocktails: a guava margarita with pink grapefruit and a French 75 with Seedlip garden and green tea. Milan-based mixology company Drinkable designed all the couple’s signature cocktails.

reception tables
Photo by Ross Harvey
table setting
Photo by Ross Harvey 
table setting and table number
Photo by Ross Harvey

Lauren wanted to make a statement with the reception, so her planning team at The Lake Como Wedding Planner hung floral chandeliers from the tent’s ceiling above the dance floor. The tables had mirrored tops to reflect the flowers and each place setting including black-and-gold flatware and black chargers.

menu
Photo by Ross Harvey

Dinner included Italian favorites like risotto with basil and a parmesan souffle.

bride and groom entering reception
Photo by Ross Harvey
wedding reception
Photo by Ross Harvey

“We wanted a venue that was intimate and allowed our family and friends to use the wedding and venue to create trips of their own,” Lauren says of hosting a destination celebration in Europe.

bride and groom sitting
Photo by Ross Harvey

Another favorite memory was when musician David Dam took to the stage for a surprise performance of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”

dessert table
Photo by Ross Harvey
macarons
Photo by Ross Harvey
macarons in glass dome
Photo by Ross Harvey
dessert
Photo by Ross Harvey
desserts
Photo by Ross Harvey
desserts
Photo by Ross Harvey

The reception included a massive dessert bar filled with petite treats like macarons, cream puffs, custard tarts, and two small cakes.

first dance
Photo by Ross Harvey
bride dancing with father
Photo by Ross Harvey

The couple took their first spin on the dance floor to “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton. Lauren also danced with her father to Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight.”

couple kissing in front of wedding cake
Photo by Ross Harvey

Lauren and OJ cut into a chocolate cream and coffee cream wedding cake. “The wedding itself goes by so fast,” Lauren says. “Take a mental snapshot of your friends and family enjoying their time together.”

Wedding Team

Venues Villa Giuseppina; Villa Balbianello

Planner The Lake Como Wedding Planner

Officiants Dr. Ramakrishna Rao; Fabio Albonico

Bridal Gown Reem Acra from Warren Barron

Bride's Indian Wedding Attire Ushnak Mal Madan Lall

Shoes Jimmy Choo

Hair Victoria Ralph

Makeup Kelly Dawn Mitchell

Mother of the Bride's Dress Coutures by Laura

Mother of the Groom's Dress Naeem Khan

Groom’s Attire Ermenegildo Zegna

Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands Cook Diamonds

Floral Design Tulipina

Stationery Momental Designs

Paper Goods Avenue Litho

Music Inspiration Band

Catering Class Eventi

Cake Marco Failla

Rentals Latini Design; Tableset Rentals; The Lake Como Wedding Planner

Favors Cuoieria Fiorentina; Mantero

Transportation The Lake Como Wedding Planner

Accommodations Villa Giuseppina

Videography Marco Caputo Films

Photography Ross Harvey

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