“I knew from the moment I met Lindsay I wanted to spend my life with her,” says Mark Chatwin of his American-born bride. “She makes me a far better person.” A brief encounter between the couple in Mark’s hometown of London blossomed into romance. Years later the pair began to plan a dream wedding that would focus on special components that represented their personalities. “We didn’t want to fall under set rules, but really create something unique,” confides the bride.

The couple took several factors into consideration when selecting their wedding venue. “We wanted to get married near the water, so that was a huge factor when planning,” says Lindsay. “We also loved the idea of a destination wedding as we’d be able to celebrate more than one day with our guests. Choosing Italy allowed for us to do that.” The couple fell instantly in love with a beautiful villa overlooking Lake Como. Famous for its elaborate terraced gardens, intricate details, and historical artifacts, the grand villa also allowed for a secluded, private affair, which was exactly the type of ambiance the couple sought.

Lindsay and Mark wanted to find small ways to incorporate their respective countries into the scheme of their big day, and in doing so engineered a clever way to welcome guests. “Mark came up with the fun idea of hanging a U.S. and a UK flag at the wedding venue,” shares the bride. There was also a third flag raised – the flag of the groom’s rowing club. “Rowing is a huge part of my life and I wanted there to be something to signify this,” explains Mark. The couple chose not to disclose the location of the celebration in advance, and instead ferried attendees to the surprise wedding site via boat. “It was fun to witness as they one-by-one noticed the flags and realized they had arrived,” remembers the groom.

The bride’s favorite colors of crimson, pink, green, and silver were selected to comprise an elegant color palette. “Once we had those colors chosen, we maintained them through all aspects of the wedding planning,” shares Lindsay. “Laura Hooper, who designed all my accessories, paid specific attention to those colors as well.” Lindsay and Laura were able to create delightful welcome bags, beautiful menus, place cards, and other special stationery items, such as keepsake maps for guests. “[Laura] really helped to make everything come together… the details were consistent and gave an overall polished look,” describes the bride.

Large hurricane vases filled with white roses lined the walkway that led guests to the ceremony area, while the surrounding pond held pretty pink and white floating Gerbera daisies. Mark and the groomsmen donned morning tails to give their formalwear a British feel. The bride held the red-rose bouquet she had always dreamed of as she was led to the altar by her father and her beloved canine, Hudson. “Hudson has been with me for 10 years and I had always envisioned him being a part of my wedding… my mom and I drove him from London to Italy so he could partake in the wedding celebrations,” Lindsay explains of involving her pup in the nuptials. However, the moments following the ceremony were the bride’s favorite: “Mark and I picked an isolated spot to really look at each other and take in the wonderful commitment we had just made,” shares Lindsay.

The reception held in the villa’s marquee (a space similar to a gazebo) was arranged beautifully with tables clothed in sage green linens and crowned with contrasting centerpieces of red and pink roses. Silver accents were incorporated into tabletops with etched-crystal champagne flutes and lovely chargers. Guests began their dinner service with niçoise salad, followed by rabbit risotto with strawberries, and a main course of beef filet. “We both wanted the food to be memorable, so we took extra time tasting various meals before settling on our ideal menu,” says the groom. A towering three-tiered cake of mint chocolate and chocolate chantilly (a specialty whipped cream) surprised even Lindsay and Mark with its immense size. “It was much larger than we had envisioned,” laughs the bride, “but it was spectacular and the taste exceeded our expectations.” Another unforgettable moment for the couple was when an extraordinary lightning storm appeared from the sky during dinner. “Seeing it through the transparent marquee was incredible,” describes Mark of Mother Nature’s fascinating evening light show.

Lindsay and Mark couldn’t be happier with the success of their special day. The couple was also especially grateful they heeded advice from family and friends to take time to appreciate it all. “Although they were brief moments, I can remember standing with Lindsay by my side as we watched our loved ones enjoying themselves, and knowing they were all there in support of the two of us,” Mark remembers fondly. “It was a remarkable feeling.”