Posted In: Gemma
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH GEMMA AURELIUS, LAKE COMO’S MULTI AWARD WINNING DESTINATION WEDDING PLANNER
In 2016, after three years of starting out, My Lake Como Wedding decided it was time for an exciting re vamp. A new brand identity was carefully designed to reflect the company’s incredible success and exciting path that it is now so obviously on, and to attract more and more exclusive clients and from all over the world.
“Moving ever forward and creating an entirely new brand identity was extremely important to us. We wanted our new company branding to reflect our incredible achievement and success over the past three years, and to showcase our now world recognised distinctive and exclusive wedding planning style”. Says Gemma Aurelius – founder and wedding planner at My Lake Como Wedding.
Gemma worked closely with two of the best UK brand stylists in the business, Fiona Humberstone and Caroline Harrison, to create the very new, beautifully distinctive and unique brand identity that we see today. “It was important from the offset for Fiona and Caroline to understand everything about the business, the clients, myself and our overall end game, so we arranged a meeting here on beautiful Lake Como in the town Varenna and before I knew it the new branding project was in full swing” – Says Gemma.
YOU LIVE IN LAKE COMO, HELPING COUPLES FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD EXPERIENCE TRULY MAGICAL AND MEMORABLE WEDDINGS. THAT SOUNDS LIKE A DREAM JOB!
It really is. It’s something I have dreamed about since I was very young, and feel very lucky to be here doing something that I am so passionate about.
WHY LAKE COMO AND WHAT MAKES A WEDDING THERE SO SPECIAL?
Lake Como has everything you could possible want when creating that dream destination wedding for someone. Breathtaking scenery, a naturally romantic atmosphere, incredible food and wine, a warm climate and some truly beautiful wedding villas and hotels. For these reasons alone Lake Como is now recognised as being one of the most luxurious wedding destinations in the world. During a wedding day I always find time to ask the wedding couple and their guests to sum up Lake Como to me in one word, its almost always ‘Magical’.
CAN YOU TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE BEING A WEDDING PLANNER LIVING ON LAKE COMO?
Living and working on Lake Como really is a dream come true and one that I will never take for granted. Myself and my husband purposely leave the bedroom balcony shutters open every night so that the first thing we see every morning is the blue twinkling lake and lush green mountains stretching out before us. This literally reminds me every single morning just how lucky we are, and hugely inspires me to make every day an incredible one. It’s really not hard to start work every day and utterly submerge myself in a job that I am so passionate about.
WHY WEDDING PLANNING?
From as long as I can remember I have always loved lavish events and weddings. When I was very young I apparently made my parents read story books to me over and over again, making them skip to the exciting ballroom dances and colourful weddings. It is completely normal for a young girl to want to lose herself in her fairytale stories and dress up in the beautiful dresses, wear the shiny shoes and even marry a handsome prince, however I was absolutely captivated with wanting to create my very own fairytale stories. From the age of six I was organising plays in my home, which to the annoyance of my regular front row customers, my parents, brother and sister, would be planned down to the minutest details. I found my true love for weddings when I was just 12 years old. I was a bridesmaid at a very lavish family wedding in Germany and I remember being amazed how it looked like something straight out of one of my childhood story books. To me it was truly magical and I was lost in an incredible world of beautiful colours, lights, music and dancing. I remember to this day how I felt at that wedding and I knew right then that I wanted to be at many more. Many more years passed, and during a much needed career break in Melbourne, Australia, I stumbled across a summer job advertisement for a wedding dress assistant working for a fabulous designer in the city. My eyes literally lit up and I remembered thinking that I was supposed to be on a career break, traveling the country and relaxing, but I just couldn’t pass up the wonderful opportunity. I took the job and enjoyed three of the most incredible months submerging myself again in the world of weddings before returning to the UK to continue with my corporate event planning career. However I knew from that moment that I just had to be involved in the wedding planning industry, somehow.
HOW DID YOU FINALLY GET INTO WEDDING PLANNING?
Wedding planning found me. In 2011 my fiancé and I started to plan our very own wedding. We knew instantly that we wanted our wedding in Italy and started searching for an exact wedding destination. It wasn’t long before we settled on the charming and beautiful northern Italian Lake Como. I booked our flights and headed out to the lake for the first time in search of a wedding venue. I was instantly blown away and captivated by the natural beauty and charm of the lake and it wasn’t long before we secured a private lakeside villa to hold our event. Then we got stuck, what do we do next, who do we speak to, what’s required, where do we start and so on. Lake Como is special because it is still fairly untouched by tourism, but that in itself caused us obvious issues when trying to move forward with our wedding plans. We quickly realised that we needed help so returned to the UK and contacted Lake Como wedding planners for help and guidance. Unfortunately It still wasn’t that simple and again It wasn’t long before I started to feel deflated. The email replies from the wedding planners came days later rather than hours, lacked personality and uniqueness, and when it came to listening to our wedding visions it was as if we were asking the impossible. To cut a long story short we ended up planning the majority of our wedding ourselves, using a local wedding planner to assist with the legalities, and returned to the lake on several occasions to source and finalise the details. Our wedding day finally came and it was such an incredible moment in our lives, however when I looked back on that year of planning I was unfortunately reminded only of the feeling of complete helplessness and exhaustion from the many sleepless nights. There had to be a better way, and It was at this moment that I knew I had an opportunity to pursue my dream, working in the wedding event industry offering couples like ourselves a more personal, attentive and exciting service that would make planning a wedding as enjoyable and memorable as the wedding day itself.
HOW DID YOU FIND THE COURAGE TO MAKE THE LEAP INTO WEDDING PLANNING ON LAKE COMO?
Everyone has dreams, it just takes time and confidence to pursue them, ok and a little luck. I had many years of experience in my corporate event planning career and knew I was good at what I did, but it was the planning of my own wedding that gave me the opportunity to use those experiences to make my dream a reality. I strongly believed in myself and what I had to offer, and it wasn’t long before people started to see it too, along with my obvious passion for the industry and my genuine want to care and help people. I did a lot of research obviously before securing my first official wedding client and It wasn’t until I knew I had the complete backing and support from the wedding venues and vendors in the area that gave me the courage to make the leap.
YOU VERY QUICKLY ESTABLISHED YOURSELF AS A LEADING WEDDING PLANNER ON LAKE COMO, HAVE WON NUMEROUS AWARDS AND ARE BEING APPROACHED BY COUPLES FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD WANTING YOU TO PLAN THEIR DREAM WEDDING. WHAT DO YOU PUT THAT DOWN TO?
We care, and it shows. We want each and every one of our couples to have the most incredible and memorable wedding day and we will literally move mountains so that they have the wedding that they have always dreamed about. We also recognise that the many months leading up to the couples big day is a huge and important part of the overall experience, so we ensure that the wedding planning journey is as exciting and memorable as the wedding day itself, and not simply a process. A wedding is a very personal event and unless both of the couples personalities shine through then the event will not reflect them as a couple. We build extremely close relationships with each and every one of our couples right from the start and work incredibly hard in ensuring they have absolutely everything they need, desire, and more. We do this by simply limiting the number of weddings we plan and coordinate within each wedding season, even making sure we do not have more than one wedding in any one week. This enables us to completely dedicate ourselves to each and every wedding, which in tern enables us to continue delivering the very distinctive, exclusive and elegant weddings that we are now recognised for world wide.
WHAT’S YOUR AVERAGE WORKING DAY LIKE DURING THE WEDDING SEASON?
On the wedding day itself I can honestly say it is extremely calm. The wedding planning is complete, everything would have been finalised, secured and then double-checked during the weeks running up to the wedding day. Other than a few phone calls on the morning to make sure everyone is in place, my attention is always on getting over to see the bride to settle any pre-wedding butterflies. A home or an office day usually starts with either an early morning walk with our Havanese dog, or during the warmer months an early morning swim in the lake really helps to clear the mind. I wouldn’t say I have a specific working day or week, and I don’t have a particular day off as even when I am away from the office I can’t help myself but think about work and my clients. I completely understand that my clients need my full attention during the months and weeks leading up to their wedding so I tend to plan any down time after the wedding season finishes.
WHAT DO YOU TEND TO DO OUT OF THE WEDDING SEASON?
Lake Como literally closes down between the months of November and March, which is a real shame as I would love to offer winter weddings here as it’s beautiful all year round. I take this opportunity to spend a lot of time in the UK during the winter which enables me to arrange and visit many of my UK clients, and importantly stay in touch with my friends and family. I would also use this time to disappear with my husband somewhere for some relaxation which enables us to completely clear our minds and dream up new and sometimes crazy ideas for the future. Skiing is also a huge hobby, and our local Italian ski resort is just a 30 minute drive from our Lake Como home so we make sure we get up the mountain as often as we can.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DREAM WEDDING CLIENT?
All of my couples are so lovely. I am yet to have a ‘bridezilla’ and maybe I won’t because we have a clear and calm nature about the way we work, which luckily rubs off on them. If I had to explain a dream client then it would be someone that has a clear initial vision of their wedding day yet is also open to stretching the boundaries by considering some of my sometimes wild suggestions. It is always great to have a client that is willing to introduce something new and exciting on their wedding day. It is very important that my clients trust me, and know I only ever suggest idea’s and option’s that will truly enhance the overall wedding experience, for them and their attending wedding guests.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE WEDDING?
This is a difficult one to answer as I have so many. Every single wedding is unique and has something special and memorable about it and in my mind I have an incredible montage of all the best bits, which is almost impossible to put into words. Out of all the weddings we have done, including three day lavish weddings, exclusive one day weddings and the many different styles of religious weddings I would have to say the one that stands out to me the most was an intimate American wedding which took place during the summer of 2014, in an old abandoned and derelict family house high up in the mountains. We were contacted initially by the bride’s mother, asking for nothing short of a miracle. The bride’s grandmother had grown up as a child in a small house in a village somewhere in the mountains around Lake Como. This particular house still belonged to the family but no one had lived at the property, nor been back there since the grandmother left as a teenager over 60 years ago. The wedding was to be held at this house once it was found. I initially thought it was a joke or a prank but then started to quickly realise that they were actually very serious and I started to fall in love with their story and the connection the family had with this old property. I also quickly fell in love with the idea of having to create what would be a very special and emotional wedding entirely from nothing. If the initial idea of planning this wedding wasn’t already challenging enough, it became even more challenging when I was told that I would only get to visit the old property for the first time a couple of days before the actual wedding day, when someone would be arriving from the US to try and locate it. I was utterly drawn to the incredible challenge and instantly agreed to create their wedding day, planning to use the old property and its garden for the ceremony and drinks aperitivo. Three days before the wedding myself and my team met with everyone for the first time at an arranged spot near to the apparent location of the property. Following a convoy of hire cars up a mountain, and after several wrong turns we finally ended up at the end of the road. We all then were instructed to continue by foot up an old stone track and soon we got our first glimpse of the ceremony venue. Immediately below us on a steep hillside was an old stone house with no glass left in the windows, a broken wooden balcony and an overgrown garden full of old olive and fruit trees. The setting was breathtakingly beautiful, with undisturbed views that stretched for miles out over the lake. The emotion on everyone’s faces as they saw the old family house, and their soon to be ceremony venue for the first time was something that I will never forget. There wasn’t a dry eye around. Whilst the family and guests explored the old house I sat down with the wedding couple on an old stone drinking well in the garden and went over the logistics of the fast approaching wedding day before all going our separate ways to get prepared. The wedding ceremony and aperitivo was planned with ‘romantic rustic’ in mind. Wooden chairs were arranged in the garden in front of the old stone house overlooking the lake, and an aisle was created to lead to the ceremony area which was under an old olive tree. We arranged a solo violinist to play for the guests arrival and entrance of the bride and her father. The symbolic ceremony was performed by a family member, which included old tales of the house, family history and their links to Italy. It was such an emotional and intimate wedding ceremony and even the village locals turned up when they heard that a wedding was taking place at the old derelict stone house. A rustic Italian aperitivo was arranged inside the old property where guests and village locals reminisced about old family stories whilst the violin continued to play softly in the background. We arranged the reception meal at a rustic Italian restaurant where everyone dined and danced under a blanket of stars. That day, although not lavish, loud or sparkly sticks out in my mind purely for how such an emotional and beautiful event came together from what someone originally thought was an impossible dream.
THANK YOU FOR THE INTERVIEW AND LETTING US IN TO THE FABULOUS WORLD OF LAKE COMO WEDDING PLANNING
Thank you so much for letting us into your wonderful world and taking a few moments to partake in my interview Gemma. If anyone would like more information regarding getting married in this beautiful part of Italy then you really must contact Gemma Aurelius and her team at My Lake Como Wedding where they will be more than happy to assist you with your very own dream Lake Como wedding.
Interview on Lake Como | October 2015 | Fiona Humberstone | Freelance Creative Director and Brand Stylist.