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I saved £120k on my DIY Lake Como wedding – here are my top tips

Couple on a boat in Lake Como
Couple on a boat in Lake Como (Cristiano Ostinelli)

Lake Como is a sought-after wedding destination, attracting a slew of celebrities such as Rochelle Humes and Belle Porter in the last year alone.

But if you don't have a big budget, you may be discouraged from choosing the beautiful Italian destination – until now. Turn to real-life couple Anastasia Ivanova and Sylvain Gloux, otherwise known as the Sylvanoffs, for inspiration, as they shaved a massive £120k off their quoted wedding costs by turning to DIY.

How? We asked the PR professional and the banker to share exactly how they planned their dream Lake Como wedding on a budget.

Inside our Lake Como wedding

Newlyweds hugging with a pool behind them
The couple organised their wedding for less than £50k (Cristiano Ostinelli)

"Getting married on Lake Como wasn’t a vanity. We truly fell in love with the area," Anastasia began, before adding they were "heartbroken" when they heard the estimated costs from Lake Como wedding planners.

"For a party of 70-100 guests, we were quoted €120,000-200,000 (£100,000-170,000) for fairly standard and not particularly attractive wedding day options.

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"Before any ad-ons like the rehearsal dinner or a wedding brunch. Wedding planning fees alone would amount to €8,000-10,000 (£6,842-£8,550) for a wedding of our size.

"Instead of giving up, we thought: 'We know the area. Let’s do it ourselves! After all, everyone speaks English there and we aren’t in a hurry.' So a year and a half later, we did it!"

Groom standing on a seaplane in Lake Como
The groom arrived via seaplane (Cristiano Ostinelli)

Anastasia and Sylvain got married in a three-day celebration at Relais Villa Vittoria, with 60 of their closest friends and family in attendance. "Being in charge of all the concepts and wedding planning also allowed us to make our true personalities and passions shine," the bride explained.

And they certainly didn't compromise when it came to wow-factor moments! Instead of a formal rehearsal dinner, the weekend got off to an impressive start with guests enjoying a private three-hour boat tour of Lake Como with a professional guide.

The following day, on 22 July 2023, guests arrived at the lakeside villa at their leisure to enjoy any food or amenities before the nuptials started at 3 pm.

Bride holding bouquet in the air on a boat
The bride rented a boat for ger grand entrance (Cristiano Ostinelli)

Private pilot Sylvain surprised guests with a James Bond-style entrance by flying a seaplane, while Anastasia arrived in a stunning £200k wooden Riva Ariston classic speed boat, which cost £550 per hour to hire.

"We had a live band, a spectacular wedding dinner overlooking the lake, a giant painting unveiling of the bride and groom reimagined as Venus and Mars [the bride’s surprise present to the groom], topped off by a cellar party with an open bar, and a DJ-led boat party," she said.

"All in all – including the entire weekend of guest entertainment – we spent less than £50k (€58.5k), making a saving of at least 50-75% off the originally quoted price that only covered a single day!"

Newlywed couple standing in front of painting
Anastasia organised a surprised painting for her husband (Cristiano Ostinelli)

This included the private boat tour, accommodation for the newlyweds and their close family, and entertainment and babysitting for the kids on the big day.

Making the most of the private wedding venue, Anastasia and Sylvain finished their wedding weekend with a post-wedding brunch and a dip in the lake with Funboy inflatables.

How much our Lake Como wedding cost

Wedding venue: Relais Villa Vittoria – €9,760 (£8,348)

Couple's wedding ceremony at Relais Villa Vittoria in Lake Como
Anastasia and Sylvain got married at Relais Villa Vittoria in Lake Como (Cristiano Ostinelli)

"We covered the cost of the four most expensive rooms for us and the closest family and subsidised 20% of the price for our guests for Friday and Saturday nights. The 13 rooms on site ranged from €320 to €890 (£273 to £761) per night in high season, and we also paid an additional privatisation fee on top."

She admitted the venue was "by far our biggest investment and was totally worth it."

Located in Laglio, an hour from Milan, the villa saved the couple money by acting as both the wedding venue and accommodation. "We didn’t need outside catering, arrange furniture/cutlery rentals, or build a marquee," the bride said.

"We opted for minimal flower arrangements, letting the beauty of Lake Como and the venue be that natural backdrop. Having the venue to ourselves for several days allowed us to minimise guest transfers."

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Photographer: Cristiano Ostinelli – €3,900 (£3,335)

"Don’t compromise on your wedding photographer," warned Anastasia, who chose two photographers including Cristiano Ostinelli. "It is someone who will be with you pretty much the entire day, who will keep you calm, confident and grounded. And will capture the best memories of your life, make you and the venue and all of the flower arrangements and décor look stunning.

"So, ask your wedding planner/venue for not just one or two, but at least a dozen profiles. Also, do your own research and pick a photographer with the style, approach and philosophy you like. Have a video chat with them, and make sure you like their energy," she suggested.

Heaping praise on locally-based Cristianoi, she said he "was super easy to work with and produces stunning work. He is based locally in Como and knows pretty much everyone in the industry, making communication and coordination work seamlessly on the day."

Wedding Dress: Elbeth Gillis – £2,125

Bride in a backless wedding dress
She wore a Elbeth Gillis wedding dress (Cristiano Ostinelli)

Instagram helped the bride find her Elbeth Gillis dress via Angelica Bridal, which featured a high neckline, fitted waist and, best of all, pockets!

Anastasia added that her flowers by Il Fiorista SNC cost €3,223.24 (£2,758), while the couple kept stationery costs low by designing their own programs, seating plans, menus and place cards. They also opted for digital invitations and RSVPs and built their own website for free.

As well as drawing on their own creativity, the couple had a little help from their friends. One filmed a couple of key moments on a semi-professional camera, while portraitist Katya Gridneva helped Anastasia with the portrait of the couple.

Top tips on wedding planning on a budget

Wedding table with candles and flowers
The couple hired out their wedding venue for three days (Cristiano Ostinelli)

So what haven't you considered when planning your wedding? Anastasia and Sylvain said suppliers and guest restrictions deserve your attention.

"When talking to wedding planners and venues, ask if they have any preferred suppliers that you absolutely HAVE TO use," she said.

"Most planners and venues prefer to work with just two or three regular suppliers – as it is easier for them to manage. Allowing 'preferred' suppliers to have an upper hand in any pricing conversations.

"Get supplier costs from the get-go, and if your wedding is the year after, confirm the cut-off date for using this year’s rates the year after – your rates will be locked as soon as the deposit is paid."

She added that noise restrictions and rules around drone usage could add unexpected costs.

"Also, think about any items you can save on without a major impact on your wedding celebrations. We used customised playlists on Spotify for the ceremony, first dance and the cellar party at the venue so we didn’t need live music or a DJ mixing music onsite – outside of a lovely live band called ‘Belle Histoire’ playing during the aperitif."

Our biggest wedding regrets

Couple first dance with bride holding flower in her mouth
Anastasia and Sylvain revealed they don't regret planning a destination wedding (Cristiano Ostinelli)

Despite admitting that the biggest challenge of planning a destination wedding was the lack of information online, especially post-COVID, the couple didn't regret their fairytale location. Instead, they noted videography and flowers were the biggest downfalls when it came to remembering their big day.

"We should have hired a professional videographer! We didn’t because we feared a videographer would ruin the fun and relaxed atmosphere of the event. Since the most wow-factor features – like the bride and groom’s arrivals – were subject to good weather, we also weren’t certain a videographer was a good investment if it rained.

"A drone wasn’t a good idea with the seaplane arrival in any case. But in retrospect, we should have hired someone to capture every detail of our special day on film!" said Anastasia.

She concluded: "Another regret is that we didn’t manage to preserve wedding flowers by drying them correctly – to later immortalise in resin art. But we are testing different methods now and will get a selection from our wedding florist to create beautiful timeless objects for the house."

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