Their Lake Como elopement begins with a view one dreams of but never believes their eyes will ever see, the pristine lake spread out before them, shimmering in the clear morning sun through the windows of their villa that sits in the mountains just behind Como.
As Linzi is getting her hair and makeup done she gazes out at that same view, hearing the language of her ancestors swirl around her. In the neighboring room, Baxter gets ready, with the help of his brother and best man Spencer. He fixes Baxter’s bow-tie just so in front of a packed bookcase featuring many worn works, as fitting a backdrop as any for a groom who considers words and stories so sacred. Once ready Baxter and Spencer leave and then Linzi dresses with help from her sister, mother and grandmother.
On arrival at Villa del Balbianello via boat with Spencer, Baxter admires its overpowering majesty, perfectly manicured gardens and heavenly backdrop while Linzi’s boat approaches, carrying the bride-to-be and her doting father, Gary, with her. Linzi carries a handkerchief, a gift from her sister and maid of honor, Jenny, it is made from their mother’s wedding gown.
The moment Baxter sees Linzi come into view, his heart rate soars, his breath escapes him.
Adrienne Gatti, Linzi’s grandmother and angelic flower girl, carries down the aisle a Quartz Cluster, a “Master Healer” a crystal that amplifies energy and thought, the stone carries the blessings of many family and friends who couldn’t be with them in Italy for their Lake Como elopement at Villa del Balbianello, she places the crystal on the table before their loving celebrants, Giuseppe and Diane, this way the crystal’s energy is at the center of the ceremony.
Beside the crystal sits an abalone shell that holds a braid of the traditional Native American plant sweetgrass, which is grown, dried and prepared by Baxter’s mother, from their home in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma, the capital of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Nancy is ever proud of her Choctaw heritage and instils that pride and honor in her four sons, who carry it with them always.
Also on the table rests a copper triangle to symbolize a fire customarily used in Native American tradition as well as seven rose quartz arrowheads that are used to strengthen the heart and aid in keeping love. They represent the Cherokee tradition of the Rite of the Seven Steps, a tradition that they perform to honor the tribe whose blood flowed through Baxter’s father, Jack, and which Baxter proudly carries with him still.
Fighting through tears of love, Jenny reads aloud a moving passage from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, a work that has long inspired Linzi. Then, Spencer reads aloud a passage offered by Nancy titled “Going To The Water”, which continues in the tradition of Native American cultures to honor and pay tribute to Mother Earth for her abundant gifts, the words are ever fitting considering the choice to have a Lake Como elopement to make their greatest commitment to each other.
For the lighting of the sweetgrass, they use a gift Baxter’s mother made for Linzi of an owl feather, she tied it with leather and tortoiseshell beading; the bride carries a strong connection with owls from when she grew up in New Hampshire. The feather symbolizes health and longevity in the Choctaw culture.
Spencer lights the sweetgrass in the shell, and, using the owl feather, fans the sweet smoke towards the bride and groom. Ceremonially, the smoke of sweetgrass brings purifying properties, as it gently assists the release of clear intention, awareness, purpose and good thoughts. The harpist plays “Fratello Sole Sorella Luna (Brother Sun, Sister Moon)” by Ritz-Ortolani during the lighting of the sweetgrass.
With the incorporation of Choctaw elements from Baxter’s mother’s side, they also include Cherokee elements from his father’s side. The bride and groom hold the Rite of the Seven Steps to acknowledge Baxter’s Cherokee heritage from his father’s side. This requires the bride and groom to take seven steps in a clockwise rotation, symbolizing the sun, around a fire (in their case, a copper pyramid), symbolizing warmth. The groom begins with one step as he recites a vow, as the bride joins him in the step, reciting it back. They create their own seven vows including support, faith, patience, growth, respect, joy, and warmth.
After declaring “I do” and sharing personal vows that they wrote to each other, they exchange rings.
Baxter loves wood and the grain that lines its surface, a reminder of the material with which his father worked to support his family. So Linzi surprises him with a custom ring with Santos Rosewood lined with Hickory wood from Oklahoma, the same strong wood that fills the Oklahoma backcountry where Baxter grew up. The ringmaker is from Kansas City, where Baxter’s father grew up, further deepening its significance.
Linzi’s mother, Tina, reads aloud a final passage in the ceremony, “Upon Destiny” by Anon, which states, in part, “Destiny is a mysterious thing. No matter what you do or where you go, you cannot avoid it. And, no matter how hard you try, you can’t force it to happen before it’s time. This occasion we witness today is the destiny of two souls.”
The celebrants Giuseppe and Diane declare them husband and wife and they happily share their first kiss and then hold their first dance while the harpist plays “Playing Love” from La Leggenda del Pianista Sull’Oceano by Ennio Morricone.
They explore the gorgeous Villa del Balbianello grounds and continue to do so on a picturesque journey across Lake Como to Bellagio, where they wander down cobblestone streets and narrow alleys.
At one point, they pass by the kitchen of a local restaurant and are greeted by shouts, applause and banging pots and pans of everyone inside, as they cheer them on. It is a common act of celebration that they appreciate throughout Bellagio, receiving many wishes of congratulations and ear-to-ear smiles.
The whirlwind day carries them to Lido di Lenno, where, after a scenic boat ride across the lake, they join family members for dinner beside Lake Como. The bride’s father delivers a heartfelt toast, welcoming Baxter into their family while noting that they would also welcome another member or two one day soon, the pitter patter of children’s feet, he lovingly calls it.
As the sun falls behind the mountains and the night carries on lightning begins to flash in bursts. The bride hopes for a sprinkle of rain at some point during the wedding day, a symbol of good luck; and as they leave the restaurant, the skies open and begin pouring to bless their Lake Como elopement.
The day has given way to the next, their car climbs the narrow roads that weave skyward toward the villa. Peering out the bedroom window to the lake below, they see it set alight by steady streaks of lightning.
It is as if the heavens are celebrating Linzi and Baxter’s wedding; they decided to elope to Italy for an intimate stress-free memorable wedding and with a little help they created a magical Lake Como elopement.