Villa Pizzo; Villa del Balbianello, Lake Como, Italy

Free spirits. Wild love. Insatiable lust for life. Engaged at Burning Man. Married in Italy. With vows to always find their way back to one another. In this life and the next.

Every few years, we meet a couple who completely pull us out of the expected and show us a different way to live, to experience, to celebrate, to love. 

Melissa and Carlo hungrily chase a higher existence of beauty and happiness, untrodden paths, and depth of experience. They surround themselves with interesting people who make interesting things happen. When they want something, they find a way to get it, in the most creative, imaginative ways. When you’re with Melissa and Carlo, you feel the boundaries of normal life expand, and you see things you never would have seen otherwise. 

Their welcome party on Lake Como was a masquerade ball at the legendary Villa del Balbianello (where we photographed Maggie and Dorian’s Lake Como wedding two years ago). Guests met on the lawn at the grand Villa d’Este, dressed in glittering gowns and masks. The 1926 steamship Concordia ferried them across the lake to Balbianello, where guests made their way up the forested, dimly lit, winding paths greeted by mystical costumed entertainers around every corner. 

The wedding day itself was a magical, fast-paced fantasy world of love and constant entertainment. For Melissa and Carlo, it would not have been enough simply to have a classic, beautiful wedding at Villa Pizzo, one of the world’s most picturesque locations. Melissa and Carlo love to delight one another, and their friends, so this already epic celebration was elevated at every turn by surprises, performances and a level of revelry we had never seen before. 

A woman dressed as an angel greeted everyone at the entrance to the ceremony. Melissa arrived by boat, with her faithful Samoyed fur-child, Mishka, by her side. The ceremony was emotional and intense, with tears and happiness beyond measure. But was anyone really prepared for what was to follow? One after another, surprises exploded onto the scene, keeping everyone in awe and disbelief. Melissa surprised Carlo by bringing in Italy’s most famous chef, Carlo Cracco, to cook his favorite dish on the dance floor. Melissa and Carlo surprised his parents by bringing in famous opera singers. Melissa surprised Carlo with fireworks. Carlo surprised Melissa with a glowing woman suspended over the lake between two boats who seemed to float beneath a giant moon. And there was Jimmy Sax, flown in from St. Barth, whose performance on top of a table brought the energy in the room to an outright frenzy. 

The next day, at the lakeside brunch at yet another unbelievable villa, there was a feeling of, “Did all of that really happen?” And yet, it was still happening, with more champagne, a tiger’s head, a DJ in a flowing robe, and beautiful people dancing in front of the sunset. 

Melissa and Carlo dreamed up their own paradise, and brought it to life with the immeasurable help of their wedding planner, Elena Pensini (who did it all in stilettos, by the way). I call it a fantasy world, but the thing is, it’s not at all. Melissa and Carlo’s life is what they make it, and if they want it to be the most beautiful, exhilarating experience they could ever imagine, then that is the life they get to have.

I concede that not all of us can jet around the world and hire famous chefs and glowing angels to fall from the sky. But what we can do is seek wonder in all the regular places we think we already know – and when we can’t find it, create it ourselves, in our own way. That’s what Melissa and Carlo showed us that weekend in Lake Como – that each day is a new opportunity to stretch the edges of life to delight yourself and those around you. You just have to be willing to dream it, and then be brave enough to embrace it.