Where did our Switzerland wedding begin? We met through one of my best friends, Maxim de Turckheim. He introduced us over a group dinner at a members’ club in Mayfair that was owned by a friend at the time. It has now been reopened as Caviar Kaspia by another friend of mine from Paris, Ramon Mac-Crohon. After a first date that went quite wrong (!), Alexi and I have been together ever since.
Months later, we went on a once-in-a-lifetime sailing trip to Polynesia. I thought it a strong possibility that Alexi might propose while there, because frankly, where could possibly be more apt! However, Alexi wanted to retain the element of surprise and propose when I least expected it. Polynesia would have been too obvious and in the end he did so a few months later on a weekend trip to Portofino, Italy.
We were having a casual walk in the port when a stunning Riva boat pulled up out of nowhere, to take us for a sunset drive up the coast. Naturally from that moment on, I suspected a proposal might be imminent. Alexi kept running inside the boat “to get something” but each time he returned with “something” that wasn’t a ring…it was excruciating!
Eventually he appeared with a handmade fairytale book that told the story of our relationship thus far and featured all the wonderful friends who had helped us get to this point. On the last page it said, “…and then Prince Alexi got down on one knee…”. When I looked up, Alexi was indeed on one knee, ring in hand!
Alexi had chosen the diamond but we designed the ring it was eventually set in, together. The engagement ring was created by De Beers Jewellers, and brings back special memories of my time working there and everything I learnt with them about diamonds and the jewellery industry.
I later moved to David Morris, who designed a timeless and feminine wedding band to match, in their Bond Street atelier, the last to still exist at that iconic address. Alexi also had his bespoke wedding ring designed at David Morris.
The wedding reception was held at my family’s ancestral home, Château de Giez in Switzerland. The château has been in my family for 600 years and dates back to 1250.
We did consider hosting the wedding in other locations, including Portofino, Italy where we became engaged. However, as a little girl I had always dreamed of getting married in my family home. I had vivid childhood memories of being a bridesmaid at my Aunt Diane’s wedding and watching her get ready in one of my favourite bedrooms there, the room I also chose to get ready in for my own wedding.
My mother very sadly died suddenly and unexpectedly just months before the event. I was so happy that we had chosen this venue as a result; I felt that it’s what my mother would have wanted and that she was there with us during the celebrations.
We used wedding planner Gianna Grieco of The W. Day (www.wday.ch / @the_w_day)
to help organise the wedding weekend’s celebrations. With both Alexi and I being based in London, we couldn’t have planned a wedding in Switzerland without her. She went above and beyond in making our vision come true, trouble-shooting every issue along the way with apparent ease.
On Friday night we hosted a welcome cocktail party in the nearby medieval town of Grandson. Legend has it that there is a secret tunnel between the Château de Giez and the Château de Grandson; although we have never found it! The dress code for the cocktail party was “Swiss colours”: white and red. I wore a red silk cocktail dress by Michelle Mason and white silk heels embellished with crystals by Rupert Sanderson and a white silk clutch by Jimmy Choo. All the guests played the game and looked amazing, some even came in traditional Swiss national costumes: dirndls and lederhosen!
The actual ceremony took place at Romainmôtier Abbey on Saturday, close to the Château de Giez and one of the oldest Romanesque churches in Switzerland, whose foundations date back to 450AD. It hosted the marriages of the Queen of Austria and the Duke of Savoy in 1500 and more recently that of Diana Ross in 1986. As an ecumenical church, it was a neutral option for both of us, given my husband Alexi is Protestant and I am Catholic.
The church façade was covered with white flowers and green foliage and we repeated this theme inside the church with impressive urns on plinths, which overflowed with flowers. We also had two Pontifical Swiss Guards (known for protecting the Pope and the Palace within the Vatican City) standing guard at the church entrance. Mount Street Printers published the invitations and programme.
On the Sunday, we hosted a brunch in the gardens of the Château. We had planned all sorts of outdoor summer games for the guests such as croquet, however it poured with rain and so everyone stayed inside nurturing hangovers with Bloody Marys and fresh fruit cocktails. My outfit had been planned for hot summer weather so sadly was completely inappropriate for the rain but it’s all I had! I wore a white lace off-the-shoulder dress by Self Portrait and flat pearl and crystal sandals by René Caovilla.
My wedding dress was by Elie Saab, for whom I had worked as his in-house PR when I lived in Paris. As a tick-boxing exercise, I tried on dresses by many other designers, but none compared to his. I always hoped that my wedding dress would be Elie Saab, no other designer makes you feel as confident in a gown as he. I spoke to Mr. Saab on the telephone while I was getting dressed with his former Collections Director Mehran Mehr. It was a deeply touching moment for me, especially with both my late parents being absent.
Originally, I had in mind that I wanted to wear a very simple off-the-shoulder Elie Saab silhouette with no lace and no embroidery, that would stand out for its impressive cut, the volume of the skirt and the length of the train. But when I tried the dress on at the Elie Saab salons in Paris, it didn’t feel like “the dress”.
Frustrated that my choice of gown wasn’t going to work out, my former colleague Maryline Mossino persuaded me to try on a gown “just for fun” that was entirely embroidered with a floral and leaf motif – and the direct opposite of the look I had in mind. It was closely fitted and had a statement train. As soon as I tried it on, I felt that rush of magic that everyone tells you about when you find “the one”.
I chose a matching off-the-face veil as I didn’t like the concept of a woman being “unveiled” to their future husband at the wedding ceremony. The shoes were white silk courts by Jimmy Choo, and I had a matching silk minaudiere so that I had somewhere to hide makeup for touch-ups.
After the wedding dinner, I changed for dancing into a white one-shoulder silk gown by Peter Dundas, embroidered with a silver lightning bolt motif down one side that opened up into a high split on the leg. I wore sparkly gold Jimmy Choo heels and the white silk Jimmy Choo minaudiere from the wedding ceremony look.
Jewellery & Accessories
For the reception, I wore two unique pieces of David Morris High Jewellery. A pair of multi-strand diamond bead chandelier earrings and a statement white diamond flower branch bracelet.
I have a strong sentimental connection to David Morris as my late father used to buy jewellery from the brand for my late mother. I had also recently started working as their Director of Global Marketing & Communications, at the time of the wedding and felt privileged to have been loaned the pieces by Jeremy Morris, CEO & Creative Director.
The flower girl and page boy wore bespoke outfits by Nicki Macfarlane, who did the flower girl and page boy outfits for the Prince and Princess of Wales’s wedding.
Viscountess Gioia de Noue acted as flower girl, her oyster silk dress was accessorised with a matching silk bag and flower crown. Maximilian Wahnich was page boy in a coordinated oyster silk shirt and knickerbockers; he carried the ring cushion, embroidered with our initials, also by Nicki Macfarlane.
I chose not to have bridesmaids. Alexi’s three brothers acted as ushers, wearing matching bespoke blue suits.
The calligraphy for the name cards was done by Jenny Collier of London Scribes, calligrapher to King Charles. The invitations and all the wedding stationery was printed by Mount Street Printers, who are also stationers to the King.
The tablescapes featured white crockery with silver edges, arrangements of various heights of white candles and silver candlesticks, and lush runners of white flowers – hydrangeaus, peonies, ranunculus – and green foliage that continued to run over the ends of the tables down to the ground. The tent had a transparent roof and sides that made it appear as if there were none – they were merely there to protect in case of rain (the wedding was in early June).
Generous clusters of flowers and leaves in white and green hung from the ceiling, interspersed with strands of white silk chiffon and fairy lights. It all gave the impression that we were sitting entirely outside in the moonlit grounds of the château.
Vintage buses transported the guests from their hotels to Romainmôtier Abbey and then on to the wedding reception. They were definitely the ultimate party buses from what I heard later!
My father-in-law is a vintage car collector and loaned us a Rolls Royce Phantom from 1912 as the wedding car, complete with its own cocktail cabinet. It broke down on the way to the wedding, in the middle of nowhere in the Swiss countryside! Luckily he managed to get it going again so all was well in the end!
I asked my father-in-law Eric to walk me down the aisle at the church ceremony as my father had died a few years before the wedding and I wanted to have a fatherly presence with me as I walked up the aisle to Aleix. I have a lot of respect and admiration for my father-in-law and was thrilled and deeply moved that he accepted to walk me in to the church.
My brother-in-law Maxim, who introduced me to his brother Alexi, walked me down the aisle at the civil ceremony in London. He is one of my best friends and I don’t think I could have made it through that ceremony, missing the presence of my late parents, without his support and that of all our closest friends and family present.
Food and drink
We served Champagne by Ruinart and our favourite cocktails: Margaritas and Whisky Sours. The white wine was our favourite Swiss fine wine: Petite Arvine Vieille Vigne 2018 and the red wine was a burgundy from a vineyard owned by my husband’s family: Castel Viel 2015, Domaine des Prés-Lasses
The four-course dinner menu featured local, seasonal produce. We travelled to Switzerland several times for tastings in order to get the ingredients, seasoning and presentation exactly right.
The wedding cake was by Fiona Cairns and had to be driven to Switzerland in its own car in order to avoid any potential damage. I thought her cake was very refined, both in design and flavour (lemon and elderflower).
The wedding ceremony opened with Letters by Abel Korzeniowski, performed by a small classical music orchestra, which the wedding party walked in to.
I walked in to Dance For Me Wallis by the same composer and we also featured his score Charms, all of which the guests apparently found extremely moving.
We used further dramatic pieces of music by film music composers Craig Armstrong (Your Song From The Rehearsal Montage Scene of Moulin Rouge), Hans Zimmer (Tennessee) and John Williams (Theme From Jurassic Park), which we walked out of the church to. A renowned Swiss singer performed Handel’s Eternal Source of Light Divine and Rutter’s The Lord Bless You And Keep You. The guests walked out of the church to L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole.
When the guests arrived for the Black Tie reception at the Chateau, they were welcomed by a group of traditional Swiss alphorn players, performing in the courtyard.
Afterwards for the wedding dinner, Alexi and I walked into the tent to Dirty Dancing’s (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life. Everyone got up and started dancing at their tables, it really helped set the tone for the rest of the evening, and carried on the strong theme of powerful music that had already started at the church.
During the dinner, Alexi surprised me by having booked a well-known soul singer to perform. He did so while walking around the tent, in between tables, ensuring that everyone got to experience his incredible voice up close. It added a lot of atmosphere and immediately got people into a great mood.
At the end of the dinner, rather than have the traditional firework display, we opted for a musical digital mapping show by British light artist Rupert Newman. The spectacle was projected onto the back façade of the château and featured 3D imagery featuring Alexi and I throughout our relationship, interspersed with colourful and imaginative visual effects that were a highly impressive technical feat.
Rupert created an accompanying soundtrack of uplifting, upbeat tracks that matched the choreography of the light show. We also had fire-breathers, drummers and percussionists performing simultaneously – the whole thing was quite extraordinary, even more so given the contrast between the modernity of the show and the medieval age of the château. Rupert really outdid himself!
This was followed by the cake cutting, back in the tent, for which we played another film score: John Williams’ Indiana Jones Theme. We cut the cake with an antique sword from the château tower’s Salle des Chevaliers (Knights’ Hall) where all our ancestral weaponry is displayed. (My family fought in Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy’s Burgundian wars, when he was trying to conquer the region in the 1470s.)
Finally it was time for dancing and the first song was I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston. We wanted a track that was pure fun following the classical music at the wedding ceremony in the church, and which would get everyone up and dancing. We asked Sam Totolee to DJ at the party, who has played for everyone from iconic Ibiza venues like Pacha and DC10 through to the royal family. He was absolutely amazing and played all night until there were only a few of us left on the dancefloor! Even then, he only stopped as he had to get back to his night in Ibiza…!
Beauty & Wellness
I didn’t do any specific beauty regime, except for having my usual regular facials at Sarah Chapman. I knew I wanted the makeup to be by Charlotte Tilbury as it was my favourite brand and I knew all the products well. One of their lead bridal makeup artists, Nadia Afzali, who used to do my makeup for important events, flew out to Switzerland to do my makeup for all the wedding celebrations. As we were already used to working with each other, we didn’t feel the need to do a makeup test prior.
Favourite Wedding Gifts
We chose to have a wedding list in the end as friends and family kept asking for suggestions, so it seemed to be the easiest way to do it. We worked with The Wedding Shop as it allows you to pull in gift ideas from any brand or shop with an e-commerce platform, so we were able to list everything from Hermes crockery to antique items from The Vintage Entertainer.
My favourite gift was the presence of our friends and family at our wedding, who made the effort to travel to Switzerland to be with us and celebrate our marriage. We were so lucky to have so many of them there with us.
We went on a minimoon the afternoon after the Sunday wedding brunch.
We drove to Lake Como (we stayed at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which was all very Wes Anderson!) and then to Venice (we stayed at The Gritti Palace for the ultimate Venetian experience), where we boarded the Orient Express to Paris.
They have very strict dress codes on the Orient Express so I was in a full-length Black Tie gown for dinner. One feels like one has gone back in time and is featuring in an Agatha Christie novel brought to life. It was an extraordinary experience and I would love to do it all over again! The Orient Express took us to Paris, where we transferred to a Belmond train to London.
Six months later we went on our honeymoon, which had to be planned around Zika-safe countries as I was pregnant. We went to Sri Lanka first, staying in a few different areas as we wanted to go on safari and visit as much as possible. Then we flew to the Seychelles, staying on a private island dedicated to conservation, called Fregate. I will remember the magical time we spent on that paradise island for the rest of my life.
Venue: Private home
Groom outfit: @kilgour
Flower girls & page boys: Nicki Macfarlane
Wedding website: @rileyandgrey
Wedding rings: @davidmorrisjeweller
Gift list: @theweddingshopuk
Wedding Planner: @the_w_day
Related Article: Inside: A Wedding Where Cultures Beautifully Collide