Our chateau wedding in France began when my husband and I met in 2016 in a club in Brixton. I was out with friends and so was he and, it transpired, we had both been dragged out against our will that night. Thank goodness we had!
I was instantly attracted to him so therefore was obviously also instantly mean to him. It was out in the smoking area, when we were talking in more depth (and I was being a bit nicer) that we discovered we were both half-French. The Six Nations had just finished that day with England winning the grand slam and, as French fans, we were both disappointed. We instantly bonded over our similar backgrounds.
Six years later and we spent the weekend at River Arts Club, with a champagne afternoon tea at Oakley Court in Windsor to celebrate our anniversary. We also watched the final of the Six Nations, where this time it was France winning the grand slam. It was a neat book end to our first six years. Every step of the way was very romantic and could have been a great engagement moment. Thankfully, he eschewed anything so cheesy and predictable, and caught me off guard when we got home; getting down on one knee in our bedroom, as I was changing into my PJs. Most of what he said was a blur, but once I had stopped crying like a loon, I noticed the most perfect hexagonal Art Deco ring. It was exactly what I had always wanted and it turned out he had spent the last five months tracking it down.
We always knew we wanted to get married at Will’s family chateau in South-Eastern France. It is such a unique place – crumbling, special and still lived in; laden with centuries of family history. We had spent several happy summers there and it was also where Will’s parents had got married over forty years before.
The day before, we staged a rehearsal in the church (attached to the chateau) with the wedding party and those speaking or singing in the ceremony. We then hosted a small casual buffet dinner for them on the terrace of Will’s parents’ house, which is a converted barn on the grounds of the chateau. It was so lovely to have this more intimate group together to kick start the weekend.
The day itself began with the ceremony at 4.30pm. The church is Romanesque, with beautiful stained-glass gothic windows and very simple interiors. I purposefully wanted minimal florals in there- just three arrangements on the altar- to highlight the history of the place. We had an abridged Catholic ceremony with secular readings and music. Afterwards we had canapés and a drinks reception on the lawn behind the chateau, which was thankfully in the shade of several trees, as it was 30 degrees that day. This was then followed by dinner in a marquee on the lawn in front of the chateau, under the shade of yet more trees, and then a party within the chateau itself, with a bar and dessert table on the back terrace.
On the Sunday, everyone was invited back for a casual lunch in the marquee, accompanied by games of pétanque and lazy sunbathing on the grass.
I got my dress from Halfpenny London after spending what seemed like months searching for my very specific ‘Minimal Marie Antoinette’ concept. Kate Halfpenny and her team understood my brief implicitly and had the perfect dress for me. They were also so wonderful to work with and did everything in house, which was really important to me as I did not want to have to search for someone to do my alterations separately.
My veil was my something borrowed, the wedding veil of my friends Gabriella and Laura, and my something blue were my bridesmaids, all in gorgeous navy dresses they chose themselves. I then changed into a teeny-tiny white sequinned mini dress from Mango and my old battered white trainers for maximum dancing potential later in the night.
I wore my hands laden with rings, as usual, though this time with the addition of a silver Claddagh ring gifted to me by my maid of honour Michaela on the morning of my wedding. I then kept it really simple with a pair of white pearl studs that were a 21st birthday gift from my parents next to a pair of Swarovski pearl and silver drop earrings that were a 30th birthday gift from a family friend.
My eight adult bridesmaids wore navy dresses that they chose and bought themselves. Each showed their personality and individual style. I bought them personalised tote bags with face masks, fans from Gigi & Olive and bracelets from Wild and Sea Jewellery with their name (or nickname) on, inside. I also hand drew them all a card with their likeness on the front.
We hired a coach and booked various taxis to shuttle guests to and from the venue and I got to the church (a 2 minute drive) in the back of my in-laws car.
The tables were from our marquee provider and the gorgeous wooden chairs were actually gifted to us from another amazing nearby chateau which is run as a wedding venue, which was so kind. We kept things simple (especially as I am largely anti-flowers). We had candles, glass jam jars of dried lavender and strings of faux-ivy strewn down the middle of our long tables. We had personalised hand-drawn cards for our extended wedding party on the tables, as well as empty shot glasses with a message to meet at the bar. This meant I was then harassed all at once by about ten people dragging me to do tequila shots after dinner – another highlight.
Food & Drink
We served local Crémant, white and red wine at the reception and dinner. We had copious canapés which served as the starter, then braised beef and gratin dauphinoise for a main, large individual cheese boards (we are in France after all) and then, after the first dance, a huge table on the back terrace serving over eight different types of dessert (including a tower of macarons) in lieu of a wedding cake (we are not ‘wedding cake people’ much to the displeasure of my poor mother). It was lit up with sparklers and candles and was a huge highlight of the night. The tower of macarons was particularly hilarious as my caterer misunderstood me when I said my favourite flavour was pistachio, and so only served pistachio. Personally, I have never been happier!
We then had a bar serving Negronis, Old Fashioned’s and gin and vodka cocktails – all from my dear friend Ed’s amazing distillery in the Cotswolds: Wood Brothers Distillery. The next day we drowned in local rosé.
I walked down the aisle to Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, my favourite song. My friend Calum sang Billy Joel’s Always a Woman during the ceremony, a song picked out by my husband, who says it always makes him think of me, and we walked out of the ceremony to the theme music from one of our favourite films; the 1980s classic movie Romancing the Stone. If you don’t know it- please watch it immediately.
The music at the reception was a Spotify playlist I made myself of classic jazz and swing tunes I love, plus a cameo from the Star Wars Cantina tune for my fellow nerds. (IYKYK).
Our first dance was In the Heat of the Night by Ray Charles, spliced with Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvyn Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Our DJ was our wonderful friend Calum Mew (check out his incredible curated weekly playlists on Spotify: Mew Music Monday) who absolutely smashed it. He balanced all generational tastes. We had everything from The White Lotus remix to Bruce Springsteen and Tina Turner (he even let me grab his mike and sing Proud Mary live) and we ended on Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’- a cheesy uni favourite.
Beauty Regime & Wellness
I upped my skincare from basically non-existent to using a few more products (largely 111Skin serums and Estee Lauder face masks) and had my make-up done by my maid of honour with all Armani products. My hair was done by my amazing hairdresser Charlotte Riverain, who flew in from London and somehow managed to also do all eight bridesmaids and my mother’s hair on the day!
Favourite Wedding Gifts
We haven’t opened anything yet as we are trying to drag out the fun but we listed with The Wedding Shop (who have been amazing) and a sneak peek shows me that my much-wanted coffee machine has been bought for us so I cannot WAIT for that to arrive.
We did a two-week road trip across Provence and Sicily and honestly, can I go back now?
- Do not build up your day too much as the pressure can be overwhelming – remember it’s meant to be FUN.
- Get a wedding planner if you can, as I found doing it yourself really stressful
- Remember that your guests are not a faceless audience ready to critique your wedding but the people who love you the most and are happy for you.
Venue: Private home
Caterer: Carré des Lys @carredeslys
Dress: Halfpenny London @halfpennylondon
Groom Outfit: Ede & Ravenscroft @edeandravenscroft
Florist: Les Jardins de Lola @lesjardinsdelolaveauche
Tableware: Homemade, with chairs from Chateau de Magneux @chateaudemagneux
Stationery: The London Printers @thelondonprinters
Wedding website: With Joy @withjoy
Photographer: Jérémie Morel @jeremiemorel_weddingphoto
Wedding Rings: Georgina Boyce Fine Jewellery @georgina_boyce
Makeup: my maid of honour, using @armanibeauty
Hair: Charlotte Riverain @charlotte.riverain.hair
Gift list: The Wedding Shop @theweddingshopuk
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