Destination weddings always make me swoon, especially ones in beautiful France. But today’s is extra special, I just love everything about it, from the dried flower stationery, painstakingly crafted by Emma, to her stunning Halfpenny London gown. From magical venue La Leotardie, to the bridesmaids in forest green dresses, every last detail is thoughtful but there’s nothing over-styled about it.
Images come from the brilliant Michelle Wood, whose style is one I adore and her photography always tells a story. Let’s enjoy Chris and Emma’s…
French Destination Wedding At La Leotardie
Emma the Bride: We had always dreamt of a wedding abroad, eating outside and dancing the night away with our closest family and friends, so when we started looking for a venue we very quickly ended up concentrating on France due to both of our love for the country, food and wine. Emma also had fond family memories. Chris drove over 600km in one weekend looking at 5 venues in a whistle-stop tour of South West France. La Leotardie, situated in St-Georges-De-Monclard blew us away and we both knew straight away this was the place for us. The main house had a large courtyard where we imagined eating outside, a professional kitchen and the house slept 14 people. When walking around the grounds with the owner, Leopold, Chris and I couldn’t believe how beautiful and different parts there was to the venue; a forest, a lake and a rustic converted Pigeonnaire (where we spent our wedding night). It had a paired back, large casual country house appeal rather than a turreted formal Chateaux – which we loved.
Leopold, the owner showed us around and it really was his story that made us fall in love with the place even more. He made us feel at home and like a member of his extended family, and that anything was possible at the venue to create our dream day and weekend. We rented out several houses which were part of the Estate for our family and friends as well as the venue. The dream was to make it into a holiday for everyone, with a welcome BBQ at Bos de Penit (a large Domaine that slept 30 of our friends) and a goodbye brunch post wedding.
Halfpenny London Bride
I started searching online looking for designers that I had always loved. Halfpenny instantly came to mind for the designer’s stunning elegant gowns that are full of variety and really create that extra special look of individuality for each bride. I visited the Bloomsbury showroom after finding the dress online. It took my breath away and I knew it was the dress for me. I decided to wear pale blue shoes as a nod to the ‘something blue’ and gold knot earrings.
I had always wanted the feeling of the wedding to be effortless and individual. I also wanted each dress to really show the personality of each Bridesmaid. Each wore a completely different dress with different fabrics and lengths but coordinated overall with a green colour palette. They were from a mix of retailers from the high street.
I couldn’t have done it without the girls, they kept me relaxed and we had so much fun together staying in the house before the wedding. There are some stories to tell! I bought them as a little gift some sunglasses to wear on the day and Monica Vinader rings with tiny personalised engravings on them.
With the wedding being outside and it being held in June in the south of France, Chris decided he didn’t want all of his friends in suits and wanted to wear a more relaxed and mixed outfit. The jacket and chinos were from TM Lewin, the cufflinks were a present from Emma and were personalised in brass. The hardest part for Chris was deciding on whether he and the groomsmen wore the same colour jacket or he wore a different one. Chris stuck to his guns and went for a contrasting taupe jacket with the groomsmen in blue. We decided early on we wanted one of Chris’ best friends who he met at university, Amy to be a ‘Grooms-woman’ and she wore a simple and elegant jumpsuit in pale blue from Reiss.
French Speaking Wedding Planner
Chris and I never seem to take the easy option and after booking the venue it became very apparent we were going to need a French speaking wedding planner. We found ‘Carnet De Noces’ online, headed up by Gaëlle and she was perfect. Gaëlle understood that I had a vision for the wedding and she facilitated in organising the suppliers who were all local suppliers that really created an authentic effortless feel and were total professionals on the day.
The food was very important to us and we wanted a true French feast for our guests! After our first tasting with Evenements et Compagnie we knew they were the ones. The food was stunning and all local to the region. It literally blew us away. Canapes were perfect and had a real attention to detail in how they were presented. We decided on a starter choice between Foie Gras or a Tian of Scallops on a pea puree, where guests could choose their preference. For the main course we didn’t expect to go for Duck but as the regional dish it was just delicious with Salardaises potatoes. A cheese course with regional cheeses (when in France) and then to finish, a simple Lemon Posset for dessert helped keep the meal fresh and not too heavy. Eating under the stars and as the sun went down in front of our closet family and friends was one of our most memorable and favourite moments of the weekend, it was magical.
We spent a long time researching vineyards and wines from the region. We decided on a White and Red from the local Bergerac area and a dear friend of ours helped us source a gorgeous Rose wine from Chateau Roubine in the South of France. We also had Silent Pool Gin from Guildford as a nod to where Emma grew up also facilitated by a close friend of ours.
We knew as soon as we tasted the cake from Navy Cakery and loved the salted caramel flavour with vanilla icing.
We wanted a very effortless and natural colour scheme anchored in greens and natural tones. The venue was so beautiful that we wanted any touches to be understated and not fussy. Eucalyptus leaves on trestle tables with white French table cloths created a simple and elegant outdoor eating arrangement with candle light to take us into the evening. We were very lucky as the weather was perfect not too hot and a gloriously sunny evening appeared for everyone to enjoy their meal outside. The venue had an equally stunning barn but our dream was to eat outside in France under festoon lights and in a white gravel courtyard.
I work in quite a creative job so getting married abroad was difficult as I wanted to put our own stamp on it but doing that from the UK was tricky! I decided early on I wanted to try and create individually designed menus for the table settings, decorated with English meadow flowers for the tables and to make the table plan. This took a lot of trips to New Covent Garden flower market and Tooting Bec common and lots of books to press all the flowers! We created the wedding stationery ourselves and wanted this to be simple and paired back.
The Humanist Ceremony
Not being huge traditionalists, Chris and I decided we wanted to have a humanist ceremony and were very lucky in finding the celebrant Gwen Gibson. Gwen was lovely and went out of her way to come and visit us when we went to France on our second pre-wedding trip. Gwen took us through the ceremony and helped us design a very personal ceremony whilst putting up with all our last-minute changes!
As a fun start to the day we organised a tractor with hay bale seating to pick up the guests from the sister house – Bos De Penit. The guests were dropped off in front of the lawn and then made their way on foot up to the trees where the ceremony took place. The ceremony was outside under a tree canopy looking back over the Domaine and Pigeonnaire. The band – The Seasons, played an acoustic version of Sweet Disposition which they specifically learned for us which was incredible! Afterwards we all walked back across the grounds back to the main house for canapes and Champagne before the wedding breakfast where the band played a variety of songs.
The photographer was incredibly important to us as we wanted the photos to be fun and capture the spirit of the day. We ummed ahed over different photographers and did a lot of research online until we both saw Michelle’s website and were blown away. Her photos were beautiful, candid and uniquely raw, capturing hidden moments and the spirit of people’s days. I personally didn’t think we would have a chance in getting her as the best ones can be booked up 18 months before the wedding and Chris and I had 11 months to plan the whole wedding.
Lucky for us Michelle was available! Michelle was incredible in every way, her photos are beautiful and surpassed our expectations, she went to every length to get the best photos without being intrusive. What we loved as much as the photos was how relaxed Michelle was and how much she joined in over the whole weekend. Michelle made a huge effort to talk to everyone during the welcome BBQ and became one of the gang, made friends and charmed the photo shy family members.
Michelle found stunning and unusual locations from a big recce she did the day before which was just lots of fun. Michelle joined Chris and the team in the early morning lake swim the day of the wedding and captured some very memorable shots.
Alive Network was recommended to us from friends and we listened to a lot of tracks over a couple of days. Seasons stood out for us as their set list was perfect and their energy were great. The band learnt a couple of new songs for us and provided acoustic music for the wedding, an hours cocktail set, as well as the main event and DJing after. People still comment today how good and fun the band were. A few of our friends even got involved with some of the songs!
We took some great advice from one of my bridesmaids – make sure on the day you and your husband take 5 to go and just watch everything unfold and be together. This was something we couldn’t recommend more and it makes everything so special and worth it.
Also lead by example, if you want everyone to party and truly let their hair down – the bride and groom have to lead by example and party the night away! I was also told to not drink much on the wedding day but I would say just do what feels right, we just enjoyed ourselves and had a wonderful time with our friends and family.
One bit of advice for an abroad wedding would be to make it into the perfect long weekend – not too long and not too short – We were lucky enough to have had a few days and so we spent time talking to everyone before and after so it didn’t feel just about cramming everything into one day and it didn’t feel like it was over in seconds!
An oldie but a goodie – go with the flow, it’s not the little details that people remember (although incredibly hard to do!)