You know I can't resist a chic French wedding and this one in Gascony, South of France is a real beauty. The open air, ancient ruin, stone arch ceremony was enough to make my heart flutter, then I saw the rustic wooden trestle tables laid in the gardens of the Chateau and I instantly wanted to be there. Beautifully styled by Country Weddings in France, and a wonderfully relaxed and initiate way to celebrate with your guests. Also you know when somebody looks so effortlessly beautiful, well that is exactly how Bride Holly looks in her backless Rime Arodaky gown, topped with the sweetest flower crown on her natural tousled locks. Her groom is pretty dapper too. Such a stunning couple and such a gorgeous destination wedding.
The DressHolly The Bride: Finding the right dress was the part of the wedding planning that I was dreading the most. I absolutely knew what I didn’t want and getting married in a relaxed rustic part of France meant I wanted something fitting with the French, informal surroundings; floaty, boho and a bit edgy (also a bit of challenge.) After trawling magazines and Pinterest I finally came across a photo that won me over and I knew I had to find this particular designer. The model was styled in a cool leather jacket, white blonde shaggy hair, bare footed wearing a beautifully understated dress but at the same time it had edgy attitude. As luck would have the designer, Rime Arodaky, had a small collection of her dresses in The Mews in London where I was living at the time so I went straight to the bridal shop and knew I had to have one of her dresses. The fact that she is French and all her dresses are beautifully hand made in Paris meant it couldn’t have been more perfect for our French wedding. The dress was very unique and I felt pretty special in it. I also wanted something a little romantic in my hair so I found a beautiful white floral head crown by Laure de Sagazan with a white silky ribbon that floated behind to sit on my relaxed wavy hair.
The Groom FashionAs the wedding had a very relaxed, informal vibe we felt it only right that Owen’s suit should reflect this too but of course he still needed to feel the part. We kept it very simple and he wore a plain white shirt with no tie and wore a very chic light blue suit from Tiger of Sweden that had a touch of linen in it, perfect for a warm sunny wedding. Teamed with bare feet and some navy suede loafer style shoes he pulled of the French chic look very well.
The VenueThis was the very fist thing we tasked ourself with when starting the wedding admin. We knew we wanted to get married in the South of France, not only for the climate but for the stunning countryside, food and of course wine. Until we had the venue then I couldn’t start thinking about my theme either so we had to get it sorted fast. We researched loads on line and somehow Owen came across our venue - Chateau de Puissentut. It was exactly what we were looking for. It was a beautifully restored, medieval chateau in the rural countryside of Gers. We could see from the photos that the chateau and its grounds were so tranquil offering so much character and charm that we put a deposit down straight away before we even went to see it. The venue on the day was more than we could have ever dreamt of and the weather gods were really looking over us on our wedding day - we had our ceremony outside, we all ate outside and we partied until the early hours outside too. It really was such a magical place to get married and somewhere that the UK could never offer.
Colour Scheme/DecorAs soon as we have found our venue I knew exactly how I wanted everything to look. We were incredibly fortunate that the surroundings were so naturally beautiful anyway so I knew I wanted to keep the theme very simple, understated and sympathetic to the where we were. The venue owners, DK and Angela, and our wedding planner Patricia, were amazing at understanding my vision and helping me find exactly what I wanted. I had exposed dark wooden tables with wooden and metal chairs which looked beautiful dressed with a hessian table runner covered in olive branches and general green foliage with touches of lavender colour. I made all my stationery myself so chose brown textured card to print all the table names, the table plan and menus - it actually worked brilliantly and I saved myself a fortune! It blended so well with the outdoor setting and I easily achieved the rustic French look I was going for.
Flowers/FloristsOwen’s Mum and Aunty, Lynne and Carole, were our flower arranging angels. They created every beautiful arrangement throughout the venue and also made my stunning bouquet and all of my five bridesmaid’s too. I knew exactly how I wanted the flowers to look - wild green foliage with touches of lavender coloured flowers - and they both interpreted my vision perfectly. The day before the wedding they spent the whole day in the chateau barn, in the sweltering heat, creating master pieces. Owen’s Mum had helped me with all the flower names and order quantities and our wedding planner recommend a local florist where we could place our order. Having this help was invaluable.
The Wedding Party FashionAll five of my Bridesmaids, my three sisters and two best friends, wore the same floaty ivory dress from the high street shop, & Other Stories. It was a dress they could all be comfortable in (even Julia who was pregnant) on a warm day and its simple elegance with a touch of lace really complimented my dress. Again, we kept the groomsmen simple but summer chic - they all wore navy chinos, a crisp white shirt and grey waistcoats from Ted Baker. Owen’s Mum made some stunning boutonnieres for each of the groomsmen bringing the green and lavender theme into the wedding attire.
The CeremonyThe ceremony for Owen and I was probably the most special and memorable part of the day and many of our friends and family also commented on how special it was. The ceremony took place outside in the chateau’s pigeonnier (a sort of old circulal derelict out-house) which was located in the chateau’s grounds. We set up a load of hay bales for our guest to sit on which surrounded the pigeonnier - it had 360 degree views of the rolling countryside and the valley which were simply breathtaking. Following the theme of the wedding we wanted the ceremony to be relaxed, fun and inclusive for everyone. We found a wonderful English celebrant who lived in the south of France to conduct our service which was so personal, meaningful and heartfelt. She told the story of ‘Holly & Owen’, of how we met and all the great times we’ve had together. Owen and I have been together for 11 years so everyone at the wedding was able to share, relate and giggle to many of the stories being told. We carefully chose our ceremony music too - all personal music and songs that would get everyone singing their little hearts out (or shedding a few tears in this case). I walked down the aisle to Bonobo, ‘Nothing Owed’ and sang two songs which boomed out of the speakers set up in the pigeionnier; ‘That’s Amore’ by Dean Martin and “Falling in Love with You’ by Elvis Presley which made everyone cry (even the lads!). My very good friend Polly chose and read our reading; For Now, by Tracey Emin, which was very poignant for us.
EntertainmentWe were in no position, financially, to fly a decent band over from the UK to play at the wedding and it only felt right to take advantage of the infamous jazz scene down on the south of France. The region where we had our wedding was famous for a style of music called Jazz Manouche which is really upbeat and great fun to dance to, a little like gypsy swing. After the ceremony we had 2 guitarists strumming this style of music in the background and later in the evening we had the full 5 piece band who were just brilliant. It was the perfect summer sound on warm evening and got everyone dancing around the swimming pool. Around 10pm we then put on our own music which boomed out of the speakers set up around the outdoor bar. Owen and I spent days creating the music list, each song very carefully selected to please a diverse crowd and keep the energy levels up until the early hours, which it did.
FoodWith the recommendation from our wedding planner our caterers did a superb job of creating an absolute feast for us all. As we all dined outside and in keeping with the relaxed ambience we wanted we opted to have BBQ spit roast lamb (which were being cooked in the chateau grounds) with garlic cheese potato parcels served with a section of fresh salads. All the food was laid out on the tables so our guests could just tuck into whatever they wanted. Such a great way of dong it if you;re after something a little less formal. Needless to say the lamb was incredible and teamed with some great red wine from the local vine yard it was a real hit. My sister, Anna, just happens to be a very talented wedding cake designer and baker in Bristol so I knew from the off I was sorted in that area. The challenge we were faced with was actually getting the cake to France. Owen and his best men drove a giant car down which was packed full of wedding stuff (and my dress!) so the cake had to be packed securely in the car. Anna had recommended that if we wanted the cake to arrive in one piece it was best to be all made from fruit cake. It was roughly decorated in royal icing (which is hard) so perfect to travel with and then finished off with some wild flowers, leaves and dried lavender. It looked and tasted beautiful and blended so well with the scenery.
PhotographerWe were after a very particular style of photography and it was something I felt really passionate about. Again, our budget wouldn’t allow to fly someone from the UK over and the fact we only had 7 months to plan the wedding meant time was against us as most decent photographers are booked up a year in advance. I was so thrilled when I came across our Photographer Darek - we were certainly very jammy to find him thanks to an article I had read written by the owners of the Chateau. He just so happened to live in the nearby village and despite him being fully booked for the year he had planned a holiday on the weekend of our wedding which he was very keen to drop to ensure he could take some our photos in this beautiful chateau. We were not disappointed - his style of photography was so natural and flattering and he managed to capture so many magical moments. He was there for the full day and it felt like I barely saw him yet he managed to get everywhere; a sign of a very talented photographer I think!
AdviceIf you decide to get married abroad do be prepared for the extra layers of complexities you have to deal with but this certainly should not put you off. I would however strongly advise having a wedding planner or someone who is based over where you are getting married to offer you advice on local suppliers and get things booked for you where the language can be a barrier. We couldn’t have done without the help of our planner Patricia - she was an absolute star. On the run up to the wedding, whilst we were getting things prepared in the chateau, I could feel myself getting stressed and wanted desperately everything to be perfect and for all our guest to have a great time - especially as they had all travelled a fair old distance to get there. My friend had told me the day before the wedding to try and relax and don’t worry so much about things not going to plan as no-one knows the plan anyway. If there’s a little mishap or something changes order it just doesn’t matter. I instantly felt so much better, hugely relaxed and on the day of the wedding I was on cloud nine. I forgot all my worries and it really was the best day of our lives.
Dress Designer: Rime Arodaky | Bridal Boutique: The Mews | Hair Accessory: Laure de Sagazan | Bridal Shoes: Roland Cartier for Dune | Engagement Ring : Joy Everley | Bride Wedding Band: Dragon Workshop | Groom Wedding Band: John Titcombe | Grooms Suit: Tigers of Sweeden | Groomsmen Waistcoats: Ted Baker | Bridesmaid Dresses: & Other Stories | Wedding Planner: Country Weddings in France | Celebrant: English Celebrant in France | Venue: Chateau de Puissentut | Caterer: Un Traiteur en Gascogne | Cake : This is Anna | Entertainment: Jazz Manouche band