I'm not afraid to admit weekend long weddings filled with family and friends are my favourite - so this stunning French Chateau wedding is right up my street. It might sound extravagant, but it's a once in a lifetime thing and if you're having a destination wedding, it kind of makes sense to turn it into a mini break, non?! ;) Meg & Chris wanted to find a French venue that was close to Paris in order to make travelling easier for their guests and when they stumbled across Chateau de Vallery, they were sold. I mean who wouldn't fall for an exclusive use renaissance manor house complete with indoor and outdoor pool and a Moroccan style riad?! The whole venue just looks incredible... As does Meg, who is wearing the Olivia gown by Reem Acra. It's beautiful - the embellished capped sleeves, the bodice detail, the fall of the skirt, the subtle train - it's a gown we've loved (and lots of you have loved) for a long time, since one of our girl crushes, Olivia Wilde, wore it in fact, so it's lovely to see it once again in the real wedding world! It's a celebration filled with good food, good wine, good company and lots of sunshine...enjoy!

The Bride

Meg The Bride: I found the dress hunt difficult, I am indecisive at the best of times but I felt the pressure of choosing a dress that is a focal point of the day. I couldn’t decide on the ‘look’- did I go for bridal, lace and tight fitting, did I go for floaty and boho or did I go for glam? If I could I’d have worn all three! When I finally found my dress I was excited, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and it felt the most right so the ‘glam’ look was decided for me. The venue obviously plays a huge part in the decision and I could imagine me at the chateau on my wedding day in this dress. It was quite a bit above budget but I felt it was worth it after such a long hunt! Of course the pictures of Olivia Wilde in the ‘Olivia’ dress added to my love for it. The shoes I saw at my dress fitting were so perfect with the heel height and sparkle and my fave shoe designer - I couldn’t resist. I borrowed the diamond and Blue Topaz necklace from my friends family jewellery business as my something blue, also a diamond bracelet. My emerald cut diamond earrings were a present from my husband-to-be! They matched my emerald cut engagement ring and wedding band. I borrowed my veil from my friend - all I knew was that I wanted floor length to add to the train of the dress.

The Groom

We have been to a lot of weddings with the groomsmen in blue or grey suits and we wanted something a bit different, often people are keen to avoid black but we loved the idea of a tux, in a ‘fashion’ sense rather than to make the look formal. Chris was keen to have a slightly different suit from the groomsmen and is a fan of the fit of Reiss suits, they all had the same shirts and bow ties. The bow ties were velvet and from Mrs Bow Tie and were a nicely boxed gift for the ushers and two best men. Chris’ shoes were his extravagance - they were from British Designer Churches and looked super smart. They all wore shirts from TM Lewin.

The Venue

The Venue was an exciting decision to make, we knew we wanted a chateau in France and we knew we wanted somewhere that could accommodate us for two nights (we also knew we wanted a somewhere near Paris rather than the south of France for convenience of getting to and from the venue so that narrowed the search slightly). We booked a road trip around Paris for the first hunt and had 4 venues to look at, 3 of which we found on Google and one was a friends recommendation. We knew Chateau De Vallery was the one as soon as we got there, it was dusk, the lamps were lit and the chateau music was playing around the grounds - Chris looked and me and said ‘this is magical,’ we couldn’t not go for it! It also helped that the owner Patrice allowed us to stay the evening, offered us a nice breakfast the next morning, took us down to his vintage wine cellar and also give us a book on the history of the building - all part of the special memories. Another thing that was important was to have a venue that was worth travelling for - all of our friends and family were traveling from the UK or further a field so it needed to be worth the journey - Chateau De Vallery certainly was that with it's rustic and original features from 1548 and all the different rooms including the Moroccan themed room with doors opening out on to the pool.

The Decor

We wanted to keep it simple as the decor of the dining room already had so much going on. I wanted to go with the French chateau theme and a lot of candle light and continue with the gold that featured in the stationery and Bridesmaids dresses (and BM presents). The menus were part of our wedding stationery - same colour stock and gold chateau logo. As the wine was such a big part of our weekend and we had chosen local wines for the diner we had a chalk wine board on each table listing the choice of wines. The place names were a wooden heart sprayed with chalk paint, name written on and tied around the napkin and menu with brown string with a piece of dried lavender slotted in to finished, I hoped it was effortless but along the French theme. We didn’t bother with favours as they are often left behind and didn’t feel they were needed, instead we gave everyone an indoor sparkler which they lit as we made our entrance to Rihanna ‘We Found Love’- one of ours (and lots of guests) favourite moments!

The Flowers

We were so lucky as we have our talented friend Hannah Turk of The Blue Dandelion with her shop a few doors down from where we live. I was so keen to have a vintage rose and a slight rustic look but wasn’t too sure about what else. Hannah suggested the super large candelabras and with ivy and roses and they looked amazing in the room and were really in keeping with the chateau feel. I was pushing for lots of candle light as I don’t think you can have enough! I toyed with the idea of hessian ties on the back of chairs but I am pleased we didn’t go for it - less is often more and that rule worked in our room.

The Bridesmaids

After a many hours of searching the internet I realised there was a few I liked but a lot I didn’t, eventually I got inspiration from a friend of a friends wedding - it was my dream look right there in a picture. Once I’d seen the look I had the confidence to buy the dresses - I had seven bridesmaids and so had the task of buying seven different dresses - seven dresses from different places at different times and know that they would work! I wanted each of the girls to feel comfortable in their dress and wear a dress that would suit their individual personalities, after lots of online ordering and sending back/trying on we were happy with the selection and although I never had the seven girls lined up in their dresses - I think it worked and they all looked lovely, they definitely added to the glam element! As they all had different dress, they wore their own shoes. We all had the same hair and make-up artists the amazing Ross Williams and Lynda Darragh (who had the small task of seven BM’s, me as the bride, two Mums and two flower girls!) the girls had whatever hair and make-up looks they felt most comfortable with and suited them - I didn’t mind.

The Ceremony

We chose to get married in the rose garden which is in the chateau grounds, Hannah made it look so pretty (I hadn’t even briefed her on the ceremony). Like the whole weekend we were keen on an intimate relaxed feel during the ceremony, as Chris and I have been together for eleven years and are a super relaxed couple this was an opportunity for us to remind each other how special we are to one another and to celebrate that! It really was a part I was so excited about. We were recommended Celebrants In France and we chose Jean Sait - wow are we glad we did. We both had to fill out a questionnaire on each other a few months before the wedding and from that Jean put together a script for the ceremony - it contained anecdotes and special moments, it included words that we’d use to describe each other - it was a really lovely personalised ceremony that felt very special to us. And Jean surprised us with a special bottle of local wine in a box with the answers to our questionnaires and the ceremony script. She told us (and the wedding guests) that we are to keep this shut until our 5th wedding anniversary when we should sit down to drink the bottle of wine and read the words, unless we hit a difficult patch in which case we should open it then to remind ourselves on why we got married - such a lovely keepsake thing for us to take away from the ceremony. We had our bridesmaids, Ushers and flower girls sitting up on the stage as we wanted them to feel part of our ceremony, it was lovely for our pictures also. We had our amazing band and singer sing ‘How Long Will I Love You’ Ellie Goulding to walk down the aisle to and ‘No Place I’d Rather Be’ by Clean Bandit to walk back down the aisle.

The Entertainment

We took a risk with the band having never seen them live, I found them on Google and on hearing some snippets and seeing their repertoire of songs I knew they would be right for our day. They weren’t cheap, as there was also the travel and accommodation to pay for but, they were worth every single penny. They were absolutely brilliant. They were amazing during the ceremony, super fun during the canapés (the songs were so fun we all ended up singing and dancing instead of posing during our professional photos!) and they absolutely made dinner. We entered to Rihanna ‘We Found Love’ and it definitely got the party started! The band kept the fun vibe by playing all our fave songs and instead of eating our food everyone was up dancing!! Definitely a highlight for us and a lot of guests said how amazing they thought the band were (the band also told a best man it’s the most fun they’d had at a wedding!) when we went downstairs for dancing the DJ was ready with his lights and amazing songs- went sent a playlist so for us the music was perfect and the dance floor was packed full from the moment we got there until 4.30am! (DJ Sammy comes with the chateau).

The Food

The food was a relatively easy decision as we had decided to have the same as the caterer our French friend had at their wedding two years earlier. We knew we wanted beef as the main and which of the canapés we wanted (oysters, prawn and steak cubes cooked on the hot plates/animation stations). The food and wine was quite a big part of why were were so keen to get married in France - you get so much for your money and with the right caterer it is of such a lovely quality. Also, the traditional way they have the canapé part of the wedding for a few hours with lots of food flowing, chefs cooking in front of the guests on animation stations and nice French champagne flowing which something we were really excited about.

The Photography

We actually discovered Warren via an amazing wedding we saw on RMW! So we got in touch, met him and liked his vibe - we felt he would fit in well at our wedding and we were keen to have someone capturing the special moments which he definitely did! We were so so happy with our pics and the way they were all given to us on a memory stick. I’d recommend Warren and Ben to any of my friends.

DIY Tips

Don’t ever buy chalk products as they are so expensive - whatever you want to get, buy as wood on eBay etc and spray with chalk paint - it looks exactly the same but for a fraction of the cost! Stationery - going bespoke is a great way of running a theme throughout from your Save The Dates through to your wedding breakfast menus and thank you cards. Also the little touches are what make people feel more part of the day, we put welcome notes in all the chateau rooms with little goody bags, I stuck stickers on the childrens place names, on the table plan we listed people by their nick-names which I think people liked.

Final Thoughts

The main aim for our wedding was, as well as us, for everyone to have a memorable few days with a really relaxed vibe but with a touch of glam. The band were amazing and we spent the entire meal dancing round our tables, the ceremony was meaningful and intimate, the food and drink flowed and in the setting of the chateau - it was a magical weekend with all our friends and family.
Fern Godfrey

Written by Fern Godfrey

Bride: 'Olivia' by Reem Acra | Boutique: Browns Bride | Shoes: Louboutin | Florist: The Blue Dandelion | Venue: Chateau de Vallery | Catering: Loison Traiteur | Groom: Reiss | Shoes: Church's | Bowtie: Mrs Bowtie | Groomsmen: M&S | Stationery: Lola & Blush | Entertainment: Live Lounge Band | Hair: Ross Williams | Make Up: Lynda Darragh

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