Good afternoon lovely people! I’m taking you back to the Dordogne this afternoon. It’s been a little while since we went to France so I thought I’d treat you. And what a treat Sophie and Richard’s day is. It is simplicity done perfectly. If you don’t want anything fussy on your day you can’t go wrong with following their white on white, minimal style.
Sophie and Richard were very relaxed in the planning of their day, with a little bit of help from Marry Me In France, and I think that vibe has carried through right to the end of the day. From no jackets for the groomsmen to letting her maids pick their own dresses and having a last minute hair accessory emergency that got sorted in such a calm fashion they are the picture of wedding serenity. Sophie has some really great words of wisdom for any of you looking to get married abroad and also so fab french supplier recommendations.
Sophie The Bride: Richard proposed on 1st December last year during a surprise weekend away at Baliffscourt Hotel in West Sussex. He hid the engagement ring in day 1 of my advent calendar before getting down on one knee. Definitely dragging himself out of the dog house after convincing me he had eaten the whole thing after his Christmas party earlier in the week in a bid to explain it’s mysterious disappearance.
We had always talked about going away to get married, we liked the idea of making it a mini getaway so that it wasn’t over in the blink of an eye, basically we wanted to milk every minute. Richards brother has a property in France so we have spent a lot of time over there with friends. Like most people we can’t get enough of the cheese and wine over there so it seemed like the obvious choice for our wedding. We loved the idea of a September wedding but weren’t sure if would be enough time to plan it but we didn’t want to wait until the following year so we just went for it.
The Bride’s Fashion & Accessories
For my dress I knew I wanted lace, slim and definitely not strapless, other than I was open to ideas. I travel with work so tried on dresses all over including in New York and San Francisco but finally found the dress in The Bridal Room near to where we live in Surrey. I wanted something which not only looked good but was comfortable in the heat and would enable me to party into the early hours. My dress is by Sincerity who do lots of dresses designed for destination weddings so it travelled well. It was also well within budget allowing me to get the obligatory Jimmy Choo’s. I ended up with flowers in my hair as I stupidly forgot the slide I’d bought but only realising I’d left it in uk about an hour before the ceremony. After quick thinking by my hairdresser, some running around by the bridesmaids and some theft from the displays, I actually much prefer the final look.
Boys & Girls
I had four bridesmaids who wore floaty coral dresses by Dessy, I gave them free reign when we went shopping as long as they stuck to pastels/corals/pinks I was happy for them to have slightly different styles or shades but as long as they coordinated. In the end they all fell in love with the same style and colour and I think they looked fab. I bought them from RK Bridal in New York. I also had two flower girls and their dresses were from John Lewis.
Continuing with the casual and relaxed feel we decided not to bother with jackets for the groomsmen. We knew as soon as the ceremony was over they’d spend the rest of the day with them off so we just went for waistcoats and ties. Richard went for a different coloured waistcoat so he stood out.
We got in contact with a company called Marry Me In France who help with all aspects of the planning process and you have your own wedding planner. We also looked at independent venues ourselves but soon realised that MMIF would take the stress out of things and helped us to get the day we dreamed of.
From day one our main objective was that we wanted a fun and relaxed weekend for 70 of our nearest and dearest. We visited six very different chateaus in the Dordogne area and loved every one of them. Each was so different we struggled to pick and to be honest this was the hardest decision of the whole process. After this everything else fell into place. We fell in love with Chateau Saint-Privat-Des-Pres straight away. It wasn’t even on our short list to view but we decided we may as well see it whilst we were there. It was set in the heart of a tiny quaint village with a beautiful house and accommodation in Gites for 28 of our guests. Everyone else stayed in nearby villages. We had the whole property to ourselves for 3 nights so really had time to enjoy it, we even threw a pool party and BBQ on the Sunday as an after party.
We visited France in April where we visited the venue again and met with our wedding planner Sue. She helped us to meet with suppliers and arrange the finer details without the worry of a language barrier. As the planning progressed we created a website including accommodation and travel info to make things as easy as possible for our guests.
We love how we were able to utilise all the different areas of the property which gave a completely different feel to each stage of the day and each time provided a bit of a surprise reveal for our guests. They arrived to a sunny courtyard and Pimms. We served this in jam jars which I spent time collecting and decorated with lace ribbon and vintage straws.
The ceremony was held through some gates on a terrace over looking the grounds. It was very emotional and we chose our vows with the help of our celebrant to make it personal to us. As we had to have a legal ceremony in the UK, this was just a blessing so we had plenty of freedom. We had two readings one was the lyrics of ‘if I should fall behind’ by Bruce Springsteen, the other was ‘the lovely dinosaur’ by Edward Monkton. It may sound like a random selection but they were perfect!
We followed French tradition and cut a ribbon to seal the vows before we led our guests across the grounds to the natural spa lake/pool area where we held a champagne drinks reception with canapés. Two members of our evening band played an acoustic jazz set as a duo ‘Four Seasons’ which created an amazing atmosphere under the late afternoon sun.
The Flowers & Decor
Our wedding breakfast was served in the barn, it has a very rustic feel so we kept the decoration minimal. Our flowers for the whole day were neutral with a hint of corals, our wedding planner recommended Philippe from Marie Fleurs. He created stunning but simple arrangements for our bouquets and tables. Due to the time of year the venue was already surrounded by stunning colours from its own setting and landscape. We used a fantastic company called Luminous Lighting Events to provide candles, decorations and fairy lights for the whole venue, this created an amazing romantic ambience as the sun set.
Richards main bit of handy work was the place card holders, he spent a long time slicing wine corks. For our favours we ordered Macaroons from a local bakery and presented them in small hessian bags again trying to keep with the rustic theme.
One thing which was important to us was to have a live band, however they seem much pricier over there and not as many to chose from. We even considered taking a band from the UK but by the time you have covered their hotel and travel costs it can become just as pricey. We went for a French band based in Nice called Four Kicks, they were with us all day and played party sets in the evening. They were amazing and had everyone up dancing for the whole evening. Everyone loved them and we’re so glad we blew the budget on this.
When it came to the all important cake we went for the traditional Croquembouche which was a tower of cream and chocolate filled profiteroles. Beats traditional wedding cake hands down. We saved it until midnight then we served it alongside a huge platter of cheese which was extremely well received after an evening full of wine and dancing.
We brought our photographer over from the UK and we’re so pleased we did. We used Murray Clarke as we love his work and he’d been recommended by a friend. He captured the magic of the day from start to finish and we’re absolutely thrilled with the results. We’re still trying to narrow down photos for an album as we love them all so much.
Words Of Wisdom
We loved every single second of our time in France, it was everything we hoped for and more. We kicked off the party on Friday with food and drinks in a local bar in the square of a nearby town. It meant everyone relaxed, the ice was broken and so by Saturday the polite introductions were out of the way and everyone really let their hair down. We would recommend getting married in France to anyone. If you plan to do it abroad keep an eye on your budget as you have to make allowances for overseas charges and fluctuations in currency. Fortunately for us in the 10 months of planning the Euro rate changed in our favour and saved us quite a lot of money but remember this could go the other way.
You’ve probably read it before but remember it’s your day so plan it how you want and not how other people want. It’s good to pay attention to small details but don’t get too wrapped up in them. The main thing is that you and your guests have a good time so just concentrate on everything you need to do this, nothing more and the day will be perfect. We were also given some advice before the big day to make sure you relax and spend time with your new husband/wife. On a few occasions we went off for a walk just the two of us just for 10 minutes this gave us time to speak to each other and take it all in.
Looking back we really wouldn’t change a thing and if you’re uncertain about doing it abroad, we say do it but make sure you get a wedding planner.