Jacqui McSweeney

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Marry Me In France.

I recently read about the growing trend in France for an English inspired wedding with some interest. It seems that in breaking away from traditions the french are beginning to opt for a more Anglo/American inspired big day. We on the other hand love a bit of classical french influence and with planning companies like Marry Me in France around it is easier than ever to fulfill your dreams of idyliic Chateaus full of french fancy.

Angela and Andy lived that dream. The event was beautifully documented by Jacqui McSweeney

A Three Day Love-In

Our wedding was on September 30, 2012 at Marry Me In France’s Fairytale Chateau in the Dordogne region. We found the venue through two lovely ladies, Kate and Beth, who run a wedding planning service in the Dordogne called Marry Me in France. Not only did they help us find the venue, but Kate coordinated all of the suppliers and was there on the day, ensuring everything went off without a hitch. She was an absolute godsend!

We chose the location because we had recently come back from a year of travel (a late-in life gap year). The Dordogne was where we first decided to embark on that adventure, so seemed like a nice way to wrap it up. It also forced everyone to travel to the wedding – my family and friends from Canada and Andy’s from across England. In the days leading up to the wedding, the chateau became a hangout for those not staying there, and a home for those staying with us on the grounds. We had a day of canoeing on the Dordogne river, and a brilliant BBQ the night before the wedding, which allowed everyone to get to know each other and to enjoy the area. We were thrilled at how well everyone got on – it was like a three-day love-in.

Vintage Quality

I found my gown while we were in Sydney. It is by an Australian designer, Johanna Johnson. Her gowns tend to have a vintage quality about them, which I thought suited the venue perfectly. I knew that gown was “the one” the moment I slipped it on – it seemed I stood a few inches taller. The expression on my friend’s face confirmed it. As it turned out, the lace detailing is French, which I thought tied things together nicely.

The gown has some rather ornate jewelled detailing, so I thought it best to not have any accessories so I didn’t wear anything else, apart from my wedding band.

Satin Strappy Lovelies

I my feet I wore some gorgeous, sky-scraping, champagne-coloured satin strappy lovelies by Karen Millen. A bit of challenge negotiating the pea gravel on my walk down the aisle, but well worth it!

Vintage Inspiration

For the hair and makeup, I was inspired by a wedding I came across on the Bleubird Vintage blog. I love how everyone looked so natural, with lovely dresses. We decided to do the same. As we were in rural France, it also made things easy, as we did our own hair and makeup.

Antique Hydrangeas

I had one request for flowers. I really wanted antique hydrangeas as my bouquet – I love them, and thought they would be perfect with the gown. As they are everywhere in the region, it was an easy request. My bridesmaid had a similar bouquet, with a few roses thrown in, and my adorable flower girl had a pommander which she loved twirling around with. The boutonniers were greens, and Andy’s had a touch of colour which looked perfect. Apart from that, I thought lush, seasonal flowers from the area would be most suitable, and quite liked the idea of small arrangements on the tables in an ecclectic collection of vases. Kate from Marry Me in France worked with Mairie Fleurs in Perigueux to make this happen.

Midnight Blue

We bought everything. The bridesmaid dress was from Coast, and I thought looked fantastic on Monique. Being from Canada, Monique was pleasantly surprised by how lovely the dress was. It’s not often you get thanked by your bridesmaid for choosing such a beautiful dress that she will wear again! My niece Eva, who was our flower girl, wore a dress from Monsoon, which she loved, as you can see in the images. Sam, our best man, brought his own suit, which we asked be midnight blue. We purchased his tie and pocket square – bright pink to tie in with the flowers.

Interestingly, we did were not specific regarding attire with other members of the bridal party (Andy’s father’s partner, who gave the reading during the ceremony, my brother Dave, who gave a speech, and James, our MC), yet they all wore hits of colour which worked perfectly.

Floral Accents

Not to be outdone, Andy had a bespoke suit made at Gresham Blake in Brighton. I only asked that the suit be blue, as I thought that would work best with the yellow stone of the buildings at the chateau. Andy chose everything else: the bright blue pinstripe in the wool, the pink shirt with floral accents and the bold tie. He borrowed some fabulous cufflinks from his father’s partner (who gave the reading during the ceremony), and his shoes were by Antonio Brecos. His final, and possibly favorite, accessory was a slightly tacky floral hipflask, filled with Armagnac. The male contingent of the bridal party were all given one and were imbibing throughout the day.

A Member Of The Family

Jacqui McSweeney was our brilliant photographer. Jacqui shot our friends’ wedding in Brighton, and I absolutely loved her style, and the way she captured colour and light. During the planning of our own wedding, she was really the only photographer we considered. We booked her while we were still traveling, so had not met her until a few months before the big day. She is great fun, yet very professional. She understood exactly what we were looking for in our photos, so it was easy to put our trust in her. She did a pre-wedding shoot with us, which was great, as it helped us all get comfortable with each other. While in France, she captured the entire weekend, going way above the call of duty, and became a member of the family in the process.

A Candy Bar

We chose not to have a cake. Instead, we had a candy bar, with British and Canadian candy Andy and I loved as kids. These included Pineapple Chunks and Refreshers for the Brits, and Popeye Cigarettes and Tootsie Rolls for the Canucks. We designed custom stickers for the candy bags, so guests could stock up for their journeys home the following day.

French Classics

We decided to keep it simple for the reception and have our friend Michael play some of our favorite music. As long as he kept people on the dance floor, we were happy. What was unique was the accordionist we hired to play during the drinks reception, following the ceremony. He played French classics by Edith Piaf among others, which complemented the feel of the venue beautifully.

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

We had a tough time choosing a first dance. We have songs we consider “our song”, but they weren’t suitable for a first dance. We decided on a classic – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Frankie Valli, which worked perfectly – our guests belting out the chorus as we danced.

Other favorite songs we used were You and Me by Penny and the Quarters as I walked down the aisle, and To Love Somebody by Nina Simone as Andy and I walked back up the aisle.

Lights, Camera, Action

The venue was so spectacular it really didn’t need much in terms of decor. We hired a lighting designer to add the landscape lighting, which made the chateau feel magical once the sun set. Other than that, we trusted Kate from Marry Me in Franceto work her magic – adding props like blackboards and clocks as she saw fit. We did request the frames, where were fantastic props for photographs. My brother is a photographer, so while Jacqui was taking our posed photographs, Dave wandered from group to group, capturing all of the guests in the frames.

Far And Wide

I would say what made our wedding most special was that our loved ones traveled far and wide to share the day with us – from London, to Toronto, to the Bahamas, to Buenos Aires. It really meant so much to have them there.

The advice that I would give to future brides is to hire someone to coordinate everything on the day. If that is not possible, be sure you have someone who is not in the bridal party, who can troubleshoot on the big day. Kate was amazing – she worked her magic, making it look easy the entire time. The other piece of advice would be to relax and enjoy the day – it flies by so quickly!

Venue – Fairytale Chateau

Photographer – Jacqui McSweeney

Planner – Marry Me in France

Groom – Gresham Blake

Maid – Coast

Wow, this venue actually does look like the setting for a proper fairytale. It’s great to not have to think too much about decor when your venue is so key and so totally “the look” you want. I think it is a really wise choice that Angela and Andy made to have it professionally lit too.

Lighting really can work wonders and transform a venue, reflecting different moods and different times of day.

Thanks for sharing guys.


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Ballroom Glamour In Rye.

Emma and Paul got married at The George in Rye in April 2012. The George was the first venue they saw and both fell in love with the bulding and the staff instantly.

Once they had their perfect venue, their theme and other decisions about the day all started to fall into place.

Photography today is by Jacqui McSweeney.

No Bling

I knew I wanted something with a vintage feel to it and it was recommended I look at White Mischief Bridal in Henfield. I tried on about 30 dresses but as soon as I had tried my first Jenny Packham I knew that was it. I had to have one of hers. I must of tried on her whole range and actually dismissed my Saskia dress first of all due to the bows on the shoulders. On my second visit this new dress appeared and was just right. It was the same Saskia dress minus the bows. It was perfect. I had clearly said no bling and as you can see from the dress I went against my initial judgements but the detail is of birds kissing which matched perfectly with some of my details and the Georges wallpaper.

The Whole Hog

As I was trying on the Packham dresses I thought I might as well go for the whole hog and try on all of her beautiful accessories. A visit up to her bridal shop allowed me to see the whole range but I eventually ended up with acacia ii and the bracelet to match. They were beautiful alongside the dress and topped off the whole wedding. I often find myself sitting in the house with them on now.

Nude Satin

I went for complete skyscrapers, I don’t do heels but got my shoes before the dress. Beautiful nude satin peep toes from Kurt Geiger. I did also have some Irregular Choice white and silver kitten heels for the evening, they were eBay finds and unfortunately one was shiny and one was matte… Oops.

Relaxed And Pampered

I really wanted my hair on one side and with a 40s hollywood style, my hair is not good long but I grew it as I am sure many brides do. I wanted a vintage theme and came across the wonderful Truffle hair salon in Rye. Their whole salon is in a vintage theme and Sarah the owner came up with a wonderful updo. She also came and did makeup and my bridesmaids hair on the day, giving me a relaxed and pampered start to the day. I felt so glamorous. and Sarah and her assistant were wonderful.

Vintage Lace

Cafe Des Fleur in Rye did my flowers, I knew I wanted antique style roses and Hydrangeas as my main flowers but wanted to keep a English garden feel about them. The bridesmaids were in sage green and so Lucy added sage and other herbs throughout the flowers. Our bouquets were green and pink in keeping with the colour scheme and mine were wrapped in vintage lace I had picked up at a fair months ago for the occasion.

The boys wore similar flowers. Every table was dotted with large cut glass vases of mixed flowers with the roses and Hydrangeas and then 3 cups and saucers filled with flowers on each table. I had been collecting these too for months. On the beautiful fire places stood a collection of vintage vases, and jars of flowers (which again I had collected) and on the top table were bird cages to keep with the bird theme (from the wallpaper) filled again with the same flowers.

Green And Grey

We hired the groom’s and boys grey suits, but kept with a sage green theme to match the bridesmaids dresses in the ties and hankies. The girls dresses were from Coast. I had those about a year before the wedding and before I got my own!

Paul wore a grey suit and waistcoat. He looks incredible in a suit and looked wonderful. He wore the cufflinks I had made for him at Christmas too.

High Standards

Jacqui McSweeney was incredible. I am a photographer and photography teacher so my standards were high. I looked around the Brighton area and came across her almost straight away. Her laid back images and beautiful lighting drew me to her and when we met her she put us both at ease. It was wonderful having her there it felt like a friend taking photos.

Cupcake Capers

We both love cupcakes so went for those. They were from the Angel Food Bakery in Brighton. We decided on a number of buttercream covered cakes, some in cream with little pink roses, others with green buttercream or pink with little pearls to decorate. We also went for a topper cake, a giant Cupcake which we had great fun trying to keep still when driving to Rye the day before the wedding. The cake didn’t do well thanks to Paul’s driving and he spent a good part of the day of the wedding trying to beautify it. Thanks to our chef no one noticed its bumps and bruises. I had also found beautiful floral cases which we decorated each cake with.

Cheese Please

We were lucky to have a DJ provided as part of our package at the George but made sure that the music was an eclectic mix of cheese, current and old school tunes. During the speeches I had whistles and clappers, even kazoos for the tables. That caused some entertainment (and frustration) for the two best men (Pauls brothers) when they were trying to speak.

Greatest Day

I am a huge Take That fan as are many of my closest friends (stems from teenage-hood) and Paul has kind of inherited them as a band due to me. We love The Circus album and Greatest day has to be our best singalong song. I think we spent most of the first dance singing rather than being at all romantic.

Fruit Picking Favours

I knew what I wanted for favours from the word go. I started them actually rather early on in the planning. I made lots of handmade jam and filled and covered each mini jar with vintage and found fabric, ribbon, a button and a little tag printed with our initials.

What was lovely was the support we had in getting the fruit for the jam. My bridesmaid Vicki, my Mum and Stepdad and bridesmaid Kirsty and her two sons all helped pick the fruit. Callum one of the little boys in particular loved the picking and probably ate as much as went into the baskets.

A Bride In her Element

I styled every aspect of my decor making a lot and sourcing a lot as I went. I started a mood book from two days into the engagement and had an exact idea of what I wanted and what Paul wanted from day one.

The ballroom where we married and had the wedding breakfast has beautiful silk hand painted wallpaper and this very much dictated the style and look of the wedding. In the Benson room (the bar) I had filled old kilner jars with sweets and made my own vintage button peppermint creams which sat in a crystal glass rose bowl. The jars had hand printed labels on them with little lines to tempt the eaters! In the same room we also had childhood photos of us both and on our gift table an old parisian hat box for cards. There were cut out birds for decoration and pearls and lace. Theere was also a chalkboard (link to me being a teacher) which I had personalised and decorated as our order of service.

In the ballroom, bunting made by a work colleague decorated the balcony whilst the tables were scattered with pearls, birds and lace. Our seating plan was a bird cage with luggage tags tied on, each hand printed and decorated. Our tables were named after one of the many names I call our cat Sammy and I had hand made each table number.

I am a head of art at a secondary school and trained artist so was in my element. Each table also had a photo of the cat.

I made our ring cushion, which was printed with our names and wedding date and had buttons that were my Nans sewn on. Even on the door there was a chalk board covered with my Nans buttons (she was a seamstress) with our names chalked on. Oh and I had made my own invites which I used as decoration during the day.

A sense Of Anticipation

We had a long engagement as we knew we wanted to be able to pay for it and not leave ourselves in debt but the wait added a sense of anticipation to the day. It allowed us to find the perfect venue, for me to make so much of the decor and for us to find people who would help us visualise our dreams. We kept our numbers small, to the people we really wanted to be there, making the day so intimate. Our family, especially my mum, helped me and Paul so much in the preparation of the day which really made the day feel like a group effort.

If you have a vision and know what you want – don’t compromise, stick with it, do your research and don’t be afraid to have a go at doing bits yourself. Establish relationships with your venue and your suppliers and create a moodbook or board!!

I have been so inspired by my day that I am now in the process of setting up a wedding blog and design service called Hearts And Buttons.

I am bursting with creative ideas and have definitely caught the wedding bug. We had such a beautiful day and I am so happy to share it with others.

Venue – The George in Rye

Photographer – Jacqui McSweeney

Dress – Jenny Packham

Boutique – White Mischief Bridal

Shoes – Kurt Geiger

Hair & Make-up – Truffle

Blooms – Cafe Des Fleur

Cake – Angel Food Bakery

Bridesmaid Dresses – Coast

A good idea when planning a theme is to find one single item, object or accessory that you love and then build your theme from there. Emma and Paul loved the silk hand painted wallpaper that was at their venue and as Emma mentioned, this then dictated the whole style and look for their big day.

At Rock My Wedding we call this item a ‘piece of pretty’. So if any of you are unsure on choosing a particular look or theme, perhaps you can think of a ‘piece of pretty’ That will provide you with that starting block and then hopefully everything else will start sliding into place.