What do you do when your finace’s family own a beautiful house in the French countryside? Get married there of course!
WWW readers Jen and Ed tied the knot on the 2th August 2014 hosting the celebrations in a beautifully decorated marquee. They wanted a Downton Abbey meets French summer feel to their wedding. It was nothing short of amazing.
The 1920s feel was evident in the beautiful attire, sparkle and stationery to name a few. Jen wore the most glamorous gold sparkly dress by Maggie Sottero while the maids were in teal and Ed in a dapper bow tie. You also have to view their gorgeous wedding film, which they won on a contest held on WWW. Yay.
THE PROPOSAL | Despite many more obvious times he could have done it (in my head at least!), Ed chose to propose on a slightly rainy bank holiday Saturday in one of our favourite places in London; Greenwich Park. We were walking with our dog Leo, and Ed sneakily tied the ring to Leo’s collar without me noticing, and threw a stick so he ran away down the hill. I was sitting under a tree (in my wellies – very glam!) and turned to Ed as Leo ran back saying “there’s something on him?!” I knew from Ed’s smile what was happening, and he asked me if I’d do him the honour of becoming his wife (ahhhh). After untying the ring box, many happy tears and some champagne, I said yes. Our poor dog was a bit confused as to why his walk and stick throwing seemed to have come to an end.
THE VISION | My ring is a 1920s vintage sapphire and diamond ‘target’ style which I adore and which set me off thinking about a vintage theme. We are also big fans of Downton Abbey so it seemed appropriate to go with a 1920s theme, and when I found the dress (more on that later), the stars seemed to align. I love sparkles and glamour, so I had also always wanted a black tie do (vintage or not). We also knew we wanted it to be in France – as Ed’s parents live there and have a beautiful house in the middle of nowhere. We knew that way that those who made it would be family and friends who really wanted to celebrate with us and we could make the whole day really personal.
In the end the vision was 1920s Downton Garden Party meets Glamorous French Summer. Or something like that.
THE PLANNING PROCESS My mother-in-law was fantastic. She was as keen to have the wedding there as we were and got a marquee quote on the day we got engaged! Between her running point in France and me running point in the UK, we managed it without too much stress and only 3 trips out there over the year we were planning. I should say too that as grooms go (from what I hear and read) Ed was hugely involved and happily gave opinions or took on tasks that I asked him to do.
The tricky thing to balance for us was what to get locally – often without seeing it or fully understanding the French suppliers’ proposals – and what to bring over from the UK, which of course added cost. On some things we just had to risk it. On some, like our catering, we were lucky enough to be able to use a France-based restaurant owned and run by an English couple, so communication was that little bit easier!
On others, like our photographer, we weren’t prepared to risk it so brought Ben over from the UK – fortunately he was keen to have a little holiday in France.
BUDGET | £20k initially but we probably spent £25k and a lot of that depends if you add in my paypal account for my eBay addiction loosely labelled as ‘wedding décor’.
THE VENUE | L’Age Barriere, Saint Ouen Sur Gartempe, near Limoges, France. I should say the house is actually for sale so contact me if you’re interested and I’ll put you in touch with my in-laws!
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | My dress was ‘Gatsby’ by Maggie Sottero in pale gold. I bought it from Mia Sposa in Hatton Garden, London.
My veil was brand new from ebay, much cheaper than any shop that I’d seen and great quality. I made my own head pieces using supplies from the most incredible craft shop (“Fan New Trimmings”) in London – I definitely recommend a visit there before buying expensive accessories from bridal shops as you can get belts and all sorts to add to a dress. I also made the 20s style sleeves for the bridesmaids dresses using supplies from here.
FINDING THE DRESS | Biggest advice 1: listen to the people in the shop. Sue in Mia Sposa asked me to try on the Gatsby, I hadn’t even picked it up and had never thought of a gold dress. I actually happened to be on my own that day – I was passing by and thought I’d pick some to try on before my appointment that weekend. She had spare time and so I tried some on just to discount them really. Who knew the Gatsby would be the one. I just loved it when I tried it on and felt absolutely brilliant (even though the sample size was too small). My mum and friends who then saw it were not actually completely convinced and many of them preferred another, albeit beautiful, slightly more traditional wedding dress in another shop. But I just couldn’t stop thinking about the gold sparkle that Gatsby had. Like a gorgeous man you meet in a bar and then keep thinking about, and then no other man will do – that’s how I felt about my dress.
Biggest advice 2: I almost caved to popular opinion though – and I think from my experience and from the many wedding blog posts I read – it’s really important to go with the dress that you love the most. I think your intuition knows, so listen to it and you’ll feel amazing on the day. Try to ignore how the sample fits because on the day it will be 100% your dress and hold you in all the right places (just like the hot man analogy again I suppose…)
GROOM’S ATTIRE | It’s fair to say Ed was not keen on the black tie plan I had in my head. He thought it might be too hot (we were lucky, it was the perfect temperature) I convinced him using many episodes of Downton Abbey that men look really handsome with bowties on, especially if it gets hot and they untie them and let them hang down a la James Bond. Anyway, finally convinced we went with it.
Then I made another difficult job for myself by deciding I wanted the groom’s party ties to match the colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses. Which was a rare shade of teal, and nearly impossible to match – even though there are companies on ebay that sell bowties in virtually every shade of the rainbow. In the end we bought white ones and dyed them a close(ish) colour. Barely any of the photos have everyone together though and not sure if people even noticed – in hindsight I think this was one of my slightly surreal ‘things-that-really-don’t-matter-but-in-MY-wedding-they’re-the-sole-focus-of-my-attention’ moments. Watch out for these ladies and gents, they happen to the best of us.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | Our favourite thing about the ceremony was that we got to completely design it ourselves. We legally got married in the UK a few weeks before our wedding – in France to legally do the deed there you have to live there for 40 days in advance of the day.
We asked our good friend Gemma to be our ‘Rev’, and as the person who introduced us in the first place, she duly accepted. She was absolutely brilliant and made it feel just enough like a real wedding ceremony and also full of fun and randomness. We chose our own favourite songs as ‘hymns’ which everyone joined in with; the first was Do You Hear The People Sing from Les Miserables. Granted, an odd choice at a wedding, but it was hilarious to look around and see all your most loved people belting out such a rowdy tune. We then had In My Life (The Beatles) and Elton John’s Your Song.
I came down the aisle to How Long Will I Love You by The Waterboys (from the film About Time – better than Ellie Goulding’s version in my opinion) and we exited to Greatest Day by Take That. I love Gary Barlow so he had to be included somewhere.
Our mums chose a reading each; the lyrics to One Hand, One Heart from West Side Story and an extract from Les Miserables (the book this time) by Victor Hugo. Ed’s uncle Malc read A Love Knot by Frances Nagle which was a surprise for us on the day, and our good friend Katharine read How Falling In Love is Like Owning A Dog by Taylor Mali (for obvious reasons – see dog pictures).
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | My bridesmaids were my sister Caroline, my oldest friend Emily and my two close friends from university, Esme and Charlotte. I ordered their dresses on the House of Fraser website when they were on sale (£48 down from £160 – big saving when you have 4 bridesmaids!). They were the perfect colour so I just arranged for all the ladies to try them on before the returns deadline. Luckily they all really liked them and they fitted fairly well – just needed the length changing. To get them to look 20s style I designed and threaded beaded drop sleeves – inspired by Jenny Packham wedding dresses. It looked great in the end but did take a while; thankfully my mother-in-law stepped in to help again!
THE FLOWERS | Michelle (who was also our on day coordinator) did our flowers and got them locally. This was one of the few areas I wasn’t that bothered about if I’m perfectly honest – to me all flowers look beautiful and I don’t know their names, I just like being bought them! I told Michelle the approximate colours and effect that I thought would go with the theme and dresses, and she created it. I couldn’t believe it when I saw my bouquet, it was stunning. We also had dried bunches of lavender everywhere which made everything smell lovely. And the garden was looking beautiful thanks to concentrated efforts from my mother-in-law and her friends with their green fingers.
THE CAKE | In all honesty the cake was never top of our list of priorities – maybe as wedding guests we’re just always too drunk by that part – not sure. Anyway we went with the traditional French Crochembouche from a local patisserie which looked cool, tasted delicious and was very good value.
The main meal was more important to us. We chose Steak Frites followed by Cafe Gourmand; lots of little French cakes served on cake stands for the tables to share. Many of the French caterers said cooking 90 steaks to order was impossible. Luckily James and Eileen at Le Diament thought otherwise and the meal was superb.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | Every wedding blog I’ve read heaps praise onto their photographer, so I want to try and tell you why Ben at bmc weddings is different from all the others. I can tell you he’s amazingly talented and takes beautiful photos, but you can see that for yourself. So, here are a just 3 ways in which he is different:
He’s incredibly enthusiastic about everything – we could have been getting married in a cave and he would have found a way to make it feel beautiful.
He’s extremely thorough – we had a few meetings where he wanted to hear everything about our wedding so he took photos that captured all the things and people that were important to us.
He’s an artist – being an artistic photographer by trade, he doesn’t ‘just’ love weddings, and so your photos capture people, places and things at their most beautiful. And it’s not just our wedding where he showed this – he’s photographed 3 of my friends’ weddings in the last few years and the outcome is always gorgeous.
I’d like to mention our videographer here too – Danae from Me and My Camera is such a sweetheart – and we found her via her WWW competition! Although we hadn’t met before other than on Skype, she was so positive about everything on the day and captured the spirit of the day SO well in our short film. Many of our guests have even mentioned they didn’t even notice a videographer being there – which is real testament to her skills I think! Thank you Danae.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | Quite a lot of this so I’ll try to be brief :-)
Favours: We had caricatures drawn of every guest which we placed on their tables and in a large scrapbook for them to write us a message. It was a big logistical task finding photos of everyone and uploading them to the wonderful David of David Lewis Cartoons, but it was hilarious for us as they were sent back in batches over the preceding weeks and months. And they went down a storm on the day.
Invitations: I used pinterest for inspiration and then drew a draft which the lovely Rich of RichWhite design then laid out. I sent him hand-drawn illustrations and we then printed the final version at home.
Table plan: I collected cut glass decanters from charity shops and eBay and we set them out on a table with little flags on sticks with each person’s name on. This looked cool and allowed us to make last minute changes where needed just by moving the sticks around.
Crystals in the trees: To get in theme I bought loads of hanging crystal from eBay and attached it to the trees, the sunlight made everything sparkle.
Lavender: We bought dried lavender and other petals (again from Ebay) and filled hand made cardboard cones for confetti and hung them on the back of the ceremony chairs. We also used a load of ribbons and bits and pieces to decorate the ceremony area and the bamboo pagoda that my father-in-law had made which we used a bit like an altar.
Cut glass and lace: I bought a LOT of cut glass/lace/feather items to keep things on theme and scattered them around the place, including in the ‘ladies powder room’ which we set up in the house.
Handmade bunting: I saw some bunting made from vintage lace doilies on eBay and thought it was brilliant. Instead of buying it I decided to bid for old doilies, buy some ribbon and a second-hand sewing machine, and make it myself – I loved doing this, though Ed did say he thought it looked like a washing line of dirty knickers (!)
Fairy lights: We knew we needed a lot of lighting for after dark so we got a lot of solar powered fairy lights and hung them in the trees and lit pathways. Look out for groupon deals on this sort of thing.
Hand painted signs: Another ‘rod for my own back’ situation, I decided to hand paint all the signage for the day – including the ‘order of the day’ and the menu. And I wanted it all to be ‘on theme’ with the right fonts and colours. It took hours, but I have to say I loved doing it and I think it looked pretty cool in the end.
THE HONEYMOON | Having been on a diet for basically a year, I wanted to spend a week eating and drinking somewhere not too far away from France since we would have been away already. We chose Italy’s Amalfi Coast which fulfilled the criteria perfectly.
We spent two nights in a ridiculously-expensive-but-once-in-a-lifetime hotel called the Monostera Santa Rosa. Then we hired a self-catering villa for five nights. We spend our time going from restaurant to restaurant via the spa. Obviously this was more for me than my new husband so we did spend a day on a boat and take a few drives out around the coast just so he didn’t get too bored…
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | There are SO many. I’ll try and keep to a top 3:
Walking down the aisle and seeing everyone there looking back at me – not to mention my handsome husband with tears in his eyes.
The speeches – even though they were pretty long (90 minutes in total!!) I gave one too and it was incredible to be able to thank all my favourite people in public
The dance floor towards the end – being encircled by all our friends and family and dancing to the most brilliant tunes. I also sang a song with the band which I loved (as if I needed more attention on the day!)
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | In an attempt to keep this short too here are my 5 top tips for success:
Get a wedding planner or an amazing spreadsheet if you’re not using a venue. Toilets, water and electricity supplies are not such fun jobs and they do add to the cost.
Savour the moment. And when it still goes too fast make sure you have an amazing photographer and videographer so you can relive the memories. The day whizzes by.
Don’t worry on the day – things will go wrong – no one notices except you! Try to just enjoy every minute.
Prioritise the things that matter to you the most and focus on them. So many little things will come up which really aren’t big deals. If you have a list of your essential things you can keep checking it when you realise you’re worrying about the colour of a knife, or buying yet another shade of ribbon on eBay…
Be authentic to you – do the things that reflect who you are as a couple and as individuals and ignore traditions or pressures that don’t feel right.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photographer | Ben Cole at BMC Weddings
Videographer | Danae Monaco at Me and My Camera (From WWW competition!)
Veil | Veils Online via Ebay
Suit Hire | Moss Bros
Bridesmaids dresses | House of Fraser
Catering | Le Diamant Restaurant
Headpiece and bridesmaids sleeves craft items | FAN new trimmings
Caricatures | David at David Lewis Cartoons
Amazing. What a pleasure to share.
Thanks so much Jen and Ed for allowing me to share your wedding story today XOXO Lou