It's our first real wedding of the year.
And what a chic one we're starting with?
Conor and Emily tied the knot with a destination wedding in France and their beautiful celebration is laced with inspiration for anyone planning an intimate and elegant bash of their own.
The super talented Brian Wight of French Grey Photography captured it all.
This Chateau La Durantie wedding is brimming with low-key refinement, luxuriously neutral tones, impeccable food, an opulent setting, and thoughtful touches.
From the blooms to the pearls, the details are simple, yet elegant.
But what I love most about reading Emily's description of her and Conor's day, is that while the location, venue, vendors, and festivities were all planned so carefully, all their meticulousness was tossed in the air when bad weather threatened to rain on their parade – literally.
This wedding shows that even last minute chaos and frantic reshuffling can't put a dampener on a beautiful day.
All that really counts is two people sharing their wedding day with the people who matter most…
Wedding Day Snapshot
We both knew we wanted something different for our wedding, and France seemed the perfect choice for our dream wedding: gorgeous countryside, food, wine and of course weather!
For us both, what was really important was to have a wedding that was not an over the top affair, but a time spent with friends, family in a beautiful memorable setting, and done in the way that reflected us.
We therefore chose Chateau La Durantie, as this would allow us to accommodate all of our guests for a four day celebration.
Our families live in England and Ireland – and because of this they don’t get the chance to spend time together. So we thought a few days in France would be perfect.
The Palace of Versailles was the first choice (not quite in budget!) so we set off on a journey to find the perfect venue, offering the romantic delicate feel of a Renaissance style venue, and we found it in Durantie!
The wedding style would complement the chateau's colours, golds, peach and whites, draped pearls and soft flowers – tones that complemented the timeless elegance that was felt walking into each beautiful room.
The official bridal party was the bride, groom and father of the bride – so the planning was nice and easy. An important factor for all of us was the weather; no-one wants to be sat in the summer French heat feeling hot and sweaty!
Not convinced on spending a lot on a dress, I was lucky with that the one I liked was being discontinued and the shop I spotted it in had an immaculate one so I was able to purchase this one at a reduced rate. I had it personalised by adding a soft gold applique piece to complement.
My dad has always been a dapper dresser and he already had lovely linen suit which seemed like the perfect choice, so we added a tie to complement the colour palette and that was all for him!
Conor didn’t fancy top hat and tails, and as he lives in suits Monday to Friday, he opted for a waistcoat suit instead with an informal shirt.
Decor and Details
Favours were something we decided against – we felt we could better spend money elsewhere – however as we were planning an outdoor wedding in France in August, keeping guests cool was high priority.
So on a trip to Cambodia, we trawled markets looking for beautiful hand crafted fans for every guest (Little did we know that they would get drenched in the rain and umbrellas would have been more effective!) I spent ages sticking little pearls on each of them! We still have a few left that of course didn't get used!
Not being very crafty, I was limited to what I could do, but I did make the name plates (which we didn’t use as the table layout changed!). I also bought black plastic rococo style frames and spray painted them gold – and my parents even made the garden signs (which look so professional!)
Also I wanted our guests to have a welcome bag of French goodies after their long journeys, so I sat for hours making boxes, stuffing tissue paper, and putting in little treats for everyone when they arrived at their rooms.
For the children we made up little buckets and had a small presents and treats inside, happy children equals happy parents!
Flowers really set the tone at a wedding in my view, and it wasn’t until the next day I realised how emotionally attached I had become to the beautiful creations made by Lisa of French Flower Style.
I wanted a delicate colour pallete with flowers that suited the simplicity of the wedding.
Lisa was wonderful in understanding my needs, offering suggestions of alternatives to peonies (sadly out of season) and she produced the most stunning David Austin accented bouquet.
In addition I had gorgeous candelabras and also small gold vases to intersperse on the table. Second to my bouquet was the beautiful urn that accompanied our ceremony, if I could have taken it on the flight back home I would!
So instead, to cherish these memories forever, I’ve had some flowers set in a glass paperweight to cherish them forever (Flowers Forever is the website we’re using).
We wanted our ceremony to be simple that was again reflective of us, so personal but also nothing too serious!
Conor’s sister read a passage from the Velveteen Rabbit – and my mum wrote a poem which she read.
We also wanted to incorporate a local French tradition which is a ribbon cutting ceremony – but having four children stand still didn’t quite work out, but made for giggles on the day!
What was really memorable was not getting the ring on Conor’s finger during the ceremony (embarrassingly captured on film too!)
Not fans of tradition we wanted songs that were a little bit different and evoked different memories and emotions for our guests.
Anyone who knows Conor (or has been on a night out with him!) knows his love for Mr Brightside, so we had a lovely violin instrumental version playing as guests were taking their seats.
The processional was Zadok the Priest – I chose this as the walk to the ceremony was long, and it’s a song that has a wonderful build up (even if it has been ruined by the Champions League!)
Our recessional was really important, as I knew forever hearing that song in the future would remind me of the day we got married.
So as the rain started to come down – Viva La Vida by Coldplay was playing as we dashed inside!
Finally – the first dance was a tricky one, so we chose The Lumineers, Hey Ho.
Which was followed by the rest of the night with Irish songs to get everyone up and dancing – which was very amusing to the Brits!
We chose Brian due to his amazing style, ability to make even the rainiest day look stunning (after he did our amazing engagement shoot in a cold dull April!)
His style really worked with the look we wanted, we didn’t want dark mysterious black and white shots, we wanted light airy soft pictures to reflect the venue – and we couldn’t have asked for more in Brian – he was so laid back, wasn’t afraid to tell us how to get the best shots, and we didn’t notice him there at all.
Plus he was great at reassuring me to hold out for the rain to pass to get the shots of the outdoor ceremony.
As for Anais and Mayeul our videographers – they were a wonderful late addition! We entered a competition to win the chance to have a videographer at our wedding.
To enter you had to write a bit about how you met and why you chose France for your wedding. So I penned (rather unnaturally) two little poems.
The day before we flew we were told we had a Skype call – and that’s when we found out we had won!
They were such a lovely couple, it was like having a few extra friends there, I would definitely recommend getting a videographer. We never planned (due to budget) but we will cherish their wonderful film forever.
We wanted our wedding to feel inclusive so both Brian and Anais and Mayeul joined us for dinner, which meant a lot to us, as they all contributed to ever lasting memories that we can cherish forever.
– The rain! The days in the run up to the wedding were glorious and sunny, we relaxed by the pool, visited the local lake and basked in the French sun!
However the day of the wedding a few hours before the outdoor ceremony was to take place, the heavens opened!
Poor Conor was being bombarded with questions about what we were going to do, would we change the location, if so where would we have it?
The whole reason for choosing the gorgeous Durantie was to have an outdoor ceremony, when you’re inside in a room, you could be anywhere in the world.
Annoyingly, the celebrant was rushing Conor and she started telling people to move furniture about in a room downstairs to hold the ceremony inside (turns our she had another appointment and was keen to rush through!) but everyone else was fine and patient, guests a were drinking and both Brian and Anais and Mayeul knew the outside location would be the perfect setting, so we waited and an hour later, a window of sunshine appeared, which was just perfect!
– Not getting the ring on Conor’s finger during the ceremony – I actually thought he'd never get it on!
– Running back to the chateau as it started to rain after our ceremony!
– My dad walking me down the aisle, chattering about my shoes to distract my nerves!
– My mum struggling to squeeze me into my dress!
– Of course, getting to spend time with family and friends will be something we’ll never forget!
We planned on French Martinis as a signature cocktail – but trying to find Chambord (in France!) was a nightmare – so we had to make it up on the day!
We had a vision of a banquet table down the centre of the lavender lined garden path in front of the chateau. But it rained and that plan was scrapped, so lots and lots of last minute planning!
Do we go into the dining room? (Whilst beautiful, it was mahogany and not in keeping with the colour scheme of the wedding) do we move to the barn? (We had eaten there the night before and this meant carrying food in the rain!)
Or (the final choice!) did we get all of the furniture out of the grand salon – so after moving furniture we had our dinner location, and were thrilled with this in the end!
A few things were important to us, good food and wine. Our chef, Jean Michel, has travelled the world cooking in some of the most wonderful restaurants, we even managed to sneak in a trip for tasting, he had the most amazing culinary skills.
We sourced wine from a vineyard in Bordeaux and of course trawled the local supermarkets for spirits! We didn’t want our guests to pay for anything during our wedding and we couldn’t run out of alcohol!
Not keen on following the unwritten wedding rules, we both decided against a cake, and didn’t think it would be missed!
Advice for Other Couples
The Internet – It can be really overwhelming starting to plan and seeing all of the amazing weddings at your fingertips, however on the day, you realise it’s not that important – but when you’re planning sourcing stick on pearls seems to be the most important thing!
However, for us, from the moment it stated to rain, I realised that I didn't care if each chair had a fan in ascertain position, if the confetti cones were given to each guest, I just wanted to get married to Conor and have my friends and family be there. Which is exactly what we had in the end.
Websites we used were, Pinterest, French Wedding Style blog, Wedding Wire we used as we needed to share a lot of information so this we useful for our site. Also we used Bride & Groom Direct for their free save the date cards, they looked so lovely and were a great addition to our website.
Things we decided against – Favours, wedding cakes, bridesmaids, groomsmen, fancy invitations. We chose to bypass these things. Not because we think they’re not important, but we wanted a simple day that was laid back and not too formal – and we felt money would be better spent elsewhere.
Plus we didn’t miss them on the day – so do think about how important each of these things are as spending can spiral out of control!
Planning! – Be prepared for your plans to not go as planned! We did plan to a very detailed level, (welcome bags, reams of pearls, fans, co-ordinating ribbon, garden game signs, gold vases/frames, all sourced from local shops/markets and the internet).
All of these I believed would set the day off, and I am glad I did them as it made the setting so beautiful.
Finally – Just do your wedding in your own way, some things mean more to some couples, please make sure you do what’s important to you and reflective of you both.
Also getting married abroad is fun, it’s challenging, but will definitely be memorable!
So casual, yet so refined, isn't it beautiful? What a chic wedding to start off 2015 on a high.
I love Emily's idea to preserve her wedding flowers, I bet lots of brides will be borrowing that one!
Thanks so much to Brian of French Grey Photography, and of course Emily and Conor, for sharing their destination wedding with us.