All About Love
I thought wedding planning would be a breeze for me since I have been in the wedding industry for nearly nine years. I have seen every style of dress imaginable, worked with tons of the best wedding pros over the years, and personally visited some of the most beautiful wedding venues around. This is going to be easy, right?
After our engagement, I thought I should make a list and get my thoughts on paper. I let myself think of all of the details in one mass brainstorm and that was so overwhelming. Planning was not feeling like a breeze. My first piece of advice to newly engaged brides, start with one thing at a time and get your hands on a wedding timeline so that you can pace yourself and make a comprehensive list. No matter how simple or elaborate you may want your wedding to be, there are tons of details to plan. The key is to take each part of the plan one step at a time.
I regrouped and took my own advice - one step at a time. So I did the first thing I was really excited to do, look for my dress. Once I started seriously looking, I saw my dress nearly immediately. I felt so calm, happy, and certain that the dress I found was mine. There are so many gorgeous gowns but I knew that I wanted something that was a little unexpected. My dress wasn't even technically a wedding dress. It was actually an evening gown. Don't forget to look in unexpected places.
Shortly after finding my dress, I asked my fiancé where he imagined getting married and he, possibly jokingly, told me that he would like to get married in a castle in France. What does a girl do with this directive? She immediately goes and Googles castles in France, of course. So that is what I did. Very unexpectedly, I found so many castles that were available to rent. I will also mention that several of these castles are a fraction of the cost of many of the US venues we had been looking at. Looking at French chateaus seemed like a complete fantasy at the time, but it didn't seem as out of reach as I had first imagined. I came back to reality and thought we would continue looking for local venues. We looked at a lot of beautiful nearby options. The dreamer in me continued to dream about the castles.
As we continued on with planning, we tried to pace ourselves. We toured venues, talked about what we wanted our wedding experience to feel like, who we wanted to be there, and what the focus of it all meant to us. We kept coming back to the foundation of our wedding being all about love. That was really it. Love. I found myself continually coming back to our focus on love as I would periodically get swept away in the details over the next several months of planning.
...all about love.
That was really it. Love.
One day, I began thinking very seriously about the dream we had of getting married in a castle. Could that ever possibly happen? In my spare time I would search a little online. You know, just in case a castle was ever an option. I knew we wanted everyone attending our wedding to be able to stay at the venue, have interesting things to explore nearby, and somehow feel like home. One late night of Googling and I found it! I felt completely happy, just like I did when I found my dress. I knew that this was the place that could house the celebration we were both imagining and the very important memories we would create with our families. The venue was Chateau de Courtomer in Courtomer, France. It was just two hours south of Paris. We told our parents that this was what we had been looking into and everyone was very excited to join this unexpected adventure. It was really happening!
Photo below: A pink sky behind Chateau de Courtomer on our wedding day.
Planning this adventure was no small task to organize and so I began working with the incredibly talented, kind, and helpful wedding planner, Lindsay, from House of Hannah events in Ireland. I had designed her headpiece for her wedding the year before and had fallen in love with her work. We met regularly over Skype to tackle our list. I enjoyed this time so much. She always put me at ease. We loved talking with Lindsay every few weeks to dream up the details. She was essential in helping us navigate a destination wedding. She knew what to recommend and how to achieve the details we wanted. You can check out our Pinterest inspiration board to see images that inspired our design.
I knew, for several years, that my photographer would be my long time friend and industry go-to, Laura Gordon. Laura recommended that cinematographer, Josh Gooden, join us too. Josh is an incredible visual storyteller.
Photo below: Hand drawn image of the Chateau and lettering on our programs by House of Hannah Events.
I could hardly believe how everything was all coming together. It was so exciting to see the year of our hard work becoming a reality. If you would have told 10-year-old Liv that she would someday marry the man of her dreams in a French castle - I teared up typing that - I would have never believed you.
It was finally time to head out to Chateau de Courtomer by way of Paris. (We found great flight deals on Icelandic Air. I also love flying Norwegian Airlines for overseas travel.) We were pretty jet-lagged but didn't want to waste any time so we rallied and headed out to explore the rainy late May afternoon in Paris and have dinner together. My parents met my fiancé's parents, for the first time ever, on the bridge overlooking the Seine river. That was really magical. I do really wish I would have been a little less jet-lagged to fully take it in.
The next day we spent some time in the morning and afternoon walking around Paris before picking up our car to begin the short two hour drive to Courtomer. It was exciting and a little terrifying to drive in France. We took a cab to the outer edge of Paris to avoid having to pick up a car and drive in the city traffic.
We picked up our little car and began the next part of our trip. As we were driving I began thinking about the fact that we had never actually seen this venue in person. All sorts of fears started to come to mind: what if it wasn't as nice a pictured, what if our date had been double booked, what if the flowers didn't arrive as planned, what if, what if, what if. I tried to be present and remind myself not to miss a moment. I turned up the Beatles on the radio, rolled down the windows, and enjoyed the rest of the drive.
Photo below: The view of Chateau de Courtomer.
A few short hours of driving through charming storybook towns in the countryside and we had arrived. All of my fears melted away as we drove up the driveway. This place was more than I had imagined. It was like stepping back in time. It was a treasure in the French countryside. I was so thankful.
We immediately toured the house and we were amazed by the attention to detail in each room and suite. Every suite had it's own personality and was beautifully decorated with the most thoughtful details. Every suite had an en suite bathroom that was completely modern and beautiful but still felt a part of this treasure of a home. And the truly amazing part of this place is that a week rental gives you exclusive access to the entire venue.
The first morning we woke up to the very warm and kind caretaker of the chateau, Madame Lecul. She greeted us with fresh eggs from the chickens that live on the chateau's farm. She would stop by periodically to see if we needed anything. She is the type of person that you feel like you have known forever.
Photo below: The adorable chickens that roamed that farm area of the chateau property.
We arrived several days before our wedding to prepare everything. We enjoyed opening our windows to the fresh air each morning. The temperature at the end of May and early June was perfect and sunlight would last until nearly 10 pm.
The small town of Courtomer is just up the road from the chateau and has several local shops and bakeries. There are other larger towns that are easily accessible by car. We frequented a few shops and really enjoyed the kindness of the local people. They all seemed very tolerant and amused by our attempts to speak French. Many people we met did speak English.
Many of our guests rented cars and explored France during the day. Most nights we ended up with a giant surplus of things to sample from everyone returning with local cheese, bread, wine, and pizza.
Photo below: My Mom, and floral designer at June Hart Flowers, making my delicate bouquet on my wedding day morning.
My amazing Mom, who is also an incredible floral designer of over 30 years, worked each day to create the beautiful floral designs with Lindsay from House of Hannah and my friend Emme from Gossamer. My mom worked with Lindsay to select hundreds of flowers that were delivered from Holland. During the days we would revel in the beauty around us and we worked really long days to create all that we had dreamed up.
Photo below: The view of the pink sky behind Chateau de Courtomer on our wedding day.
The earrings and headpiece, pictured above, are designs that I custom made for my wedding. They have 14k gold plated roses and strawberry blossoms.
When I was a little girl I would spend tons of time with my Grandma and Grandpa in their rose and strawberry garden. Some of my favorite memories are from those summers. I wanted them to be with me in spirit so I included these designs in my accessories.
I have a great story about my shoes, pictured above and below. My parents bought me this gorgeous pair of Lanvin heels for the wedding. The heels were only available in a dark plum but I wanted them anyway.
The morning of the wedding I realized that I would like them so much more if they were a brushed gold so I meticulously painted them with 24k gold paint before I walked down the aisle. I was a little nervous to tell my Mom but she loved them.
I've been pulling unexpected creative design moves on her my whole life. I'm sure she was probably expecting it.
Photo below: My handsome husband before the wedding.
Photo below: My favorite moment right after we were married.
Photo above & below: My amazing Mom & Dad.
Photo below: My wonderful In-Laws & Husband.
Photo below: My awesome brothers.
Photo above: My husband's wonderful family.
Video below: View Josh Gooden's beautiful cinematography from our wedding.
Our rehearsal and wedding menus were wonderful. I cannot recommend our chef, Perrine Desse, enough. She was highly recommended by the venue and she was as professional and talented as they promised.
Perrine created a six-course traditional French menu, a traditional vanilla wedding cake, and French Croquembouche. I had never tasted a Croquembouche before our wedding and it was a beautiful tower of cream puffs with spun sugar. It is so delicious. She paired each course with local wine and dessert with champagne.
Some of my favorite memories from our wedding day are of walking by the kitchen and hearing Perrine sing as she prepared everything. She is an amazing chef and a very kind human.
Photo above: I love this picture. We had been going around the table thanking each other for all the work we had done that week.
Photo below: Me dancing with my dad. We danced to Patty Griffin's "Heavenly Day." My dad had me listen to this song a few months before and as soon as I listened to the words I knew that I would surprise him with this song for our dance. It's a great song.
Oh heavenly day, all the clouds blew away Got no trouble today with anyone The smile on your face I live only to see It's enough for me, baby, it's enough for me Oh, heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day Tomorrow may rain with sorrow Here's a little time we can borrow Forget all our troubles in these moments so few All we've got right now, the only thing that All we really have to do Is have ourselves a heavenly day Lay here and watch the trees sway Oh, can't see no other way, no way, no way Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day No one at my shoulder bringing me fears Got no clouds up above me bringing me tears Got nothing to tell you, I've got nothing much to say Only I'm glad to be here with you On this heavenly, heavenly, heavenly, heavenly Heavenly day, all the trouble's gone away Oh, for a while anyway, for a while anyway Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day
Photo below: My husband dancing with my new Mother-in-Law.
Photo below: Me dancing with my husband to "More of You" by Chris Stapleton for our first dance.
When I think of you and the first time we met And I heard the sound of your sweet gentle voice My heart took me over and gave me no choice And right then I knew
It makes me want more of you Again and again I fall more in love with you Than I've ever been From the moment you wake me up Till you kiss me goodnight Everything that you do It makes me want more of you When I look at you now that years have gone by I think of the memories that time can't erase And all of the smiles that you've brought to my face Your love's been so true [Chorus] When I leave this earth you'll be holding my hand And it gives me comfort to know you'll be there And I'll thank the Lord for the love that we share You're heaven to me [Chorus] Everything that you do It makes me want more of you
We danced until 2am. It was an incredible day but there was a little wall lean
The next day we took out bikes that are available at the venue and rode around the countryside. It was early June and it was a dream. That evening, everyone got together around the fire and we made cheese sandwiches and enjoyed all the leftover food and wine.
Photo below: Cell phone pics from our bike trip in the French countryside.
Photo below: Cell phone pics of everyone around the fire in the evening at the chateau.
Two days after the wedding, we all headed back to Paris. We started the first part of our honeymoon in Paris and ate tons of French onion soup, typical - I know, had ice cream at Berthillon, scared ourselves at the Catacombs, spent a day at the Louvre, and walked all around the city on foot to make sure we didn't miss anything.
I hope you found inspiration and ideas from our wedding to include in your wedding too. Check out a few tips from lessons I learned from my wedding below.
Things I Learned //
A wedding website is an amazing resource for your guests and prevents you from stepping into the role as travel guide. Be sure to list travel details, schedules, attire for any events and the wedding, local transportation information, and what meals and services are provided at your wedding. We used www.rileygrey.com to create our site.
A Wedding Planner
There are so many questions that I didn't even know to ask. Our wedding planner, Lindsay from House of Hannah Events, could perceive needs, prepare for unexpected problems with a ready solution, and help guide planning. She really was an essential part of the process to execute everything seamlessly, save money, and my sanity.
Embrace the Wonderful & Let Go
Every wedding will have its own wonderful moments and unique challenges. Try to be present in the wonderful moments and let go of any challenges. I know this is easier said than done. You can never recreate these special moments you have with the people you love.
I ripped the back of my dress before my wedding. Be sure to bring a mending kit. I love Pinch Provisions kits.
Know the Legalities If you are getting married out of the US, and are a US citizen, there are different rules for the legality of marriage in that country so check on this well in advance. For France, you must live in France for 40 consecutive days prior to the wedding to be legally wed in the country. We opted to have a legal ceremony in the US and have our actual wedding in France. You may also want to check into the rules for driving and driving permits.
This event is all about the celebration of finding your love and celebrating with those you love. It can so easily become about tiny details, opinions, needs, unexpected obstacles, and many other distractions. But do not lose sight of the only reason you are there, love.
Our Wedding Vendors List
Event Designer, Tablescapes, Floral Design, & Paper Design //
Floral Designer //
Chef & Wedding Cakes //
Makeup Artist //
Floral Design //
My Gown //
Monique Lhuillier @moniquelhuillier
My Headpiece, Earrings, and Veil //
My Husband's Look //
Neiman Marcus Suit, Lanvin Tie, Mr & Mrs Yuo Shoes, Borrowed Cuff Links - Thanks Paul