With stunning venues, delicious gastronomy and beautiful scenery it’s no wonder that loved-up Francophiles are choosing to tie the knot in France. For wedding blogger Georgia Tolley getting married in Provence was something she’d always dreamt of, discovers Anna McKittrick
All the factors pointed towards Georgia and Nick Tolley getting married in France – their first holiday together was to the Riviera and Nick proposed to Georgia while on a skiing trip to the Alpsin January 2010 so it was only fitting that when they decided to tie the knot in they did so in a country they both love.
“I’d always wanted a sunshine wedding and I really wanted to get married and have the reception outdoors. I love gardens but the problem with England is that you just can’t rely on the weather and yet I didn’t want to take people too far away,” says Georgia who works as a producer for Radio 4. “I’ve been to France many times on holiday and had fallen in love with the idea of lavender round a swimming pool and nice lazy lunches so for me it was a place of happy relaxation and I hoped it would be like that for my wedding guests as well.”
With budget flights to Marseille making it easy for guests to attend Georgia set her sights on a wedding in Provence. Once she had decided on the area of France the search for where to host the wedding began: “I spent probably about two months of my life researching online for venues. As with all brides budget was a big deal and I knew what my dream was – a beautiful ch�teau in the south of France – but equally I knew I didn’t want to be too pretentious and grand and I also liked the idea of a farmhouse.” After much searching Georgia found her venue through Simply Ch�teau and when she went to visit Ch�teau Genoise, a stunning private estate in Puyricard just north of Aix-en-Provence she knew it was the one: “When we saw it I tried desperately not to be a clich� bride but I had a teary moment standing on the terrace where I thought this is just perfect. It has the most amazing 17th century ruin and pool which blow you away and the house is gorgeous with just the right level of grand,” remembers Georgia fondly.
With the venue sorted Georgia set about choosing a caterer which proved to be more difficult than she thought. “It was at this point that I slightly despaired and that’s when I realised I needed a wedding planner or coordinator.” Georgia enlisted the services of wedding planner Kerry Bracken, from My Riviera Wedding, to help with the organisation of the rest of her big day and Georgia says it was the best decision she ever made. “When you get married abroad you just need somebody in the country to help. And I can speak French but not business French and if you’re organising a wedding and asking for discounts you need business French,” adds Georgia. Kerry planned everything from the catering to the florists to the wine merchant and was there on the day to make sure that everything ran smoothly.
After struggling to find a caterer Kerry recommended Marseille-based caterers Marrou who Georgia says were fantastic: “We had lobster and lamb for our wedding breakfast and the most incredible canap�s and a table with a chef cooking prawns and foie gras and it cost less than it would have in the UK.” For Georgia and Nick part of the appeal of getting married in France was the food so they wanted to go traditionally French with the menu and Marrou more than met their requirements especially when it came to desserts. “The one thing I knew I wanted was a dessert table because I wanted to create a feeling of extravagance so you could go up and have as many puddings as you liked. Marrou completely blew my mind with the desserts – there were individual sorbets, cakes and flans of every kind.” Georgia chose a croque en bouche for the pi�ce mont�e rather than a macaron tower as they wanted to stay traditional with the wedding cake. The wine was sourced from a local cave costing less than �5 a bottle which Georgia says was one of the things they were most thrilled with especially when guests complimented the wine and thought they had spent much more than they did. When it came to cost Georgia says not only do you get better value and better quality food and wine in France there also aren’t inflated costs when it comes to the wedding industry across the channel. “Caterers don’t add on 15% just because it’s a wedding cake so there’s isn’t a rip off attitude in France and that’s what makes it cheaper.
Like many couples who get married in France Georgia and Nick hired the venue for three days with the property, which sleeps 20, plenty big enough to house family and friends. Georgia says it was a fantastic way of doing things and having the close bridal party on site created a lovely family feel in the ch�teau. The celebrations, which took place over the May bank holiday last year, kicked off on the Friday with a family meal at a local pizzeria with the big day on Saturday 28 May. The celebrations were rounded off on the Sunday evening when Georgia organised a drinks party, called After the Big Day, which were held on the jasmine-filled back terrace with stunning views out to the surrounding mountains. The evening was more informal with guests serving themselves drinks and a distinctly French twist to the food: “We bought lots of French bread, cheese and charcuterie to serve. It’s the type of thing that wouldn’t work in the UK but just worked perfectly in France,” says Georgia. As a garden lover Georgia opted for a secret garden theme with a soft grey, dusky pink and sage green colour scheme which worked beautifully with the outdoor setting. Her striking dress and veil was by French designer Delphine Manivet and worked perfectly with the romantic surroundings. In a bid to keep costs down Georgia crafted as many details as possible such as the wedding invitations which she designed herself and had professionally printed. White bunting and homemade pompoms hung in the trees with hundreds of candles flickering once the sun had gone down only adding to the ambiance.
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Having had her own big day in France and as the founder of wedding blog Before the Big Day Georgia has seen her fair share of weddings and says when it comes to getting married abroad couples tend to go for a more informal style than at UK weddings. “With a wedding abroad you can be a bit more playful. You have to remember that everyone who’s there is on holiday which brings a lightness of spirit to your wedding that you might not have had if your guests had to sit on the motorway for three hours to get there.” However an element of stress was added to the wedding when the volcanic ash cloud threatened to disrupt proceedings says Georgia: “The great thing about France is that you can drive there and we had looked into bussing people over if necessary. The best man had an emergency ticket booked on the Eurostar which thankfully wasn’t needed as flights weren’t grounded and all of the 92 guests were able to attend.”
Georgia and Nick never considered having the legal ceremony in France and instead chose to have an intimate English tea party wedding three weeks before coming out to Provence. “We got married at Hackney registry office which is about as different as you can get to France,” laughs Georgia who says it gave her the chance to “have two bites of the cherry” with two dresses and different hairstyles for each. Georgia adds: “It was lovely to have a tiny wedding in London as it meant that our grandparents, who couldn’t travel to France, could attend.” In France the couple said their vows, which they wrote themselves, in the unconsecrated chapel located on the grounds of the ch�teau. “Our vows were the thing that we got complimented on the most. People loved the venue and the food but they really loved that we wrote our own ceremony and it felt very personal,” says Georgia.
At an age when lots of her friends are getting married Georgia says a wedding in France made it extra special and stand out from the crowd. And Georgia more than got the sunshine wedding she dreamt of as the sun shone for all three days. “There’s what’s called the extra 25% for sunshine where everything is just 25% prettier and more fun when the sun is out and that’s priceless.”