CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

Behind the scenes of a luxury wedding venue in France

PUBLISHED: 09:59 28 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:44 06 July 2016

The flower-filled entrance at La Solinière

The flower-filled entrance at La Solinière

Archant

Dreaming of a happily ever after in France? Running a wedding venue could be just your ticket. Gillian Harvey finds out how Clive Harvey found his storybook ending doing just that in Deux-Sèvres

Nestling in the rolling countryside of Deux-Sèvres in Poitou-Charentes, with its backdrop of sunflower fields, is the tiny village of Bouin, close to the historic town of Chef-Boutonne. It is here in this traditional French village that builder, Clive Harvey, 57, brought a magical property back to life.

Like all the best fairy tales, the story began with a chance encounter: although Clive had a long-held dream of running his own wedding venue, it was his brother who introduced him to his future home. “He had been looking at properties in France and on his way back, he stopped at my home,” explains Clive. “He brought some of the estate agents’ paperwork with him and showed me a picture of the property. I was instantly smitten. I had not considered moving to France before, but suddenly it just seemed right.”

Separate gîtes provide ideal accommodation for wedding partiesSeparate gîtes provide ideal accommodation for wedding parties

Struck by the beauty of La Solinière, with its 18th-century stone building and Charentaise courtyard, Clive contacted the owner and soon found himself heading down the narrow driveway to view his dream home. “The grounds were very overgrown and were in need of some attention,” he says. “But the buildings were all sound and the location was perfect. I just had to rescue it!”

Indeed, it seems that Clive has been quite the ‘knight in shining armour’ as far as the property is concerned. “The first few jobs included cutting back the overgrowth, as well as reinstating and stoning the long driveway. I also installed a beautiful fountain to enhance the centre of the courtyard,” he says. “Cutting back the garden and restoring the grounds felt like uncovering Sleeping Beauty’s castle!”

The property has an eclectic style with a vintage feelThe property has an eclectic style with a vintage feel

The property, a 2.5-hectare site with four existing gîtes, main house and large barn set around the private courtyard fitted perfectly as a wedding venue and so Clive began to decorate to suit wedding celebrations.

Tastefully finished with an eclectic mix of vintage wooden furniture, the gîtes exude an air of serenity, with exposed beams and open fireplaces. ‘La Colombier’ – the gîte chosen by many to be their honeymoon suite – also boasts a four-poster bed. “It’s a very romantic location, in a tower gatehouse,” says Clive. Each gîte has French windows opening onto the courtyard, making the site a huge hit with families, as well as wedding parties.

The garden at La SolinièreThe garden at La Solinière

“Currently, we can host small, summer weddings of up to 30 people using a marquee within the lawned grounds, complete with on-site accommodation. My next project is to renovate the existing barn so it is suitable to host larger weddings and parties throughout the year,” he says. “Although I will need to secure planning permission for this, the mairie is confident that there will not be a problem.”

Having a good relationship with the mairie is extremely important for business owners in France, and particularly those wishing to host weddings. Marriages in France must be officiated by the mairie, with church or civil ceremonies only permitted after this legal requirement has taken place. However, Clive is able to offer clients the unusual opportunity of having a legally binding ceremony on site. “I’ve spoken to the mairie, and, as his office is just next door to us, he is more than happy to perform weddings on the premises,” he says. “I’m really pleased as it will be more personal for couples and their guests.”

A heated swimming pool is one of many luxuries added by Clive including a Jacuzzi and saunaA heated swimming pool is one of many luxuries added by Clive including a Jacuzzi and sauna

For those taking a break rather than making their vows, Clive has created a wealth of facilities. “With the help of a beauty therapist, I have developed my vision of the facilities and I have built a spa room, beauty room, Jacuzzi and sauna,” explains Clive. “The spa side of things is something I’m hoping to expand further in future years.” Clive is clearly keen for his guests to experience the same relaxation he has enjoyed since making the move across the Channel.

“The tranquillity I’ve found in France is a refreshing change to the non-stop lifestyle of south-east England where I lived and worked. I enjoy having the time to wander around the grounds, or just sit in the garden with a glass of wine. I have to pinch myself sometimes when I realise this is my home!” says Clive.

The property in Poitou-Charentes came with lots of landThe property in Poitou-Charentes came with lots of land

Like all good love stories, it seems that fate has played a part in bringing Clive and La Solinière together. “The chances of me finding this property were minuscule, I am excited for the future,” he says. “I’m so glad my brother stopped by that day.”

And as well as providing a happy ending for its owner, once the wedding venue is completed, it will no doubt provide a happy ending for many others.

lasoliniere.com

Other articles you might like:

The role of the French mairie

Planning a wedding in France: the paperwork

Running a hotel and wedding venue in Dordogne

The Living France guide to getting married in France

Article by Living France Living France

More from Living in France

Yesterday, 13:44

French cheese doesn’t just have to be saved for the cheeseboard, why not experiment with canapés too?

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How does a jewellery designer, filmmaker and restaurateur who was born in Israel and grew up in New York come to turn a French château into an artists’ retreat? Ziggy Attias shares his life in Champagne-Ardenne

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

France has helped launch a satellite to study the effects of global warming; but how do French attitudes towards climate change compare to those of other Europeans?

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. While many argue that much more needs to be done to meet environmental goals in France and globally, here are 11 ways that French government, companies and people are striving to be green.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Seen a French property that would make fabulous food business but unsure of the paperwork and process? Read Tracy Leonetti’s at-a-glance guide to opening a restaurant or cafe in France

Read more
Running a business
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thinking of setting up a campsite in France? Here’s what you’ll need to consider when it comes to planning permission.

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

With its unbeatable wine and cheese and laissez-faire attitude, there’s nowhere better to retire than France. But which cities are best for growing old in? Here’s the top 10

Read more
Pays de la Loire
Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you are buying in or moving to France you will need a French bank account but before you open one make sure you read these 11 things you need to know to avoid making a costly mistake

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

France might be experiencing a shortage of general practitioners but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a GP willing to take on new patients. Here’s what you need to know about finding and registering with a doctor when you move to France

Read more
Expats in France
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.

Read more
Healthcare in France
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now