A French wedding with Norwegian traditions

15 Jan 2020

Following a legal ceremony in the UK, Kirsten Sjøvoll and Chris Bartlett flew out to Beauduoy, France for even more wedding celebrations

How did you meet? 

Chris was my cycling coach. In 2015, facing 30, I decided to sign up for a slightly mad cycling race across the Pyrenees called the Haute Route. Realising that this may, in fact, not be something I could just blag my way through, I decided to throw some money at the problem and hire a coach.

I met Chris, he didn’t laugh (to my face) and then we spent a year getting to know each other as friends before he declared his feelings for me the following September.

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Tell us about the proposal.

We got engaged on my birthday in August 2017 in the French meadow at what would become our wedding venue under the stars. I was in disbelief that he was asking me and may have responded with an expletive… he then produced a selection of rings, which had been my mother’s and left to me when she died, asked me which one I wanted and then promptly dropped them onto the grass. It was perfectly us.

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Tell us about your venue. 

We had the legal ceremony at Islington Town Hall, which was actually lovely as we had a little celebration with immediate family and close friends there before heading out to France for the ‘big wedding' via Paris the next day. It felt like a whole week of celebrations.

Our ceremony was conducted by our close friend, Adam, which made it wonderfully personal. It was in our friend’s meadow and woodland at her barn in Beaudouy in the northern Bordeaux region of France.

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When did you know you’d found ‘the’ dress? 

I hadn't tried on very many dresses until I found the dress. It was by Rime D’Aroky from Paris. I chose it because it was relaxed and elegant and I knew I could move around a meadow and walk down a very steep hill to the ceremony in it. It was a very simple long white dress with a lace, low-cut back and white silk skirt. I had it made for me.

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Who were the bridesmaids and what did they wear?

I had eight amazing women who I have known from different points in my life. My maid of honour was my best friend from school whom I’ve known since I was nine-years-old.

I let my bridesmaids choose their own dresses by giving them some colours to work with and some general guidance to be consistent and then sent them off to choose something they would actually like, rather than being forced to wear something that didn’t suit them or fit properly. They’re all very different women and I didn’t want ‘matchy matchy’. I think it worked really well.

I also had the joy of having four little flowergirls, who were the daughters of three of my bridesmaids. They ranged in age from 18 months up to four-years-old, but were on great form and didn’t even cry during the ceremony. They wore matching white dresses and really cute little Converse trainers. 

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Where did you find your suits?

We chose navy suits. Chris wore a navy suit made by our friend who is a tailor on Saville Row.

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Did you hire a wedding planner? How did they help?

Yes. Charlotte from La Fête was amazing and helped us through it all. Charlotte is truly talented when it comes to wedding planning, offering her creativity and attention to detail and managing the whole process.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

Our flowers were by Fleurs de Mars. We had a mix of whites and greens with white freesia as that was my mum’s favourite flower and she had that in her own wedding bouquet. There were also hints of lavender in there, which smelt amazing. The bridesmaids each had wrist corsages with natural flowers rather than big bouquets, which I thought might be a bit overwhelming. 

We also adorned the surroundings with wild flowers in pinks, greens and whites - complementing what I had in my own bouquet. We also bought a swing which we hung from one of the beams outside which was beautifully decorated with flowers. Also, an old cart had been filled with flowers outside the marquee. In the end, the flowers actually became one of my favourite touches. 

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Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.

The location and the fact we had included our friends so much. Adam, our celebrant, was brilliant; he had done so much research and had asked all of our guests for advice on our marriage and then turned it into a poem, which he read during the service. He also gave us a framed version which we absolutely treasure.

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Nick, our MC, played I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends on the ukulele during the ceremony to accompany the congregation as they sang. The theme was very much ‘the family we’ve chosen’ and it was a lovely way of celebrating the support and friendship we had from our guests. 

We also paid homage to my Norwegian roots via the speeches and fun traditions during dinner - for example, whenever the groom got up to leave the room, all of the men had to queue up to kiss me before he came back.

We also had some pretty amazing food at the cocktail hour, including a foie gras bar.

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

Like I wanted the moment to last forever - it was a really special and emotional moment. I walked down the aisle to Ave Maria played by a solo violinist. This was the song my mum walked down the aisle to and we also played it at her funeral so it was a bittersweet moment, wishing she was there to see it. 

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What was your most memorable moment? 

There was an awful lot of entertainment from our guests in the form of Nick, our MC, and some amazing speeches. We incorporated the Scandinavian tradition of everyone who wants to make a speech, can make a speech, which meant a lot of speeches but they were all short, funny, poignant and well managed by our MC.

The highlight was a customised version of the 12 days of Christmas, thought up by two of my bridesmaids and performed by each table. This was a hilarious way to end the meal and start the party. 

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What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

The fact that the wedding was in rural France, in a barn, with no transport links. Our wedding planners were brilliant in making it all possible. 

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What was the most important investment for you? 

Food and drink - in financial terms at least, this is what makes the party. Our goal was that everyone just had a cracking time, which they did.

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What song did you choose for your first dance, and why? 

Love My Way by the Psychedelic Furs. We loved the film Call Me By Your Name and the scene where the two main characters dance in the square to this song is a moment when you really feel the love and chemistry between them. 

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Did you have any evening entertainment?

Live local jazz musicians for the cocktail hour then a DJ to play our wedding playlist, dutifully contributed to by our guests. 

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Tell us about your wedding cake. 

We had a cheese cake and it was amazing. We also had a traditional profiterole tower (officially known as a croquembouche).

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If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

I’d make the time go slower. 

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Did anything go wrong on the day?

I forgot to buy the Vermouth for the martini bar which really irritates me, even now, as I was really looking forward to it. 

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before?

That it would all go really quickly and to make sure you take the time to enjoy every second. Also, it will cost more than you think, but it will be worth it.

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Where did you go on honeymoon?

We took a minimoon to the South of France immediately after the wedding and then went skiing in Val d’Isere over Christmas.

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Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages? 

I think a planner is a really good investment if you aren’t getting married at a traditional venue, which provides a lot of that service. Also, while it’s important to have a good idea of what you want, some flexibility is important as you can come across some amazing ideas you may never have thought of.

Above all else, remember that it’s your day and while you want to make it fun for your guests, there isn’t any point spending a fortune on a party you won’t actually enjoy or which doesn’t represent you as individuals and as a couple.

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Steal their style:

Styling and co-ordination: La Fête
Photography and videography: Mark Brown Films
Dress: Rime Arodaky
Hair and make-up: Eva Beauty
Flowers: Fleurs de Mars  
Stationery: De Winton Paper Co.
Cake and catering: Monblanc
Décor: Souchon
Marquee: Doucet Location

Click here for more >> destination wedding inspiration

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