A Rustic Destination Wedding in France: Lee Smith & Fleur Record
04 Sep 2015
Lee and Fleur had an Anglo-French wedding in France, where guests partied until the early hours in a day of enjoying food wine and entertainment from local French suppliers. An inspiringly beautiful wedding, which honoured local traditions as well as bringing a few British touches across the channel…
Photography by Fleur Challis Photography
Although Fleur runs a wedding venue in Kent – Hayne Barn House in Saltwood, Hythe – she chose to get married in a tiny village called Moureze, outside Montpellier. That is where she grew up before coming back to the UK to study.
“It’s a beautiful village, very authentic and a very special place for us which we go to regularly,” she says. “We wanted our wedding to be very personal, relaxed and fun. As we’re an Anglo-French couple we wanted to have a touch of both cultures throughout the day. We hired a marquee to go in the back garden of our pretty stone house, where I grew up, which gave us the most amazing setting. We tried to keep things simple and rustic.”
Fleur tells us about their day is the sun.
Why did you choose that location and the background, and what’s the story behind the ‘come away with me’ theme?
We chose to get married in a tiny village called Moureze, outside Montpellier. That is where I grew up before coming back to the UK to study. It's a beautiful village, very authentic and a very special place for us which we go to regularly. We knew we wouldn't have any trouble convincing family and friends to join us.
What style of wedding you wanted to plan, special meanings, how you decided on the style for your wedding
We wanted our wedding to be very personal, relaxed and fun. We didn't want to have to do anything because of formalities, so it was a very unique and personal day. As we're an Anglo French couple we wanted to have a touch of both cultures throughout the day. We hired a marquee to go in the back garden of our pretty stone house, which gave us the most amazing setting. We tried to keep things simple and rustic looking.
How did you choose your suppliers?
We chose mostly local suppliers after a lot of research – they aren't always very quick to respond in the south of France, which made it tricky as we only had about six months to plan.
The food and wine was very important to us so we got recommendations from local people for the best around and chose Prouheze Traiteurs from Montpellier, who were amazing. We had a cocktail by the pool with all sorts of local delicacies… many cooked or carved in front of us, which was a real treat for our guests. We chose wine from two of our favourite wine producers down there: Louis Fabre in Corbieres and Domaine Calage Resseguier in St Bauzille de la Sylve – everybody commented on how good the wine was. Lee was insistent that we had some British beer, so we also had a barrel of doombar which went down a treat in the hot and sunny weather.
It was important to us to have a good photographer who was going to make us feel relaxed and who would take fun and creative shots so we chose Fleur from Fleur Challis Photography with her husband Kevin who came over from the UK and they were fantastic – the photos speak for themselves.
Tell us about your wedding dress.
I chose my dress from a lovely little shop near Chislehurst/Bromley (Marianne and Jessica) – I fell in love with the short dress and after my sister, mother and I all burst into tears we knew that was ‘the one’.
How about your groom?
Lee's attire was a surprise as well and he looked very handsome – I was worried about what he'd turn up in on the day, but he looked very smart!
Tell us about the ceremony.
We had a non religious (spiritual) ceremony in the village which was held in a beautiful vaulted room that the mayor kindly agreed to let us use. We did not want to go down the religious route, but wanted more than the French civil ceremony, so researched a celebrant that could help us create a personalised wedding ceremony. We found Ray Thatcher from Weddings Words and Wishes who is British but lives in the south of France. He gave us the opportunity to create a unique ceremony with our own vowels, readings and text which is just what we wanted. We started with the French civil ceremony before the spiritual ceremony, both translated in English and French in our hand books for our guests.
What happened next?
We then headed to the village square (in the VW Beetle that Lee restored himself the months leading up to the wedding) where we served Pimms and cordial for our guests and for the people of the village of Moureze; it is tradition in France to invite the people from the village to have a drink with the bride and groom. It was lovely to be able to do this in the village square and felt very relaxed and typically Mediterranean. We found out later that our entire wedding party had rehearsed their moves for a surprise flash mob so the local people must have thought they were mad!
How did you choose to feed your guests in the evening?
The cocktails took place at home in our back garden by the side of the pool, where the caterers set up a variety of canape tables and a few live cooking stations for the hot food. It kept everybody well fed and hydrated for a good couple of hours. The weather was lovely and warm so it was the perfect setting. We had prepared a helium balloon for each of our guests so that we could do a ‘lacher de ballons’, which made a great group photo and was great fun for the kids.
We sat down for a three-course meal with speeches and entertainment prepared by our guests between each course with a big surprise being a dirty dancing flash mob which was absolutely amazing – even my 93-year-old aunt was dancing. We had also prepared a surprise for our guests and when we finished the meal (by that time it was about 1am) we led our guests to the back of the house where a surprise band started to play, with its members being my husband, his brother and my two brothers. It was so special.
Sounds like a great party – when did it end?
The dance floor opened and we danced until 6am, French style – it was amazing. We had an early start the next day with everybody coming back for brunch so called it a day at 6am. Glad that I had planned a comfy pair of flat shoes for the night…
Do you have any advice for couples planning their wedding in France?
1. The language barrier would be difficult for non-French speakers. If I didn't speak French I think we would have hired a wedding planner. Suppliers in the south of France are very laid back, so don’t expect to get a response within a day. But they all provided us with a brilliant service. The best thing to do is to go out there and meet the people, and get recommendations where you can.
2. Be careful when you choose the dress too as it gets very hot there in the summer.
3. Try to embrace the local traditions where you can. If you're getting married abroad, you don't want your wedding to be a British wedding in another country. Make it different.
4. Make sure you make accommodation easy for all of your guests travelling from the UK and, if you can, make a weekend out of it. We met up with must guests the night before in the village restaurant and invited everybody back the day after for brunch and pool time – it was a weekend of festivities.
5. Finally, French weddings tend to overrun and the sit down meal tends to be around 8pm or 9pm, and go on for a few hours. So we warned all our guests about the format of the day (especially for those with children – we provided a baby sitter so that they could go and sleep) and made sure there was plenty of food and wine.
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
We went to Lake Maggiore in Italy for a few days until we go to California. We definitely would recommend our hotel in Maggiore which was beautiful, peaceful and very romantic overlooking the lakes – just what you need for a good rest after all the excitement: Hotel Cannero riviera, Cannero.
Steal their Style:
Photography: Fleur Challis Photography, www.fleurchallisphotography.com
Venue: Bride’s family home in France
Celebrant: Ray Thatcher, Weddings Words and Wishes, www.weddingswordsandwishes.com
Dress: Marianne Jessica, www.mariannejessica.co.uk
Accessories, table decorations and venue décor: www.notonthehighstreet.com; www.theweddingofmydreams.com
Hair and make-up: Maria Kirby (bride’s sister)
Wedding rings: Smooch Bluewater, www.smoochrings.co.uk
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Dessy, www.dessy.com
Stationery: Shane Record (bride’s brother), www.shanerecord.com
Flowers: Les Jardins de Lorca, Clermont L’Herault
Favours: Lovely, lovely, lovely Garden Designs www.lovelycubed.co.uk
Bows: Bows Bridal Boutique, www.bowsboutique.co.uk
Catering: Prouheze Traiteurs, Montpellier
Wine: Famille Fabre, Corbieres, www.famillefabre.comTransport Groom’s VW beetle
Entertainment: Vincent Attalin, Montpellier