When Erich McVey steps behind a camera, prettiness always ensues. But pretty doesn’t even begin to describe what is happening in the images below. Oh no. These are stunning, beautiful, hold-the-phone-gorgeous works of art that paint an unbelievable picture of what ultimately was an unbelievable day celebrating love in the French countryside. Trust me, this gallery is simply beyond.
From the Bride…We first met at university in Cambridge, in the UK. I met Paddy on my first day as a ‘fresher’ (first year student) and I remember it so clearly. He was hippy-ish, with long hair and flared jeans, wearing his Dad’s 70s suede jacket, and he regaled me with tales of his trips to South America. 10 years on from our first meeting and the rest is history!
I am petite in stature, with simple tastes, and I just didn’t feel comfortable in the latest, designer, ‘meringue’-like dresses that shop assistants would insist I should try on. I was adamant that I would not spend a vast sum of money on a dress that I would wear only once. I wanted a dress I could be relaxed in, and have fun in. My first solution was a hurried $50 purchase in a local charity shop. But when I tried the dress on and saw the expression on my mother’s face, I knew the wedding dress hunt was not over – and I was determined to find another, better bargain. After much searching, I bought a French, Henrietta de Praag sample sale dress ($400). Simple and fitted at the waist, with a sweet heart neckline and an A-line skirt, I felt like ‘me’ in it – and I found a good tailor to shrink it the 6 sizes necessary for it to fit me. To add interest, I bought a second hand Sassi Holford lace bolero on ebay (my ‘something old’). At the end of the night, there were wine stains all over my dress – but I didn’t care, I had had the time of my life.
I am not the kind of girl that has dreamt about my wedding since I was a little girl. In fact, the idea of dressing up in a ‘princess dress’, with all those eyes on me, made me nervous. I always thought I would elope, on a beach far away, sand in between my toes, with just my husband by my side. But when it came down to it, I realized that all too infrequently do we take the time to celebrate. I started to see my wedding as a chance to celebrate ‘us’, everything that we had achieved together, our amazing families and our great friends. And for all that, I was ready to celebrate. And so the vision of our wedding grew. One day, would not be enough. To really celebrate, we needed 3 days and a beautiful chateau 500 miles away from London, in the Dordogne region of France.
When planning a wedding, there are so many temptations to up-grade – “because I’ll only get married once….” – so it is really important to decide early on where you want to spend your money; for example, we chose copious amounts of French cheese and special wine over a wedding cake. And I always had my eye out for a bargain. My favourite bargain item were the bridesmaid dresses. The perennial problem with bridesmaid dresses is finding one dress that suits different shapes and tastes. I was very taken by the Two Birds dress – a one-size-fits-all dress that you can wrap 15 different ways – but at $400 each and five bridesmaids in tow, it was out of my budget. I am a great bargain hunter, and managed to find the dresses on an ‘end of line’ discount website for half the price. They were my first wedding purchase and possibly my best bargain. And my bridesmaids looked really beautiful, as did the ‘little angels’, dressed in simple white dresses, with wings and a wand.
We really wanted our wedding to be fun and happy, so we used the flowers to inject some colour. We chose lively pink, purple and blue flowers with a natural and ‘wild’ country feel and tied with brown string. The warm colours of the bouquets were a perfect contrast to the green bridesmaid dresses and, in lieu of a veil, flowers lined my hair (my ‘something blue’) for a simpler look. In the evening, rather than one center-piece of flowers, they were arranged informally in different sized vases spread out across the tables. When I walked into the candle-lit marque, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked; I really had not expected the flowers to be quite as lovely as they were.
It is important too, to have little indulgences. Our first extravagance, was a convertible Cadillac to travel in style to and from the church, and an American school bus for our guests. Perhaps ill-advised to have one’s hair done, only to ride to the church with the car roof down – but it was a euphoric feeling, driving away from the church with my new husband, and two VIPs sitting in the front seat (the best man Tom and my sister Victoria), wind in our hair and singing our hearts out to music.
Our second treat, was our photographer, all the way from Oregon in the US. We love his style – clean, artistic photographs that capture simple moments. Paddy didn’t make many wedding-related decisions, but perusing through Erich’s website, Paddy knew straight away that Erich would be the perfect photographer for us.
It is really important to plan a wedding that reflects ‘you’. There are so many conventions around weddings, that it is natural to think that there is a ‘right’ way to do it. But see your wedding as an expression of you, as you start our new life together. By imprinting yourself on the wedding, sometimes in exuberant ways and others more understated, it will put you at ease and make the wedding feel comfortable and right. One subtle example from my wedding: I’m a spirited character and so when I starting taking those steps down the aisle, it felt more natural to engage with family and friends who were beaming at me with huge smiles. I got to an old school friend, Antonia, and I ‘high-fived’ her (inside I was shouting “wooohooo”); when I saw my granny it felt natural to stop to cuddle her; and at the end of the aisle I gave my Dad the biggest hug; I made it clear when our congregation were not singing the hymns loud enough; I gave them a thumbs up when we were pronounced ‘husband and wife’. For me, it set the tone for how I would ‘be’ throughout the day – relaxed and happy. It really does fly by so quickly, that it’s so important to be ‘you’ and enjoy it right from the start. And most of all, have fun, it is a celebration!
There were so many memorable moments of our wedding; getting ready with my mum and my bridesmaids; hugging my dad at the end of the aisle, saying our vows; Paddy’s dad acting as our priest and his 6 year old nephew saying the prayers; and quiet moments in the garden for photographs. The speeches were particularly special; my amazing father, my humorous husband (at least in my eyes!) and his eloquent best friend, Tom. And the impromptu speech by my Canadian Uncle Jack, offering advice to Paddy on marrying into the family – the advice involved earplugs and eye mask…. The impromptu speech set a precedent: the microphone was anybody’s. As we took to the dance floor, the microphone followed, and friends (in their worst karaoke singing) serenaded us with the best of boy band hits, Dolly Parton tunes and 90s rap. My most memorable moment was taking “the stage”, singing “Boom Boom Shake the Room” (I know all the lyrics…) to a crowded dance floor singing back at me, with my No 1 fan (Paddy) dancing away on the “front row”.
A great advantage of a foreign wedding is that guests are essentially on a weekend ‘mini break’ and the care free, holiday feeling is palpable. With 30 of our closest family and friends staying in the chateau with us, there was a real sense of build-up and we had great fun chatting by the pool during the days and dancing on the steps of the chateau by night. The wedding evening itself was certainly the highlight and, as I looked around at 3am, at the guests who were still in the marque dancing I felt so much warmth, energy and a real joie de vivre.
Bridesmaids Dresses: Two Birds | Caterer: La Table D'Aline | Chateau: Chateau La Durantie | Church: St Thomas Church In Excideuil | Cinematography: Amy McVey | Coordinator: Chateau La Durantie | Entertainment: Chris Southgate Music | Florist: French Flower Style | Groom's Attire: Ted Baker | Hair: Kerrie Langfield | Jewelry: Pascal At Harrods | Lace Bolero: Sassi Holford | Makeup: Bobbi Brown | Photographer: Erich McVey | Shoes: Marks And Spencers | Stack Of Cheeses In Lieu Of Cake: Denis Provent | Wedding Dress: Henrietta De Praag