What girl doesn’t dream of getting married in a castle? were the words, spoken by this beautiful bride, that made me realize I was about to see a wedding of someone I could definitely get along with. And the wedding? Completely worthy of Parisian romance. Judging by the photos from One and Only Paris Photography & Le Secret d’Audrey, the French fête was, simply put, perfect. J’adore this wedding, this couple, this chateau. Fancy a trip to France this morning? Click here and I’ll take you there. And then make sure to tune in this afternoon to continue our mini-vaca in France!

Pierre-Alexandre and I met the modern way. We found each other online. Living in the Bay Area and working in Silicon Valley for two tech titans (Google + Microsoft), it’s no surprise that the Internet would bring us together. We shared a wide-ranging curiosity about the world and a natural compatibility. A love of French language and culture from both sides definitely added to it too! After a few months of being “just friends” we couldn’t deny there was something much more, and soon after we were talking of getting married.

My father had passed away when I was young and I had warned Pierre-Alexandre that if he wanted to marry me he should ask my mother for permission according to Vietnamese custom. On Christmas day last year, unbeknownst to me, Pierre-Alexandre had decided he was ready and was trying to find time alone with my mom to ask her but couldn’t due to all the busy festivities. So my mother – a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel and a traditional Vietnamese mother ready for her daughter to be married – forced the matter in front of the whole family during Christmas dinner, “I see that you two are very close. I’d like to know where this is going.” With tears in his eyes Pierre-Alexandre calmly responded “Mrs. Pham, you beat me to it by a few minutes. I love your daughter and with your blessing would love to spend the rest of my life with her.” Luckily my mom and I are very close and I can laugh now at how memorable my engagement was as she essentially proposed for us! Pierre-Alexandre did give me a chance to actually say yes a few days later when he surprised me with a beautiful trip to Big Sur where we got formally engaged.

Then came the question of when and where. We decided to have two weddings to accommodate both of our Vietnamese and French cultures and families. We planned for a small traditional Vietnamese wedding in April in Hawaii where my mother lives and a larger wedding in France in August for our friends and Pierre-Alexandre’s family. Yes, two destination weddings! We definitely could not have managed to pull off our French wedding without the help of Marie-Emilie Mejan, our wedding planner from Mon Plus Beau Jour. We worked with her over email and Skype and we’re so glad that we found her as she was excellent in taking care of all the details and making sure our wedding was everything we wished.

Our wedding was held at the beautiful Chateau d’Esclimont. What girl doesn’t dream of getting married in a castle? And this 15th Century Renaissance style chateau came complete with towers, turrets and stone bridges that carried us over an actual moat! 40 kilometers away from Paris and enroute to Versailles, the Chateau d’Esclimont was perfectly situated for both of our guests traveling from afar and for those living in France. We also loved that our wedding package came with a magnificent newlywed suite and 13 rooms so we could invite our friends and family to stay as well.

We had a “castle casual” vision for our wedding, something elegant but down-to-earth. The vibrance and richness of a pinkish-purple (it was so hard to match and describe this color!) was balanced with more natural hues of cream and taupe. I wasn’t a huge fan of the traditional French wedding cake called a “piece montee” because of it’s drab choux cream puff color and consistency. But a modern take of it made with macarons in our wedding colors from the famed Fauchon bakery was just perfect!

We wanted an outdoor wedding and were delighted to discover a giant plane tree on the grounds of the chateau next to the pond. We knew we wanted to have our ceremony under it and trees became a central theme of our wedding. We like the symbolism of trees, as they represent having strong roots and branching out as a new family. Trees also symbolize strength, flexibility, growth and renewal through the seasons to us. We chose a different tree for each of our tables. Our wedding favors were also aboreal with plantable seed cards embossed with a tree. And of course, this being France, we had to have the traditional dragees (jordan almonds) which are always present at weddings and baptisms! We found a wonderful, unique pouch with twig branches to hold these and placed one at each seating.

Perhaps one of the most memorable aspects of our wedding was simply the fact that it actually was held outside. My heart sunk the morning of my big day as it rained heavily. At noon blue skies appeared and my hopes soared, only to be dashed again when the rain picked up after a few hours. My mom later told me that she had prayed to my father and asked him to make this day beautiful for his daughter’s wedding. I love this story, because miraculously, the rains stopped just 30 minutes before the ceremony was to start. One and Only Paris Photography did a wonderful job capturing the magic moments of the day. One of my favorite photos is of me on my cellphone making an executive decision call to Marie-Emilie that we would have the wedding outside after all and not go with Plan B! I love that our photos have a fresh, soft sunlight look to them as you would never guess that it was pouring just moments before!

Neither of us are religious but we are spiritual and we wanted a ceremony that would be meaningful in all aspects. We added a lot of symbolic touches to our wedding to involve our friends and family. We had a fully bilingual wedding with my close friend Virali officiating in English and Pierre-Alexandre’s cousin, Francois-Xavier, translating in French. We wrote our own vows and had our rings passed around to each person for a blessing. And to symbolize our “tying the knot” we incorporated a Celtic handfasting
ritual carried out by our mothers to bind the ties around our hands and our hearts. Finally, to add one more touch of magic, late in the evening (French weddings last til 4am!) we went outside and had our guests light sky lanterns that floated out ethereally into the night. It was spectacular to see the night sky lit up with the hopes and wishes from our loved ones for a beautiful life together.

We look back and feel again the awe, beauty and happiness of that day!

Photography: One and Only Paris Photography and Le Secret d’Audrey / Wedding Planners: Mon Plus Beau Jour / Gown: Marisa / Shoes: Nina Shoes / Location: Château d’Esclimont / Hair and Makeup: Lexi Derock / Wedding Cake: Fauchon / Invitation Designer: My Gatsby / Favors: Plantable seed cards from Botanical Paper Works / Candy: mariages.fr

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