A Musical Wedding on the French Riviera

Given that the Bride is a musicologist scholar and the Groom has played the accordion and piano since the age of four, it was no surprise that they infuse their passion for music throughout their wedding day in the French Riviera. From the beautiful, personal performances by their gifted friends during the ceremony and the thoughtful song selections to the sing-a-long style first dance and the Groom’s joyful rendition of old French love songs on the accordion at the reception, Anne-Claire Brun Photography captured each magical, musical moment.


From Anne-Claire Brun Photography Last summer I got to shoot a romantic wedding on the French Riviera. Orlene and Guillaume got married in the Groom’s parents’ villa on a hillside in the beautiful village of Mougins on the “Côte d’Azur”. It was beautiful! They had a jazz quartet from Cannes playing throughout cocktail hour and some of their incredibly talented friends got up to dance, sing, and play along with them. Just before dessert, Guillaume played the accordion, and everyone sang along to French classics – it was a wonderful atmosphere!

From the Bride… Guillaume and I met thanks to Guillaume’s best friend, Baptiste (who ended up being one of his best men at the wedding!). Baptiste and I met once in Paris in 2008, but it wasn’t until I had moved back to Cambridge later that year that I saw a video posted on Baptiste’s Facebook page of a guy playing this beautiful piece of music on an old piano. I remember writing a comment underneath the video, asking about the name of the piece. The guy in the video (who turned out to be Guillaume!) wrote back, saying that it was just something he had made up. That was the first and last contact we had until three years later, in 2011, when I finished my doctorate in musicology.

We reconnected again, thanks to music, and after hundreds of emails, letters, and phone conversations, we finally met in person in December of 2011 on a wintry Tuesday in Paris at the big blue door on Rue Etienne Marcel. He was tall, well-dressed, and his heart was racing. I was a foot smaller than him, slightly nervous, with a beaming smile. He carried my suitcase into his apartment, and I never left.

For the proposal, he waited until we were in the middle of nowhere, in Iceland, where the sunsets last for three hours in the summer. We were sitting on the top of a hill overlooking a fjord in the tiny village of Stykkisholmur; it was almost midnight, and the sun was touching the horizon. I remember he reached into his pocket while saying, “Orlène, voudrais-tu faire un bout de chemin avec moi?” (Orlene, would you like to build the rest of your life with me?) I said yes with so many tears in my eyes that I didn’t even see the ring!

We absolutely loved the planning process. One of our favorite parts was working side by side with our incredible wedding planners Maëva and Cédric (Monsieur + Madame) on our aesthetic vision for the day. We met them in Mougins the summer before the wedding, and from then on, we planned everything together in detail. From creating the pictogram invitations down to finding the beautiful cutlery and bistro-style chairs we had in mind, they were there to help us at every step. We loved seeing all those months of planning brought to life by Monsieur + Madame on the day!

We also loved finding and planning the day with each of the artisans that made the wedding what it was: from our photographer, Anne-Claire, and her all-important emphasis on soft and romantic natural lighting to the exquisitely refined cuisine of Provence chef, Steven Borishansky, not to mention the beauty of both the dessert table by Citron Pavot and the floral design by Julie Guittard.

On a more personal note, for Brides-to-be, I would really recommend taking the time during the planning process to find a a hair and makeup artist you fully trust. I was so worried about looking too ‘done up’ on the day or looking too different from how I normally look. Harold James was one of the few makeup artists I came across whose motto was ‘natural and fresh’ for both hair and makeup. And looking back at the photos, I feel that’s exactly what he achieved!

The theme for the wedding was both ‘champêtre chic’ and ‘old movie retro glam’! We chose Guillaume’s parents’ garden for the wedding because we loved the idea of having an intimate space that already had so much meaning for us, and where our guests would feel at home. It’s a plus that their villa is literally on the top of a hillside in the beautiful village of Mougins, on the Cote d’Azur. So the location definitely allowed for the ‘champêtre’, garden-party vibe. The chic side of the theme was definitely all in the details: from the marquis style of the champagne glasses to the romantic, pastel palette of the flowers and the recurrence of natural materials like copper and wood in the décor. Our wedding planners and florist really got the look we had hoped for down to a T! I must admit that my wedding dress also inspired the theme, since it combined both elements: the flowing, romantic tulle texture and floral appliqué on the bodice and train gave the ‘champêtre’ aspect with the style and cut of the dress (the high-low hem) showcasing the all-important ‘chic’ aspect – my shoes!

The ‘old movie-retro glam’ theme came from our combined passions: given that I’m a musicologist/film scholar and that Guillaume makes films for a living (and has also played accordion and piano since the age of 4!), we knew both music and cinema would need to be featured in our wedding! So we arranged to have a cinema corner set up in the garden, with a big leather couch, popcorn, and light blankets for when it got chilly in the early hours of the morning. We projected clips from our favorite films, beginning with True Romance. We also had a Super-8 and vintage cameras dispersed on the tables to hint at the movie theme as well. For the music side of things, we asked some of our friends, who are professional musicians, to perform on the day, including an incredible 20s-style Charleston performance by our Russian swing dancer friend, Ksenia! Funnily enough, this created a sort of competition between our Irish and French guests to see who could sing and dance the most! It was amazing. I have never been at a more musical wedding in my life! The ambiance was electric!

There are so many of my favorite moments of the day, it’s hard to choose! But the moment the town mayor gave us our ‘livret de famille’, our family register, was one of my favorite moments because it meant so much to me – to officially be a family. Other favorite moments include: the first look, which really felt like a fairytale! I remember seeing Guillaume from behind, dressed in his blue Vivienne Westwood suit, and then seeing him turn around and smile. He just looked so incredibly handsome, more handsome than I’d ever seen him before! I remember thinking, “How lucky am I!” Then driving to the ceremony together in a vintage Porsche Speedster was magical! And walking down the aisle together, hand in hand. Another favorite moment was the garden ceremony, it was so intimate and moving, so many laughs, some tears when our friends spoke. And later twirling in my dress during our photo session! And, of course, the moment when Guillaume played old French tunes on the accordion and everyone sang along – that is actually one of my happiest memories from the day! And, finally, driving back to the manoir together at 5 in the morning the next day, as the sun was coming up, listening to the sound of the old Porsche trying to make it up the winding, hilly streets of Mougins, feeling the breeze in my hair…such a special memory!

For the civil ceremony processional, we asked a friend, who is a professional violinist, to play a baroque piece by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s called L’Aria (in the style played by the French-based ensemble L’Arpeggiata). For the recessional, we decided to add a bit of lightness to the occasion by having her boyfriend, who is a professional trumpeter and a very old friend, play Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream Opus 61. It made us smile because it’s such a traditional song for what was quite the non-traditional wedding!

For the garden ceremony, we asked the same friends to play the Irish reel Repeal the Union on violin and guitar as played by ‘The Gloaming’ (one of our favorite Irish traditional music groups). For the recessional, we actually wanted to have the theme music from the film True Romance. But it required an ensemble of marimbas (and though we do have talented musician friends, none of them play the marimba). So since the garden ceremony went straight into the cocktail hour, the jazz quartet started playing and the champagne was opened, and that served as the recessional music!

We decided to have guest participation during our first dance, choosing a well-known French love song, La Vie en Rose by Edith Piaf. However, we chose to dance to Louis Armstrong’s English version of the song with its romantic rhythm and that gorgeous piano/trumpet intro, and we had our guests sing along in French (our wedding planners printed out the lyrics and handed them to everyone as we got up to dance!) It turned out to be so funny because everyone started singing too early, during the song’s introduction, which made the whole thing even more memorable and fun!

My advice for future Brides and Grooms is to be as present as you can on the day of the wedding. So many couples say that it’s a day that goes by so fast! But for us, because we were aware of being 100% present, we can remember every single detail. Savor every minute! I would also advise Brides and Grooms to make sure they have time together on the day, just the two of them. I really loved the moments we had on our own – they gave us time to reflect on what was happening, what it really meant, the importance of what we were doing, and then the realization of actually being married! And finally, try to spend as much time as possible with your guests on the day. Since there were only 40 guests at our wedding, we spent quality time with each and every guest. I know that’s not always feasible at a bigger wedding. But it did make the whole day feel so much more intimate and special, for us and for them.

Photography: Anne-Claire Brun Photography | Event Design: Monsieur+Madame | Event Planning: Monsieur+Madame | Floral Design: Julie Guittard - Fleuriste | Wedding Dress: BHLDN | Cake: Citron Pavot Traiteur | Stationery: Monsieur+Madame | Bride's Shoes: Jimmy Choo | Jewelry: My mother-in-law’s pearl earrings | Catering: Steven’s Kitchen/ Steven Borishansky | Hair and Makeup: Harold James | DJ: Monsieur+Madame | Favors: Drinks by the Dram | Favors: Le Labo | Groom's Attire: Vivienne Westwood | Officiant: Guillaume's dad | Accommodations: Le Manoir de l'étang | Music: Di Costanzo Jazz Quartet | Paper Goods: Monsieur+Madame