Californians Britt and Bran hired a French chateau for a magical, memorable celebration
American couple Brittney and Brandon hail from Hollywood, but it had to be France for their ultra-romantic late-summer wedding. “We got engaged in Paris, so why not get married in France?” jokes Britt, who searched for six months before finding the ideal venue to host nearly 50 American friends and family for a week of celebrations.
Photography by Jacques at Magic Flight Studio, magicflightstudio.com
Château Clerbise, a picture-perfect estate set in fields of sunflowers between Cognac and Bordeaux, met all their criteria and more. “The property itself had the main château and two additional houses to sleep all of us,” says Britt.
Handmade white lanterns lined the path from the château to the lush outdoor ceremony area. “We lined each back with lace so when the candle was lit from inside, it projected a lace design onto the wall of the paper bag,” says Britt.
“The 12th century chapel ruins were one of my favourite things about Château Clerbise,” says Britt. “They became the perfect backdrop for the ceremony I had always envisioned.”
“The owner of Château Clerbise was my planner, my therapist and my saviour!” jokes Britt. “He even called in a favour with the mayor of a nearby village to make sure we had wooden benches for the ceremony – essential to create the indoor look we wanted to bring outside.”
To create a focal point for their outdoor altar, dreamy arrangements of gypsophila were placed at different heights. “There’s something very sweet and innocent about that flower, and when you have a lot of it, it’s easy to create a striking impact,” says Britt.
A unique love-letter ceremony accompanied the traditional vows, when Britt and Bran places hand-written promises into a box with a bottle of local wine. “Once locked, this precious container is only to be opened for two reasons,” explains Britt. “When we reach our 15th anniversary, or if we ever begin to question why we are married. Then, we will open the wine and read the letters as a reminder of why we fell in love.”
Fragrant lavender was placed in bowls for guests to scoop up and throw as confetti at the end of the ceremony. “Our colour palette for the wedding was lavender and different shades of white and grey, so it was a perfect fit,” says Britt.
For her star turn as maid of honour, Britt’s sister Kelsey wore a custom-made floor-length gown to complement ring girls Maggie and Erin’s lavender dresses from BCBG. “Because I wanted the maid of honour to be distinctive, we had her dress made after I found a greyish lavender silk fleur de lis fabric,” Britt says. “All three fit right in with the French-romance theme!”
Bran wore a customised Hugo Boss tuxedo with a black silk tie. “We wanted understated elegance for our wedding, so he opted not to wear the bow tie and loved the look of a skinny tie instead,” says Britt.
Britt chose a diaphanous, champagne-hued gown designed by Amy Michelson. To complement the billowy layers of organza and lace, the bride created her own veil from French silk dyed to match in Earl Grey tea. “I had always imagined walking down the aisle in a spectacular cathedral-length veil made of silk and lace,” Britt remembers, “but couldn’t find silk to match my dress. It was quite a site to see me and my sister Kelsey holding a seven-foot veil over blowdryers for more than an hour!"
“The upper portion of the dress is all lace, with organza straps that criss-cross in the back and tie into a billowy bow,” says Britt. “The way the gown draped added that extra dramatic flair I wanted yet kept it very timeless.”
The bride’s bouquet of white lilies, roses and tuberose was tied with ‘love letter’ ribbon she made by printing actual letters onto muslin strips. She then attached a photo of Bran and his mum, who had passed away, to her bouquet.
“I walked down the aisle in blue Christian Louboutin satin d’Orsay shoes,” says Britt. “My dress colour was difficult to match, so it seemed fitting to pick ‘something blue’ as my shoes. They were a big hit, especially when walking down the chapel stairs.”
“The shoes I danced the night away in were Badgley Mischka Raquel heels,” says Britt. “They weren’t too high, so perfect to end the night dancing in!”
The couple’s guest book – which took the form of a patchwork quilt! – was a super-creative coup. “We considered hundreds of ideas and finally decided the quilt option would leave us with a keepsake we’d want to look at for years to come,” Britt says.
“We had squares of fabric and fabric pens for our guests to leave wishes and sentiments for us, which would then be added to our developing wedding quilt,” Britt explains. “This was a perfect idea for us, because the quilt was easy to travel with and will always have a place in our home.”
“During the course of the evening, we knew it might get a little chilly for some guests so we provided blankets during the cocktail reception with signs that read, ‘Keep Warm,’” says Britt.
Talk about an inventive take on the table plan! The couple created chalkboard-style tags with each guest’s name as their escort cards, then presented them on a pair of vintage shutters.
After a canapé reception with champagne (and fine Bordeaux wine, bien sûr!), Britt and Bran sat down to six-course gourmet dinner, with all 50 guests around a single long table. “We wanted the reception to have a familial and intimate feel, like everyone was in their own backyard,” Britt says.
Each guest’s place reflected the love-letter theme with unique stationery. “While shopping at a craft store I came across these placemats with scrolled calligraphy across them, which really brought the look of the table together” Britt says.
“While in Paris before our wedding week, I took a stroll along the Seine and found some antique books,” Britt recalls. “I bought a number of them and used them on our reception table by stacking them in groups of three or four and intermingling them with stacked love-letter bundles. I printed out famous love letters on vintage-look paper and then burned the edges so they appeared to be authentic. We even incorporated a few of our own letters into each bunch.”
“We made our own menu cards with brown-paper card stock,” Britt says. “This really tied in with the French bistro look, as we wrote ‘Le Menu’ at the top and ‘Bon Appétit’ at the bottom.”
In addition to a classic French croqueembouche, Britt and Bran cut into a gorgeous two-tier confection by American cake maker Kim Robbins (kimberlyrosedesserts.com). “The cake was decorated in the same colour as the lace from my gown, and we chose a champagne-flavoured cake with strawberries and strawberry crème filling,” says Britt.
All but two guests had travelled from California to join the festivities, and the couple went out of their way to show their appreciation with welcome gift bags, wine tastings, beach trips and a rehearsal barbecue. On the big day itself, everyone received one of these hand-written love letters of thanks during dinner, before hitting the dancefloor for a party that raged on until 4am. “I’ve been to weddings where it all felt rushed, which is exactly what we didn’t want,” says Britt. “There was plenty of time to really live in the moment – and nothing is more French than that!”
Photography by Jacques at Magic Flight Studio, magicflightstudio.com