When you hear Charlotte describe her family’s home in Chalvron, France, you instantly understand why she and Pete decided to celebrate their wedding there: “The house was the village forge and was bought in need of a lot of love and restoration. My whole family went out there to dig floors, knock walls down, build them back up, install hot water, plaster, paint, etc. and the result is now a much loved home. It is very small, very rural, very French and very a close community, all really important to us as a family. We are now well entwined into the village and all the goings on of various fetes and soirées! Set within a National Park, the distinctly rural French setting, with lots of fields and woodlands, is very pretty, and provided the backdrop for our wedding.”
Also this couple wins the award for Best Wedding Day Transportation, hands down…
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? Chalvron is a very small village in Burgundy and my family has a home here. We decided as a couple we wanted our wedding to be a representation of us both and our families. After sharing several very happy holidays at the house, soirees with neighbors and exploring the local area, we felt this was the perfect location for us.
“We are very lucky to have an incredibly supportive, pro-active and hands-on family,” says the bride. “Five parents, five siblings, godparents, Auntie, cousins and more. They all got involved with great imagination and enthusiasm. For much of the planning Pete was based in the US (where we now live), and I relied on the help and support of family and close friends, especially with planning a wedding in France as we had limited knowledge of the French legalities, customs, traditions and etiquette. Liaising with the maire (mayor), pastor, florist, etc. was difficult as we are not fluent in French – luckily several family members are!”
Now that is a true boutonniere!
“We planned the ceremony with the help of a wonderfully supportive friend in France, Lilly. By law, French weddings are civil ceremonies, and so have to take place in the local mayor’s office, so we married in our local mairie (city hall), with Maire Bruno Gardey de Soos. The local eglise, Saint-Aubin-des-Chaumes, is on the hill overlooking the village so we knew we wanted to have a blessing there as well. The church is not ‘active’, however with permission from the maire we were able to use it.”
Your ceremony in three words. British-French, rustic, relaxed.
Who officiated your ceremony? Our friend Lilly assisted and found us two pastors to officiate the blessing, and they were very supportive and exceptionally helpful sharing knowledge on the ceremony and French traditions.
What was your ceremony music? For the civil ceremony, my Uncle Christopher, who is in the Coldstream Guards, played Trumpet Voluntary on his French horn. For the church ceremony my Uncle Alan played acoustic guitar.
What were your ceremony readings? Mixing French and British traditions and language was important for us and our wedding. A personal reading for us inspired by grandparents, Desiderata, was read by my sister in French and Pete’s mother in English. A Bible reading, Philippians 2:1-4, was read in French by the pastor and in English by Pete’s brother. And a letter from my mother that she read in English, and read in French by my stepmother.
What were your vows like? Pete’s were unbelievably thoughtful and very personal. Mine were a little more haphazard and frank – I finished writing them on the morning of the wedding!
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Having no idea of what to expect! We are fortunately both quite relaxed and embraced the French eccentricities mixed with the British and just allowed the day to chart its own course. Rather than a rehearsal the night before, we spent the evening up in the church partaking in the French tradition that the bride and groom start ringing the church bell while family, friends, and the local community come by to wish the couple well. Together everyone keeps the bell ringing for as long as possible. A wonderful shared experience – at one point the bell collectively lifted me and my four siblings clear off the floor! We kept it ringing until past 11pm – a lot of fun and a very traditional French experience!
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? The wedding transport is a family tradition, that was given a French uplift. I arrived at the ceremony on the back of my father’s vintage motorbike, with the bridesmaids following on Mobylettes (peddle and pop motored bicycles). After the blessing in the eglise, we took part in another French tradition and led a procession of approximately 20 vehicles around the local area, with everyone beeping their horns and waving, and locals joining in. My father spent seven years restoring a 1920 Bugatti, and as the father to four daughters and one son, he decided that his girls should drive their new husbands in the car, so this family tradition started with my sister’s wedding in 2013.
“Our reception was held at my parents’ house in the village. I’d describe it as rustic French, with a vin d’honneur (Champagne reception) followed by a traditional French soiree.”
Why did you choose this location for your reception? The house is typically French and typical of my family – something Pete has fully embraced and is a part of, very much part of.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? A visit to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco – Anne Patterson’s installation Graced With Light was the inspiration for the ribbon strung in the tent. We were also inspired by our family – their collective effort was a continuous source of inspiration, and was why we wanted the event to be so inclusive and relaxed.
What was your wedding menu? Authentic rustic French. My father made a smoker for the salmon, and led by Lilly, the house transformed in to a hive of activity with flans, salads, fruit, bread, canapés, aperitifs – the enthusiasm of the French to contribute their local dishes and specialities was wonderful.
Did you have a signature cocktail? No. However being in Burgundy it was important to have some wine we loved. My sister and mother visited local vineyards and brought a selection with them to our engagement dinner, where the entire family chose the Crémant de Bourgogne to be served at the vin d’honneur.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? Most of the wedding was DIY – we are very fortunate to have such a creative and hands-on family. We all arrived in France two weeks prior to the wedding and got to work: rebuilding a crumbling wall, clearing a path to link the vin d’honneur and main reception areas, setting up tents, tables made from wood from the local saw mill, sunflowers arranged in vessels collected by all, scarecrows made to represent the bride and groom (a French tradition), ribbon hand tied to the ceiling of the tent… our wedding was a collective effort of so many, bringing their talents and enthusiasm to create a very memorable and special experience.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? The speeches – Pete’s brothers did a very amusing true or false questionnaire with Pete, trawling up some of his endeavors for the amusement of the audience. My father spoke in French, for what he lacks in French speaking he makes up for in gestures and support from our middle sister to translate back into English – they made a very entertaining duo!
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. There was an impromptu sing along by the French friends ending in a toast to us.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? Burgundy tradition is that the cake is in the shape of something that represents you as individuals. (Our friend Lilly and her husband had a chicken and a tree for their wedding cake.) In talking about it, we mentioned Kilimanjaro (we climbed it together in 2011), and decided that cats and monkeys would symbolize us (I love cats and Pete’s father used to call his three boys his three little monkeys). From that brief conversation we had no idea what to expect, but we were thrilled when the baker arrived with his masterpiece. It was supplemented by flans and cakes made by some of the women in the village.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? To accept help.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? Not really. There were some unexpected twists and turns along the way, however this all made it our day and part of a wonderful, happy and memorable experience.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of your wedding? While the wedding is the ‘big day’ in the week running up to it as we created the venue, there is no question it was hard work however with so much support from family and the local friends was a wonderful and extended wedding experience shared together. Throughout the week, in true French style, we always stopped for a lunch all together, and as the evening arrived we shared aperitifs and dinner.