Brennan Sikes Shaffner, 34, married Thomas William Hoppe, 35, at Cornwell Manor, Oxfordshire, on 21st July 2017. She says:
We’re both from America and moved to London a couple of years ago for our jobs. We fell in love with the Cotswolds and it was a no-brainer that we would get married there.
As guests were travelling from the US, Germany and Austria, it was important for us to make it special, so we put together a full itinerary: on the Thursday we met at a local pub and on Friday we organised a tea at Daylesford, with a pool party. Tom then hosted a field dinner on the Friday night and the wedding itself was on the Saturday. Instead of having our honeymoon after the big day, we took advantage of the fact we had friends over from the US and travelled to one of our favourite beach villages,
Cap Ferret in France. Tom is the cook in our house, so he took charge of sorting all the menus. We had everything from a BBQ banquet to a three-course menu with a choice of pigeon, sea trout or venison. We were proud that we pulled off the glamping. We spent a long time organising the best showers and toilets, and making sure we had electricity – and our guests loved it! My top tip Hire a wedding planner who knows the venue/area and has relationships with local suppliers.
A chic chateau garden party
Millen Wolde-Selassie, 33, married Philippe Dewevre, 34, at Eglise Saint-Ouen and Chateau de Canon, France, on 5th-6th August 2017. She says:
By the time Philippe and I got married, we had attended so many weddings that we had a clear idea of what we wanted. It had to reflect our cultural backgrounds, our years spent living and working in London and our love of hosting family and friends. We had guests flying in from over 20 countries, so we really couldn’t have asked for a better turnout!
We visited 20 venues in France and Germany before deciding on Chateau de Canon in the charming Normandy countryside. ‘The family who own it were so excited about hosting our wedding – everything felt just right. It was vital for us that people had fun and enjoyed themselves, so we had lawn games, big garden furniture and a kids’ area with colouring books and babysitters. Our stylist created an incredible interactive table plan – it was a real ice-breaker for guests.
We had a weekend full of events: on the Sunday there was an Eritrean-Ethiopian celebration called Melse as a nod to my family. I wore traditional clothing and found an Ethiopian restaurant in Paris to provide a buffet including samosa, salads and the national staple, injera bread. This was followed by a traditional coffee ceremony served by my aunts.
My top tip Start planning early and make sure you get support – it all took a lot longer than I expected!
So pretty in Provence!
Caroline Hogan, 29, married Daniel Baneth, also 29, at Clos Saint Esteve, France, on 24th June 2018. She says:
Provence is very special to us – it was the first place we went on holiday together and my grandma lives about 10 miles down the road from the venue. As she is no longer able to travel abroad, we thought we’d bring the party to her. I bought the first gown I tried on. It was Mira Zwillinger’s ‘Calla’ dress – blush, with embroidered detailing that matched the lavender fields… plus it was lightweight and comfy. I didn’t initially want to buy the first dress I tried on, as I thought it was too good to be true, but I visited other boutiques and nothing compared, so I went back and bought it!
Our goal for the day was to create an intimate, elegant and relaxed setting, filled with fairy lights, candles and flowers, where we could celebrate and make memories. My favourite thing about the overall design of the wedding was the cascading set of lights that hung above the three banquet tables we had sitting in between rows of olive trees. It was important that we used local produce – we had fresh meat and fish with fruits and vegetables. Our favourite dish? Beef fillet with zucchini and greens. Instead of a traditional wedding cake, we had a croquembouche with flavours such as vanilla, chocolate and salted caramel. My top tip Create an environment where no one has to think about anything and everyone can relax and have fun!
Tailor-made country cool
Chris Mouskoundi, 43, married Matthew Cameron, 31, at Aynhoe Park, Oxfordshire, on 4th August 2018. He says:
We wanted our wedding day to be a representation of ourselves, and we broke it up into three clear areas: the ceremony – this was elegant and very special to us; the wedding breakfast – simple, relaxed and enjoyable (we didn’t want it to be overly traditional); and then the evening – we just wanted to have an amazing party for everyone… and that’s what we did! Both our suits were bespoke Thom Sweeney; we picked the same fabric and then had them designed and made individually.
We each opted for a three-piece suit and didn’t share the details of our respective choices until the day. As a surprise for our guests, we arrived for the ceremony in a navy blue helicopter! It was an experience we won’t ever forget. We wanted our cake to be a real masterpiece. It was six tiers with delicate sugar hydrangeas and clematis and our initials handcrafted in copper. Our event organisers arranged an army of 20 models to greet guests, serve Champagne and make sure that everyone was OK during the dinner. My top tip If something starts to worry you, change it. We originally planned a first dance, but it became a tension point – so in the end we decided not to have one.
Emma Lovett, 27, married Dominic Harding, 29, at Grande Provence, Franschhoek, South Africa, on 6th February 2016. She says:
Franschhoek is quite possibly the most beautiful place we’ve visited. The backdrop of the mountains and the fact that it’s also a winery sold it to us! As we had lots of guests travelling from all over the world, we put on three days of celebrations: a meet-up lunch, the wedding, then brunch on the Sunday. It was a great way for our guests to meet and spend time together. For the wedding, I wanted to create a floral wooded wonderland. We covered the tables in moss, used wooden log plates as table settings and had flowers and candles everywhere.
One of the hardest tasks to organise was transport: I wanted to pick up all 100 guests, from 25 hotels, in coaches. I made CDs of typical wedding songs to get everyone in the mood: think Elton John’s Chapel Of Love blaring out. Instead of favours, we left hangover kits in guests’ rooms with eye drops, sunglasses, painkillers and lip balms. On the Sunday, we held a hungover brunch. We had a braai of steak and fries, ate wedding cake and danced. Then Dominic and I were taken back to Cape Town by helicopter – one of the best moments from the wedding was seeing our guests waving to us as we flew away! My top tip Research and figure out your themes before meeting with suppliers – and find ones that fit your vision, rather than them dictating to you.