Monday, September 25, 2006

Enjoy your wedding

I received a concerned-sounding email from our South of France wedding planner Miguel, who reads my blog. Was I happy with our wedding there? Did it go according to plan? Reading my last entry it does sound as though I was complaining doesn't it? Well I wasn't. Let me clarify.

The difference between our wedding in the South of France, and our wedding party in London was based on the formality of the occasions. As with any wedding, that is traditional, you have to go through a series of practices, and these put a lot of pressure on the bride and groom. You are being observed by family and friends for most of the day, and are expected to behave in a certain manner. Having spoken to all of my married friends, the general consensus is that you never enjoy your own wedding as much as you should, because of the performance anxiety element. This has got nothing at all to do with how lovely the rest of it is, and in the case of our wedding in France, it truly was our idea of beautiful and perfect.

The party in London, was just that - a party. No formalities, and therefore a lot less stress - naturally. And in France, yes, there were one or two tiny little things that weren't 100% perfect, or more specifically, were absolutely fine but not what I had in my head. But they never are going to be. And as I said in my previous post, that was more my fault for being so anal rather than anything inherently wrong on the day. And with future events I know to relax more.

For our wedding in France, we exchanged our vows in the gardens of the
Chateau de la Chevre d'Or, in the late afternoon of Friday the 1st of September. These gardens sit on the side of the Eze village cliff that overlooks the sea below, and at that time in the evening it was quite simply breathtaking. Afterwards we had champagne and canapés on the hotel terrace, and had a chance to catch-up with everyone. The string quartet who played during our ceremony continued to entertain us up on the terrace.

After that, two busses took guests down to our reception venue which was at the
Villa Kerylos. When I nipped inside to take a look at the table settings, I was absolutely delighted. Everything was as we discussed, and it looked even better than what I had imagined. Guests had more champagne outside and then entered the villa to a series of James Bond theme songs. The table names were also named after Bond villains. Robert and I are fans - sad I know.

The food and wine was stunning and I'm just sorry I was such a ball of nerves and wasn't able to eat past a few forkfuls. Again I hear very few brides are actually able to eat on their wedding day. Then our cake! My god what an entrance those guys made. It was such fun, and the highlight of the evening for me I think. Speeches were funny and wonderful, and we had the world's best MC in the form of Greg. In fact I think he has a future business in it - a born natural.

Robert and I opened the floor to 'All Time High' by Rita Coolidge (lots of gratuitous snogging) and were soon joined by friends (for the dance that is). A lot of people didn't really dance during the evening I thought, and chose to stand outside and catch-up, drink, smoke that sort of thing. My friend Zoë said to me, "That's what happens when you choose to have your wedding in such a stunning location." Indeed, the view outside the villa (which was surrounded by the harbor) was filled with some impressive boats and yachts, and if you are in the part of the word, you can visit it during the day as a museum. The weather was also so beautifully warm it was tempting to stay outside.

Robert and I left the reception at around 1am and I hear everyone else partied on until 2 and then hit the beach with a bottle or 3. God I was jealous! We got back to our hotel and slumped into bed exhausted and wired. What a day.

If you are interested in having your wedding in the South of France, I can highly recommend the following people:

Wedding planners:
Golden Star Events (Miguel or Marc). These guys are essential in that they know the best venues and people - caterers, florists, etc, and they speak French. So you don't need to spend months trawling around on the internet, or sending emails using Babelfish. From wedding officiants to hair and makeup people who come to your hotel, they have this info at their fingertips. They are very affordable and more so, I was able to barrage them with hundreds of neurotic emails, and they answered each one patiently and didn't get fed up with me. We also traveled to the South of France on a few occasions and they were always very happy to meet up with us, and take us to see the various venues and to meet the people who were part of our day. They also took care of things like transport (busses for guests), and can also refer you to good value hotels in the area etc. Their service is comprehensive, warm, and personable, and by the end of it all they felt like a part of the family.

Food: Look no further than
Mr. Brian, an English gent based in Monaco, who was also referred to us by Golden Star. He hates the term caterer and is a real foodie, and takes it very seriously. There's none of this reheating business - food is made on location and each plate is made up meticulously, and beautifully presented. He does food from small dinner parties to bigger events, and his chief chef owned a Michelin starred restaurant before joining him. Brian knows his stuff, and if food is important to you as it was to us, he is your man.

Music: We didn't have the time or the money to trek back and forth to France to listen to bands, so we thought it would be a safer option to use a DJ. Miguel recommended Mark from
Caroline South, and he was brilliant. I emailed Mark a selection of the sort of thing we were interested in, and left the rest up to him. Again, another very friendly and warm Englishman based in that part of the world , and someone with a real feel for what to play next and to read a room. He was open to requests, but I don't think that was necessary - judging from the fact that those people that did dance didn't venture off the dancefloor much.

Flowers: Our florist was Alex Mache based in Nice. He's very inventive, though needed specifics in terms of what we wanted - which is to be expected. I don't speak French so we resolved this by looking at photos of his past work and used Miguel as translator. I was very pleased with the flowers he did on the day - really stunning.

Photos: We chose Paris-based Studio Cabrelli. The photographer was with me when I was getting ready, covering everything right up until our first dance. Their approach is more of a photojournalistic one, which is why we opted to go with them. I'm expecting the photos this week from Miguel and I'll write a review then.

All of these people are contactable through
Golden Star Events who do weddings in the South of France, Paris, London, Barcelona etc.

What I would say, but this really goes for any wedding even one you arrange yourself: Keep an eye on costs. Golden Star were very good about checking things with us before ever booking them or making a purchase on our behalf. But you do really need to be quite anal about checking things and sometimes finding alternatives to suit your budget. Wedding planners are creatives and in some cases, they are used to dealing with huge budgets, so it really is worth having a discussion at the start of the process outlining just how much you want to spend on things.

Have a plan. Outline exactly what you want to happen and roughly when. Most thing will take place anything from half an hour to an hour later than what you initially had in mind, but it's a good idea to make sure the key players (planners, MC's, bridesmaids, best man, dj etc) know what is happening and when. It takes a lot of stress off of you to have other people in the know and to take care of things for you.

Be flexible: I learnt this the hard way. No matter what happens, and how carefully you plan, some things will be different on the day - that's life. My friend Andrea arrived at her reception to find her flowers were a completely different kind and colour to what she had agreed. Something to do with a last minute availiblity issue. Shit happens, and at the end of the day, you have to let it go. Saying this, in the case with the florist, I would have made sure I didn't get stuck with the bill for something I hadn't paid for, and made sure we worked out the difference.

Have a drink: Have a drink when you are getting ready (just one mind you so you don't slur your vows) and then at the reception. It's your day, so relax and (and try to) enjoy, despite having jaw ache from posing for all those photos.

Official wedding photos will be up later this week.

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