I feel in love with Chateau de Fayolle during the first month of running the blog, way back in 2011, when I interviewed owners Janet and Gerry, documenting the journey from renovation to beautiful wedding venue.
So when the beautiful real wedding of James and Gemma landed in my inbox from Catherine O’Hara I was delighted.
Today’s real bride Gemma, takes us through their love story and wedding planning. Gemma: “James and I met on our first day at university, 10 years ago. While we didn’t get together straight away, we became very close friends (with definitely a little chasing on his part) and ‘officially’ started going out a year or so later.
He proposed when we were on holiday in Crete and, though it didn’t quite work out as he had planned, it was an idyllic setting: a beautiful secluded beach at twilight, waves lapping at the rock and… a giant octopus. We celebrated the engagement in a local taverna, with copious plates of fresh seafood and wine.
Having been together for such a long time, neither of us wanted a particularly long engagement and our wedding was nine months after we got engaged (contrary to what we were told, this was more than enough time to organise the day).
We wanted to have a wedding abroad for two reasons: the (hopefully) good weather would enable us to hold the whole day outside and spend a weekend with our friends and family. France was a logical choice; I had studied French at university and had lived with a family not far from the venue and we both had an affinity with the country. It was also not too far a destination for guests coming from the UK.
As neither of us is French or was able to live in France for 30 days prior to the wedding, we were unable to marry in France legally. While I was initially upset at this at first, we officially married in Brixton Town Hall (where we live in London) so ended up with two weddings!
Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is listed as one of France’s most beautiful villages, perched atop a hill just above the river Dronne.
We wanted a venue that was rustic and would enable us to have the whole day outside, sleep up to 20 people in site and had a swimming pool that we could eat around. Chateau de Fayolle ticked all the boxes and more.
The majority of our guests booked villas and spent a whole week in the area, which allowed us to spend quality time with everyone in the run-up to the big day.
For my dress, I wanted something simple and elegant and, while originally I wanted lace and perhaps a more classic-style, I fell in love with the David Fielden dress as soon as I’d tried it on.
On the evening before the wedding, we had a meal outside the Hotel de France, one of the restaurants in the square; the tables were laid out in lines and the trees above were beautifully decorated with lights.
On the day of the wedding, coaches picked up guests from Aubeterre and they were given champagne cocktails on arrival and entertained by an accordion player.
The chateau has a beautiful chapel but, as it could only seat 20 people, we held the ceremony outside and local violinists provided the music. After the ceremony, there were garden games, champagne and canapés and jazz music as well as Brixton beers; a little slice of London in France.
The 7-course wedding breakfast took place under the arches around the pool and in European-style, lasted for five hours. Keeping with French tradition, our wedding cake was a towering croquembouche.
Following our exit under a canopy of sparklers, we moved to the coach house for the rest of the evening to dance, and have further cheese and wine under the stars!
The following day we had planned to have a BBQ by the river but, due to the rain, it was held in a local hotel, Hostellerie Perigord.
For our honeymoon, we spent three days in Paris before flying to Sri Lanka for a two-week mix of travelling around and beach time.”
Wedding Photographer – Catherine O’Hara| Wedding Venue – Chateau de Fayolle, Villetourieux | Wedding Dress – David Fielden | Bridal Accessories – family pieces / David Fielden | Florist – Organised by the chateau | Hair and Makeup Artist – Sanni Sorma | Grooms Outfit – Beggars Run | Bride/ Groom Gifts – Liberty | Wedding Rings – Davies and Vaughan | Caterer – organised by the chateau | Stationery & Invitations Bryony Birkbeck| Wedding Guest Accommodation: Hostellaire Perigord| Honeymoon Accommodation: Hotel Petit Moulin Paris