When it comes to wedding planning, one of the most frequent set of questions that you send into the blog, is about wedding venue selection. You might have read through our wedding venue checklist, but still be unsure how to narrow down your choice, don’t fear as today our newest Belle Bride Emily is going to be sharing your wedding venue selection journey.
Emily: “One of the most exciting aspects of planning a wedding anywhere in the world is the venue. Choosing the venue with the “right fit” is a subjective process, influenced by everything from personal preferences to finances to practicalities and other logistics.
Right away, we knew 1) we wanted to get married near Bordeaux, France, and 2) that we wanted to have our wedding take place at a chateau. Bordeaux was where Jeff bought me a promise ring in the summer of 2012, and though we didn’t get engaged, it’s our little pocket in the world where we promised each other forever (x infinity) on a warm summer night as we swayed to live gypsy jazz in a cobblestone piazza.
We envisioned an intimate, romantic chateau that was a combination of rustic and elegant, the kind of place where you walk in and feel right at home. We steered clear of any venue that felt too pretentious. Needless to say, we are not the “roll out the red carpet as we fly in on a helicopter” kind of couple. We envisioned green gardens and rolling vineyards, and long candlelit dinner parties that run late into the night.
Even before getting engaged, we researched. We researched a lot. We searched for chateau’s that could accommodate at least 25 people for one week, had easy access (most of our guests will be flying to France from California), and was located in an area with cultural activities and sightseeing nearby. We knew we wanted a summer wedding, and for that reason, a pool was also necessary.
Unfortunately, the pool criterion ruled out a few gorgeous venues we stumbled across on the internet! We perused sites including oliverstravels.com and, of course, French Wedding Style for inspiration. The first chateau I wholly adored was Chateau de la Ligne. I can’t remember how I initially discovered it, but I immediately emailed a photo to my mom telling her it was my “dream venue.” From there, we began planning a winter trip to Bordeaux, France in early January 2015.
When my mom and I visited Bordeaux in January, we had 4 scheduled visits. In order to view all the properties, which ranged from 25 minutes to almost 4 hours outside of Bordeaux, we rented a car. Regarding scheduling, I emailed Chateau de la Ligne directly and was able to coordinate a visit directly with the wedding planner.
For the other 3 venues, we worked with a woman from Oliver’s Travels who connected us with the chateau owners. We were told each visit would last approximately one hour (some went closer to 4 hours). All 4 venues fell roughly within the same price range.
Due to the timing of our visit, we were essentially told the venues were shut down because it was wintertime, and for that reason we would not see them in their prime (trees and vines stripped of their leaves, pool covers on, on-going restoration and remodels, etc). This was true, but combined with the online photos it wasn’t a problem.
Prior to leaving for France, I had the venues tentatively ranked in the following order: 1) Chateau de la Ligne, 2) Chateau la Durantie, 3) Chateau le mas de Montet and 4) Chateau Rigaud.
I’ll also preface my reviews by stating that I found all of the venues to be extremely welcoming, accommodating, flexible, and in general, wonderful.
Our hosts (who ranged from owners to managers to wedding planners) were all extremely knowledgeable and able to answer all questions with ease. For anyone planning a wedding in France, I highly recommend visiting your venues of interest, if possible.
Visit 1: Chateau Rigaud
Located about a 45-minute drive from the historic center of Bordeaux (and near St. Emilion), this chateau was surrounded by rolling green fields and farmland. From the second we glimpsed the chateau through the narrow medieval gate, I was in L-O-V-E.
This dark gray stone chateau has an authentic, romantic medieval feel. It is unassuming and beautifully decorated like something out of a slightly modernized French Restoration Hardware catalog. It was easy to envision holding a wedding and hosting a group of friends and family there for a week. It would be a rustic elegant wedding, with the reception in a romantic barn-like structure. I left the property saying, “I don’t know how any other property could be more perfect.”
After viewing the other properties, I felt a wedding at Chateau Rigaud would have been a little too rustic for the wedding I was planning, and the venue is in a pretty remote area. This was a consideration when planning for those guests who would not be staying on the property.
Additionally, the surrounding area felt more like farm country than wine country, the latter of which I was seeking. We had a specific vision in mind and holding the reception in a barn-like structure, wasn’t what I was looking for in a wedding venue. I would absolutely consider renting this venue for a family reunion or holiday with friends, but ultimately it wasn’t the best fit for our wedding.
Visit 2: Chateau le mas de Montet
Located about a 2-3 hour drive outside of Bordeaux, in “the heart of the Perigord,” this chateau has a gorgeous grand entrance down a long tree-lined dirt road. Just thinking about this venue still takes my breath away.
This chateau had so much of what we were looking for: it was stunning without being pretentious, decorated in authentic and home-y French décor, it was a large venue with complete privacy, with whimsical gardens and greenery. There is a charming town about 5-minutes down the road with some restaurants and bars, and it was so very easy to envision holding a very French, very European wedding here. The venue felt like it was picked out of a fairytale.
Like Chateau Rigaud, this venue was located in a remote area with limited hotel options nearby. It was also surrounded by farmland. At this venue the ‘back-up’ plan in the event of rain was a barn, again this wasn’t something that felt right for our wedding. This chateau would have been a great option if were having a small wedding and all the guests could stay on property. That being said, I would definitely return and stay as a guest at the B&B.
Visit 3: Chateau de la Ligne
Located 20-25 minutes from the historic center of Bordeaux in the quaint town of Lignan-de-Bordeaux, this chateau is breathtaking! The photos on their website truly don’t even begin to do the place justice. I highly recommend watching this video of the chateau, as I feel it captures the magic!
This chateau has it all: intimacy, beauty, flexibility, a chef, a pool (3, actually!), an attentive wedding planner, a gorgeous reception hall, romantic gardens, vineyard views, home-y French décor, a tennis court, a cobblestone courtyard, a “welcome home” feeling, close proximity to Bordeaux, enough bedrooms to accommodate up to 37 people, nearby bike rentals with a bike path that leads into Bordeaux, and more…
This chateau had absolutely everything (and more) we were looking for, and I struggle to think of even one negative thing to say about this venue!
Visit 4: Chateau la Durantie
Our last visit was to Chateau la Durantie, a gorgeous venue, that was in the countryside, but we ultimately deemed too far away from Bordeaux for our liking.
That being said, it was a gorgeous, picturesque property and I know the wedding photographs would have been spectacular. Prior to visiting France, this venue was my #2 choice, but it dropped to #4 for a couple reasons aside from the location including the reception being held in the marquee.
We were also told that due to nearby neighbors, the noise level is a concern. Overall, it just wasn’t the best fit for what we were looking for in a venue.
Choosing your wedding venue is so subjective and it is a balance between logistics and getting that ‘feeling’ when you visit a venue. As I said at the start, all of the venues were extremely welcoming, accommodating, flexible and in general, wonderful.
But going forward for our wedding, my final ranking of venues: 1) Chateau de la Ligne, 2) Chateau Rigaud, 3) Chateau le mas de Montet, 4) Chateau la Durantie
Emily’s Wedding Vendors so far:
Venue: Chateau de la Ligne
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