Journey of Belle Bride Hollydawn … the wedding venue in France

Your wedding venue can be one of the biggest decisions in terms of style of wedding, numbers to invite and the effect on your wedding budget.  This decision can be made easier and compounded at the same time, with the vast array of wedding venues available in France.  Belle Bride Hollydawn takes us through her experience of finding a wedding venue in France in her usual enigmatic way.

Hollydawn: “Airplanes tend to make me wistful, so my apologies in advance if this post reads like an episode of Oprah (who, by the way, is my living breathing idol and has been sent a wedding invitation).  This week has brought me from Ireland to Canada and reminded me what it means to be Canadian (and cold, but dry!).

Had you asked me the best part about being Canadian as a child I would have no doubt answered snow and hockey, as an adult I lament Tim Hortons and being bilingual.  Yes, I speak French.  My favorite word is pamplemousse (in a close second is baby seal).  So planning a wedding in France should be relatively pain-free? Non?  No.  Let me rephrase my earlier statement: Yes, I speak French.  Except in France.

The first I heard my French was anything less than parfait, was a month before I would fly to France and meet G’s family for the first time.  My fiancée slyly emailed me a ‘Learn French’ podcast.  I laughed at the joke.  Then, much like a small child, he sat me down and explained that I was not actually fluent in French.  I laughed again.  Turns out, it wasn’t a joke.  A week before we left, I panicked.  I put the podcast on my Ipod and resolved to master French in one week.  The first (and last!) podcast went like this:

‘Pilule contraceptif…birth control pill…repeter, pilule contraceptif’

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G apparently had picked the podcast at random, and had no idea what it contained.  As punishment for his lack of faith in my French, I still proclaim ‘pilule contraceptif’ every time we sit down for dinner with his family in France.  Payback is un chienne.  Unfortunately, this story does not stand-alone.  There have been several embarrassing language-barrier moments.  Last year, following a tres enorme Christmas feast of pigeon I rubbed my belly and told Mami and Papi I was full.  Except I said ‘je suis plein’.  Bilingual Holly fail: ‘je suis plein’ equals ‘I’m pregnant’, which I was not.  Don’t worry, G quickly clarified and I quickly finished 2 bottles of wine (at which point, my French was perfected).

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Needless to say, I am nervous about planning a wedding in France.  I have already accepted that getting married in France as a foreigner will be nothing short of a miracle.  French people love paperwork.  Canadian’s don’t.  Here, I have a bureaucratic match made in hell, then again, opposites do attract.

The long form of my birth certificate? Why would I want to waste paper? (yes, this reply is verbatim the Canadian consulate).  More than the paperwork, I worry about vendor miscommunications regarding money, dates, and services required.  After all, the difference between tax included and tax not included is only 3 letters but possibly hundreds of euros.

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My solution?  To write and edit, then re-edit, then re-write, then google translate, standard emails for each type of vendor.  I began, of course, with my venue email.  Aside from perfecting the French, I also had to really think about what I wanted in a venue.  I consulted several blogs that suggested I inquire about the usual chairs and tables, liquor licenses and the less usual number of toilets, use of open fire, and spending minimum.

When it all seemed a bit too much to handle, I went back to basics.  I wanted a venue for 50 people, to celebrate and sleep, with some outdoor space.  A handy google search turned up Chateaus and golf courses, museums and restaurants.  But for us the magic word was ‘gite’.  Emails went out on mass, some venues never replied.  Others replied that they were unable to accommodate us.  Others replied with prices quadruple our annual salaries…combined.  But only one venue replied to my French email in English.  I’m unsure whether to attribute this to fate or a testament to my poor French, either way I am delighted to have found the (English speaking!) Ferme de Candeloup. 

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Only slightly outside our budget, the 260-year old converted Béarnaise Farm is located 40 minutes from the Mairie, in the heart of the Jurancon wine region.  And while I have yet to visit the Ferme, the detailed webpage combined with my wild imagination have allowed for a pristine vision of our stay.  The 6 bedrooms and apartment suite will be home to our out-of-town guests over 3 days.  On le jour J, we’ll greet our guests on the terrace gravier, followed by a relaxed vin d’honneur en plein air.

We’ll escape the heat with dinner in the salle reception.  The remainder of our evening will be devoted to drinking and dancing on the terrace en bois.  Of course, not to be forgotten, a midnight swim in the outdoor pool. Amongst the vineyards and the mountains, we’ll raise our glasses, and rather than cheers, sante, or even slainte, we’ll toast with ‘pilule contraceptif’.

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I have a small confession: upon paying my deposit I may or may not have hastily crossed venue off our wedding-do-list.  Cheeky?  Ok, so I still need to source tables and chairs.  Oh, and a local taxi driver.  Plates, cutlery, and cups are a must.  And tablecloths.  Which brings me to…do you know how much tablecloths cost? Not that I have ever used one , but cost seems to be a very good reason as to why!  All the same, venue.

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If I had to summarize my venue journey it would be as simple as: no expectations are not low expectations.  My requirements may have been few but in the end I am quite happy with a venue as rustic as G and I.  My advice for brides on a similar journey?  The less time you spend focusing on how things should be, the better they actually will be.  And please, do not be afraid to think outside the box, or should I say, Chateau.  There are numerous traditional and alternative venue options throughout France, it’s not simply a country of castles.

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With that, I think it is time I finally address le elephante in the room.  I don’t speak French.  Much like the episode of Friends where Joey tries to speak French, I truly believe I do.  But I don’t.  Please just don’t tell the Mairie.”

If you like the look of Ferme de Candeloup for you wedding find out more information on their website

Monique xx

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