There is such a wide choice of wedding venues in France so where do you start and how do you compare them all? How do you decide which format is the best one for your needs? We have pulled together a list of pros and cons as to what you can expect, and although there are exceptions, in general, there are three main types of venue available for weddings and event in France:
1 – Private properties with onsite accommodation
Call it your own ‘home away from home’, for the duration of your stay
Flexibility to create your day, your way
No imposed packages – typically the property is rented as the backdrop to your wedding, only. Suppliers are hired direct.
Some venues offer an onsite organizer and/or lists of suppliers
Stay for as long as you like and host events on more than one day
No, or limited onsite services or facilities specifically for weddings
Couples are responsible for organizing everything and all suppliers for the day. This not only includes key suppliers but may also include furniture, utilities and infrastructure as well as the installation and dismantling of equipment and cleaning.
Many of these properties rent to the holiday market as their primary market, thus flexibility for weekend rental may, but not always, be restricted in high season (July/August).
2 – Venue for the Day
Usually there is a venue hire fee only, no packages.
Flexibility to create your day your way.
Guests don’t see wedding venue before the big day
Good value for money
Some venues offer an onsite organizer and/or lists of suppliers
Basic infrastructure such as toilets, catering kitchen and high capacity reception rooms may exist already on site
Often includes some supplies such as furniture, in the hire charge
Some venues offer onsite accommodation – this may be just for the bride and groom or for 100+ guests for the night of the event
The couple is not committing to paying for guests accommodation
If offered, onsite accommodation is usually just for the wedding night.
Limited access times – usually 24 hour’s rental from 09h00 on day of event to 09h00 following day when facility has to be returned cleaned. Options may exist for a return the next day for a post wedding event.
3 – Hotels
Knowledge and services on site
Reception room hire included in the catering costs
Flexibility on length of stay for all guests
Can be small enough to still hire in exclusivity
Guests can pay individually for their accommodation although a deposit may be required
Usually offered as a package that can be quite fixed in format but only usually included catering. Outside of that you have freedom to choose
They may require you to choose suppliers from a list of nominated partners
May share venue with other guests on non event days
We hope that you have found our insights useful, however, every venue is different and may have its own particularities. Should you need help with finding THE wedding venue you have set your hearts on, get in touch and we can help you to find, compare and choose the right one for you and your guests.
Laura, owner of French Wedding Company was recently interviewed by ‘To Have and To Hold Films’ on planning a wedding in France…
Laura Southgate heads up the French Wedding Company and has been planning weddings and events for over 20 years, working on over 200 weddings and 500 events! That’s some serious experience right there!
Laura and her team can spend anything up to 300 hours on each individual couples wedding planning, as long as it takes to ensure the clients are 100% happy. If you are planning a wedding in France they are the award winning team you have to contact.
We interviewed Laura to hear all about her tips and advice on planning a wedding in France and what she sees as the up and coming trends in Weddings this year! Make sure you find out what is her one piece of advice she’d give to couples – we think its a fantastic idea!
Where is your favourite location to plan a wedding in France and why?
I don’t have a favourite location as France is such a diverse country. That is, in fact, what I love about it – I have planned weddings in vineyards, on beaches, with views of the mountains, as well as at many chateaux, of course. The whole reason I decided to go freelance was so that I wasn’t tied to a specific location or venue. My favourite location is the new one I find, that a couple never even knew, existed.
What makes weddings in France different to UK weddings?
The biggest difference is the way a wedding is organised. In the UK, it tends to be very ‘packaged’ and the venues provide everything. Even though more and more venues are getting into ‘packages’ in France, it is still not the norm. In France, couples start with a venue that is just a blank canvas or ‘dry hire’ and can then choose their own suppliers to create the day that they want. Whilst ‘packages’ can suit many couples, all the clients that we work with at French Wedding Company are looking to create a unique day with special experiences for their guests and so don’t want the constraints that a ‘package’ and fixed set of suppliers, bring.
Why did you relocate to South West France to be a Wedding planner?
I didn’t relocate to SW France to become a wedding planner, I just relocated for a change, to get out of the London scene and do something different. I didn’t come with a plan. Life just evolved. I managed a couple of chateaux for a while and developed their wedding, holiday rental and events businesses. When the chateau I was working at was sold, I was made redundant and I had to move six weddings… so I became a freelance wedding planner.
What’s been the most unusual thing you’ve been asked to plan for a wedding?
There have been a few things over the years. Last year I was asked to source professional ballet dancers for a wedding (we arranged for two ballerinas from the Royal Ballet in London to come and perform a specially choreographed piece of dance). I am currently working on sourcing a falcon for a wedding next year, but one of my favourites was organising a jockey race as part of the wedding day experience. The Groom’s Dad was editor of the Racing Post and they had this ‘idea’ of having a jockey race but weren’t sure how to go about it. Anyway, after the site visit and over a few glasses of wine (the best ideas spring to mind over a relaxed glass of the local tipple!), we threw around some ideas and ended up creating a parade ring at the welcome dinner the night before. The jockeys paraded around in their silks and had to go over a trial jump whilst the Groom’s Dad commentated on their ‘form’ so that guests could place bets. The next day, a ‘racecourse’ was set up around the wedding tent and just before dinner, six guests, representing different groups in the party, raced three times around the course, jumping wine barrels, whilst the rest of the guests cheered them on to the Father of the Groom’s commentary. It was great fun, the winnings were divided up and there was a prize-giving at the end of dinner too… It really created some great memories.
Do you prefer a Chateau or Beach Wedding?
They are both beautiful and both present their own challenges. My favourite weddings are the ones where it is a true reflection of the bride and groom. This is often less about the venue, although the right setting helps.
In your opinion what makes a “Good Wedding”?
A good wedding is about the people. Brides and grooms often get caught up in worrying too much about keeping up with the Jones’ or planning lots of little details that are so often unappreciated, overlooked or end up in the bin. Guests will take the day as it comes and are there because they want to support the couple. If the couple are relaxed, the guests will be relaxed. The key then is about creating the right level of activity to keep everyone entertained and the vibe going. This is where guidance from a good planner comes in.
What new styles/trends do you think are going to be the next big thing for weddings in France?
Experiential weddings are becoming the new trend. Today’s couples are looking to create memorable experiences for both themselves and their guests, and not follow the traditional wedding format. At French Wedding Company, this is how we have always approached our wedding planning and we love the challenge of coming up with new ideas as to how the couple can style, entertain or deliver their day differently, whilst staying true to themselves.
What’s your favourite wedding trend currently?
Doing food differently. Couples are looking for new ways to offer food at their weddings, with many couples not wanting to sit down for long drawn-out meals. This year we are planning weddings with food trucks, picnics, gourmet hog roasts and cocktail dinatoire to name a few, but all with a twist… like an opera-singing Italian ice cream seller!
What’s the one piece of advice you would give couples on their wedding day?
Apart from… get a planner who you can hand everything over to so that you can truly be ‘in’ your day and enjoy it? The next would be to give up your mobile phone 24 hours beforehand or give it to someone else. When guests need to know something, even the simplest of things, they always contact first the person hosting the event, (often without even bothering to try and sort it out themselves). We’ve all done it. It’s easier. But, so often I have seen brides and grooms running around and getting stressed the day before trying to sort things out for guests that really they could be sorting out for themselves. This is not how you want to be spending the 24 hours before your wedding day!
Home weddings are always trickier and more expensive than you think – and in this case, Natasha’s family, amongst other things, re-levelled the ground for the dancing marquee and knocked down (and re-built) a garden wall to provide entry to the neighbour’s garden for dining!
But this is what I love about home weddings, the challenge of making a place that is special to someone into something they never thought possible, for the biggest day of their lives. It was worth it in the end…
Congratulations Natasha and Jake
Natasha’s family have a beautiful property in the Lot where Jake and she had shared many happy memories with friends and family. They therefore thought it fitting that they have their wedding there.
So they invited 140 guests from the UK and Ireland, for three days of celebrations.
The event kicked off with a cocktail evening the night before at nearby Chateau de Cenevières.
The weather held off for them but back at the house setting up, we had hail – thank goodness we had a plan B just in case!
But, as it turned out, we didn’t need plan B as the sun came out for the wedding day and the rain stayed away.
Jake and Natasha were able to have a beautiful ceremony on the terrace and lawn, conducted by Father Brian D’Arcy and with music by Brian Kennedy, both family friends.
This was followed by a champagne fountain and cocktail food and drink by the pool.
Before moving into the marquee in the (neighbour’s) garden for speeches and dinner.
From dinner back into their own garden for cake-cutting (made by the bride’s mum) and the first dance.
And it wouldn’t have been a McGuigan party without it being kicked off by a rendition of ‘Mustang Sally’ from father of the groom… Barry.
The next day it was round the pool for a BBQ and Jake’s favourite… gelato, specially shipped in.
If you are looking to get married at your own place in France or want your favourite gelato shipped in!.. then contact someone who knows how and tell us about your wedding day aspirations. Book a call to discuss you home wedding.
Well it’s now the end of January, or ‘Veganuary’ if you were up for going vegan last month. If you’re hoping to carry through your new resolutions to a wedding in France, you’ll be pleased to know that despite perceptions of France not being well known for its choice of vegan options, there are some great French caterers who can make the vegan menu experience just as gastronomic as that of meat-eaters.
Here is an example of a Vegan menu for one of our clients:
And a couple of dishes:
Don’t forget your wedding cake either. Why choose one when you can have three? In this case Victoria sandwich, rich chocolate cake and lemon and poppy seed. I can tell you there wasn’t a crumb left.
For the day after party there are also a growing number of street food trucks with some truly beautiful vegan options…
And of course, plenty of vegan wines can certainly be found here too!
If you are looking to create extraordinary experiences for you and your guests then book a call and see what we can do for you.
2018 was all about ‘experiences’ – something we hear our couples and clients talking about a lot… wanting to do things that are unexpected, different and in such a way that guests leave saying how much fun they had.
As in previous years, our couples journeyed to France from all over the world and we, French Wedding Company, journeyed up and down the country to locations ranging from a moated chateau in Normandy, the front steps of a grand holiday home in the Lot, to a Premier Cru vineyard in Bordeaux.
However, for us, the most important thing was how we worked together with our couples to create something individual and reflective of themselves, yet also with their guests’ enjoyment, front of mind.
So here are just a few highlights from our ‘experiential’ weddings and events that included:
An interactive show with French Can-Can dancers that involved ad hoc performances by the groom and certain guests (lots of laughter and cheering here):
Ballerinas from the Royal Ballet, London performing a specially choreographed piece alongside a harpist, for a bride who was an ex-dancer:
Synchronisation of a couple’s first dance with fireworks, ensuring the first firework went off as the groom lifted his bride up into the air. (You should have heard the gasps of awe from their guests!):
A themed Great Gatsby night including Charleston dancers, cocktail barman, cabaret singer and all the appropriate styling:
A few celebrity guests also made key appearances for their friends…
Plenty of fun was had by all, particularly at the following day’s BBQ and pool parties…
Watch this space for more details of our weddings from this summer…coming soon!
If you are looking to create extraordinary experiences for you and your guests then book a call and see what we can do for you.
The truth be told, I’m a bit of softie at heart and love a traditional, simple, white wedding from time to time… and so Vogue and Jelani’s wedding remains one of my favourites. Not least because they are a delightful couple who welcomed me into their families, but also because their wedding had everything you need for a great day, all in the right proportions.
Their traditional Christian wedding service was intimate, very emotional and the key focus of the day. The reception was simply crafted but personalised and fun. There was, of course, a bucket load of love, but most of all, the day oozed JOY from every guest and at every moment.
Vogue and Jelani had already chosen their venue Chateau de Malliac (Belle Vie en Gascony) – a venue I know well and a place they had fallen in love with on their first visit. So much so, they didn’t look anywhere else… despite it stretching their budget.
As a photographer, Jelani knew exactly the setting that he wanted to create for their unique day.
Their biggest challenge was the budget that they had for the numbers they were inviting and the day they were hoping to have. But, in their own words, this is where investing in me came in. They knew that if they chose a good planner with the right contacts and expertise in understanding the industry and venue, it would bring them the very best value possible whilst creating the day they had dreamed of.
The style was simple – classic, white and elegant, but with a rustic charm. The ambience was fun, intimate, something a bit different, reflecting France and, as Jelani does not drink… light on alcohol.
Food was to be local produce but shared platters and grilled food, as Vogue and Jelani and their families were known for their barbecues and informal get-togethers.
And over the following months of site visits, meeting at their family home in the UK and Skype calls, Vogue and Jelani’s wedding day was born… and one comment stood out more than anything when Vogue said, “I would love white balloons, but I don’t know how to incorporate them into the day.” I love a challenge, and this is how white balloons and movable styling became the theme of the day, in a cost-effective way.
Guests were brought in by bus for the ceremony in the garden. On arrival, they were greeted with mason jars with their names on to use for their drinks throughout the daytime reception – saving on glassware and service.
The ceremony took place under a tree in the garden and stylist Jen worked her magic with simple, elegant gypsophilia flower arrangements up the aisle, rustic wooden bench seating and topped it off with huge white balloons up the aisle (that Vogue assumed were to be the only balloons for the day).
The beauty of Chateau Malliac is that you can close off the court-yard so that no-one can see what you are doing. So, when Vogue and Jelani led their guests into the courtyard for cocktails, the last thing she thought she would see was it full of white balloons, dotted amongst the rustic food and drinks stations.
The extended timings of the drinks reception meant that the food offering could be more substantial and, in fact, was used as a replacement for the starter without the need for canapés.
The balloons doubled up not only as decoration but also as the table plan as guests wandered amongst the food stations and found the balloon with their name and table number on. Drinks included a mocktail bar and non-alcoholic punch.
When dinner was called, guests were invited to take their balloon with them to dinner and to tie it to their chair which led to an instant white balloon ceiling in the vast rustic reception hall – cleverly at no extra cost! The flowers had been moved in from the ceremony to dot along the table so the only additional was a top table balloon backdrop. It worked a treat and when Vogue and Jelani walked in, they were blown away by the effect.
Dinner was high-end regional produce used to create sharing platters that included duck, foie gras burgers and sea bream with bowls of accompaniments passed down the tables.
After the main course, the dessert buffet was rolled in, decorated with the huge balloons from the ceremony and the white chocolate choux-bun pyramid.
And the evening rounded off with dancing…
“We just want to thank you once again for making our day possible. And turning all our dreams into a reality. We cannot thank you enough.” Vogue and Jelani
Photography by Phan Tien
Tell us your wedding day dream and see how we can bring it to reality.
Bobby and James had already booked the lovely Chateau La Gauterie when they approached me about planning their wedding. Being based in Australia meant organising their wedding from a distance, but that didn’t deter Project Manager, James, from drawing up detailed site plans to share his vision of the day. With guidance from us, a team of creative suppliers and styling from our design team, their 3-day celebration came to fruition.
Here are some of the highlights of their weekend and on what was a boiling hot day in July.
The ladies enjoyed fresh fruit and fought over the fan whilst having their hair and make-up done.
The guys found other ways to cool off…. Yes, the trunks say ‘Budgy Smuggler’ and the groomsmen had a pair each. I can’t say whether they wore them under their kilts!
The colour scheme was blues and white and included thistles… the flower of Scotland, of course.
Guests were treated to slush puppies on arrival and who would have thought that water would be the tipple of the day!
During the drinks reception guests chilled out in various ways…
Styling was mainly in the small details, although the bespoke ceremony draping was a welcome addition for shade.
As night fell, the temperature cooled and everyone danced under the stars.
Despite the 32 degree heat, a great day was had by all…
Don’t let your venue choice mean compromising on your wedding day
If you are starting out on your wedding planning journey then it’s an exciting time, but, it can also be a confusing one… not least because most wedding venues in France do not offer an ‘all-in’ package. ‘GREAT!’ I hear you cry, ‘we can have our day, our way’, and yes, that is of part of the joy of a wedding in France.
But beware …
Before you get out your iPad and start searching for venues, have you considered what venues you can afford AFTER you have calculated your wedding day costs?
So often I hear…
‘I thought the venue would do that’
‘I didn’t realise that wasn’t included‘
The reality is that there is a huge choice of wedding venues in France to suit all tastes and budgets, if you know where to look for them, but the cost of hiring a venue can vary vastly from one venue to another.
The cost of your wedding day, however, generally varies little from venue to venue (assuming you are comparing apples with apples!).
So, to avoid disappointment and to get a fabulous wedding venue AND the wedding day of your dreams, follow these 5 steps.
Fix Your Overall Budget
Decide on a total figure that you both feel comfortable spending, taking into account any family contributions.
Work Out What Your Ideal Day Will Cost
Talk through your ‘ideal’ wedding day and research the average cost that each service required will be. Don’t forget support services such as staff, delivery charges and equipment hire, for example. DON’T ASSUME ANYTHING!!! This is perhaps one of the hardest areas of your budgeting as it will take time and research, but make the effort, take advice and you are setting yourself up for a lot less hassle and potential heartache.
It may be impossible to know all costs before you know your venue or exactly which suppliers you are using. Also, things often have a bad habit of coming up unexpectedly, so, add a contingency: 10% is usually good.
Work Out Your Venue Budget
Take your wedding day costs from your overall wedding budget and see what you come out with. Don’t be too upset if your venue budget comes out less that you thought, you won’t be the first! It is at this stage you can then add in any accommodation costs you are hoping to recoup from guests, as this will boost your venue hire spend.
Find Your Venue
Before despairing that you can’t afford anywhere or the venue of your dreams, do take a look around. With over 8000 wedding venues in France there are sure to be some options for you. If not, then this is when you need to decide where you might be happy to compromise. Prioritise on-the-day services, identify where you might be prepared to shave some money off to increase your venue budget… and get expert help!
DON’T get yourself in a position where you fall in love with or even commit to a venue but can’t afford to hold the wedding day you had dreamed of. You’ll end up resenting the fact that you had to squeeze other areas so tightly or spend the whole planning process and even on the day, stressing about it.
If it all feels a bit overwhelming, why not contact French Wedding Company about our Venue-Finding Service. We know how to find a broad spectrum of venues, understand site logistics and their impacts on costs. We also thrive on getting creative… thinking of different ways of doing things to achieve your dream wedding. The service includes helping you to understand your options and set your wedding day budget.
The French Country Estate is the ideal wedding venue for a relaxed country, rustic or festival style wedding for up to 100+ guests. Its organic and ‘green’ ethic may also be appealing to discerning couples.
It has flat lawns on 3 sides of the chateau and a large barn that will be available from 2019.
What we love….
We are delighted to be exclusive partners at this property. The young owners are developing the estate in organic farming and are vibrant, aspirational and extremely hospitable – keen to offer you the very best of the region and venue. They have a flexible approach and a whole host of additional activities that can be arranged exclusively for your guests and you, around the estate.
The estate offers:
Weddings and Events
fantastic views to mountains and across the surrounding countryside
great flexibility in set-up and event spaces, both indoor and out
extensive flat lawns surrounding the house on 3 sides
large terraces suitable for outdoor dining
tree-lined avenue on arrival
second avenue of trees suitable for ceremony or shaded outdoor dining
interconnecting barns suitable for indoor receptions and events (bar, dinner, dancing, ceremony)
4 hectare lake accessible for barbecues, picnics, etc.
House and Services
self-catering, accommodation for up to 16 on site
large, well laid out and presented communal spaces
pool with spectacular views
breakfasts and event meals can be provided for on-site residents
other activities such as clay pigeon shooting, hot air ballooning, colour therapy, reiki, massage
Were delighted to return to Chateau de Saint Paul and Chateau de La Bourlie…
And established new partners at Chateau La Gauterie.
We travelled to new regions with Esther and Kevin who got married in the Vendée, and once again, helped couples plan weddings at their own, or at their parents’ homes in France.
Our new Venue Finding Service went from strength to strength with couples from across the globe engaging our services. We helped them find their wedding venue in Paris, Provence, Bordeaux, the West Coast, the South and South West of France, as well as a beach wedding, and 3 of these wedding venues were booked from afar, without any visits. From the wedding venues search service:
Total wedding venues found on initial searches 426
Total wedding venues presented to couples 112
We are looking forward to carrying out more personalised venues searches in 2018 and sharing some of the amazing and hidden wedding venues that France has to offer.
For expert help on finding your wedding venue and making head or tail of costs, venue options and suitability, contact us here.