Interview with Laura Wedding Planner in France

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?

Outdoor Wedding Breakfast

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?

Ballerina's at French Wedding

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?

Wedding Entertainment

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”?

Fireworks display at 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?

Wedding Picnic

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!

French Wedding Company Vie de Chateau White wedding balloons 001074

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!

Venue Search Tips 1: Setting Your Venue Budget

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.

  1. Fix Your Overall Budget
    Decide on a total figure that you both feel comfortable spending, taking into account any family contributions.
  2. 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.
  3.  Allow Contingency
    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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Contact us about our Venue-Finding Service now and we’ll get you started on the right path.

Coming Next… Venue Search Tips 2: Search Pitfalls

Coming Soon… Venue Search Tips 3: Getting the most from your site visit

Destination Wedding in France – 5 Things You Should Know

Thinking about a wedding in France?  Great choice!

There are a few things however, that when considered in advance, can set you on the right path to a unique and successful wedding.

French business etiquetteWedding chateau France private chapel

With many couples opting for venues in the wonderful French countryside you may find the way of doing business somewhat different to the 24/7, online speed of big city living.  Combine that with a culture of frank discussion, fixed service criteria, and ‘not questioning the expert’ and it can be easy to start off on the wrong foot and find supplier negotiations quite frustrating.  Getting support and advice for your negotiations will make it much easier and quicker.

They speak French!

Yes, I am stating the obvious… but having knowledge of the French language can transform how you plan your wedding. When you are not tied to using English speaking suppliers, an even more diverse world of venues and extremely skilled suppliers are there for you, to help you create a truly unique day.

Marriage is only legal at the town hall

Even the French must marry at the local mayor’s office before they can marry in church. It is pretty much the same as going to your local registry office, before having a blessing in France.  If you meet the criteria for a legal wedding in France, the paperwork can be a bit laborious, but when you know how, it can be quite easy to arrange.  Translation will cost though, so do take that into consideration in your budget.

Legal wedding at French mairieWedding at Bergerac Mairie FranceLegal Wedding France - Signing Contract

It costs more than you think

One of the most common mistakes couples make is underestimating the cost of their wedding day. Setting a budget is a good starting point, but is it realistic for the day you are hoping to achieve?  France offers great value but this is not the same as it being cheaper.  If you are hoping to avoid a packaged wedding in favour of having something more bespoke, be very sure that you have considered all the behind the scenes costs.  This may vary from venue to venue so take advice from those in the know.  It may cost you, but what you could save in time, money and stress, will make for much more enjoyable wedding planning.

It’s a big and diverse country

There is a reason that many French don’t go further than their own backyard for their holidays… France is a wonderfully diverse country, rich in culture, landscapes and architecture. Each region has a very distinct character and there is one to reflect every couple.  They also have their own pros and cons, be it weather, costs or access.  Research your region well or take advice before looking for your venue, to help narrow down the areas that will best suit you.

Luxury Village Chateau Rustic IntimateLuxury villa wedding France beachLuxury chateau wedding venue

The team at French Wedding Company have expertise in all these areas.  We are all bi-lingual, have an extensive database of quality, knowledgeable and flexible, English and French suppliers as well as access to a broad range of venues.  We are based in France so know the regions and culture, understand the legalities and business etiquette.  Our years of experience mean we also know what it costs and how to get the best value from your budget.

To get help and guidance finding your venue and planning your day, your way, tell us about your aspirations for your wedding here.

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