Rachael and Mat’s super elegant and romantic French chateau wedding took place on 30th July this year at Château de Soulac in Juillac in the Dordogne region of France.
The lovely bride chose to wear two wedding dresses, by Turkish bridal designer Gözde Karadana and later in the evening, a beautiful sequin design by Needle & Thread London. We absolutely adore this British brand of affordable luxury sequin dresses – you can see more brides wearing Needle & Thread here.
We’re so thrilled that the couple discovered their wedding film maker, Toby of Handcraft Pictures, through Love My Dress too. If your wedding budget will stretch to a videography, we urge you to consider one.
The team at Angelica Bridal were wonderful. Ahead of my visit I had done a lot of research on dresses but I knew I needed to try on a variety of styles to narrow down my search. In the boutique I tried on a few different designers and shapes of dresses, but the team gave brilliant advice to think about our venue and how the dress should fit the French setting.
I fell in love with the Citipie dress by Gözde Karadana as it was romantic, lightweight and it had such beautiful detail with the frills and feminine 3D leaf motifs.
Veil, Shoes & Accessories
I wore a bespoke veil by Rebekah McCann-Williams at Visionary Veils. Rebekah did a beautiful job; the bespoke cathedral length veil was the perfect finishing touch to complement my dress.
Rebekah is based in Belfast therefore we did everything on Zoom and via email which was originally daunting as I was concerned on matching the dress material and colours however Rebekah sent me plenty of swatches which helped us match everything flawlessly.
She also replicated the ivory petals on my dress and applied 240 handsewn petals on the body of the veil.
I must have ordered 20 different pairs of shoes to find the perfect height and comfort for the day. I ended up wearing ivory satin ASOS heels with a wedge heel which were perfect for walking on the grass and gravel at the château. In the evening I changed into platinum dusty glitter Jimmy Choo’s with a slender stiletto heel for dancing.
I kept my jewellery quite simple with freshwater pearl drop earrings from Mejuri and an elegant bracelet from Edge of Ember gifted to me from my bridesmaids.
Bridal Hair & Makeup
Hair and makeup were probably one of the most stressful aspects in the wedding planning for me as I had to change my plan a few times due to COVID and getting married abroad. In the end I did my own make-up, and my Mum did my hair. I didn’t want to find anyone abroad last minute as I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do a trial with them.
My Mum did an incredible job on my hair, we opted for Hollywood waves as I wanted to wear my hair down to match the romantic essence of the setting. It was very hot on the day but my hair lasted all the way throughout – this took a lot of trialing as my hair generally drops even though it is naturally curly.
It was very special to have my Mum perfect my look and it also meant I felt totally relaxed the morning of knowing she would do an amazing job.
I was however really nervous about doing my own makeup, so to help prepare I took a couple of wedding makeup lessons at Charlotte Tilbury, which I would recommend to anyone who is thinking about doing their own makeup! The make-up artists teach you a step-by-step guide to perfect your own bridal look. I took my Mum with me who filmed it all which massively helped when I was practicing ahead of the day as I found the application techniques the hardest part to learn and remember. Charlotte Tilbury allow you to redeem the value of the bridal lesson against products so now I have a great make-up kit too!
On the day I made sure I had enough time to do my makeup at my own pace, so I didn’t feel rushed. In the end I was really pleased I did it as I felt like the best version of myself.
How They Met
We met when we were both working in London at Ferrero, the confectionery company. We really wanted Ferrero Rochers as our favours however we weren’t convinced they would last in the French heat sadly!
We got engaged in 2018 in South Africa on safari in the National Kruger Park while on holiday with my family. Mat is from South Africa and had taken me on safari there the year before with his parents, it was so special to go back with my family this time and share the amazing experience.
Mat and his groomsmen wore a light beige linen suit from Marks & Spencer. Comfort in the heat was very high on the list! His shoes were from Aldo.
Château de Soulac: A Romantic French Chateau Wedding Venue
Our family and friends live all over the world therefore we didn’t feel tied to getting married in the UK. In the UK a lot of venues were quite restrictive as to how long you could hire them for, whereas Château Soulac gave us a whole weekend to fully enjoy the celebrations before and after the main wedding day. We hosted a few activities the days before and then a pool party and BBQ on the Sunday too.
We wanted to get married in the French countryside not only to make it a full weekend of celebrations, but also for the beautiful location; the château looks down over the Dordogne River not far from Saint Emilion and is nestled amongst vineyards.
I think when we told people we were getting married in a château in France they immediately thought of a grand princess castle, whereas Château Soulac was a more laid-back and rustic, whilst still showcasing elegance.
The venue was perfect as it had both indoor and outdoor options that were equally stunning. I didn’t want to wake up disappointed if it rained, I wanted to ensure I would love both options no matter the weather.
Our wedding planners was Sarah Ball, an independent wedding planner for Marry Me in France.
A French Wedding Ceremony Outdoors
My dad walked me down the aisle- for the second time! We were both just as emotional as the first time, so I was squeezing his arm all the way. At least this time we knew to walk a little bit slower rather than speeding our way down! Our band played Fleetwood Mac’s version of Songbird as we entered the ceremony.
Our celebrant was Claudia Bowen, booked via Celebrants in France.
As we had our religious ceremony in 2021, we did a humanist ceremony and renewed our vows. One of our worries when planning the wedding was that our guests would feel the wedding would be just a party or the ceremony would feel fake as we were already married.
I found Darek Smietana while browsing French wedding blogs and fell in love with his talent at capturing beautiful candid moments. Both Mat and I are not naturals in front of the camera and wanted a photographer who had the skill to still capture the stunning shots, whilst not being too invasive so we felt we were constantly being photographed.
On the day Darek was fantastic and made us feel completely at ease.
It was hard pinning Mat down to get photos as he just wanted to be in the middle of the party with our family and friends, but Darek was really mindful of this and had the best balance of persuading him to get the right shots, whilst not taking us away from our guests for too long!
I would recommend Darek to any couple planning to get married; he managed to capture the emotion of the day perfectly, whether this was the excited nerves in the morning, emotion in the ceremony or energy on the dancefloor in the evening. All the magic of the day we now have in photo form to treasure forever.
Videography by Handcraft Pictures
Toby was our incredible videographer, we chose him as he specialises in destination weddings and his style is very intimate. His films look so cinematic, timeless, and stylised yet actually on the day I barely even noticed him in the background! His approach meant he captured raw and natural moments which was very authentic.
So many people gave us the advice to have a videographer and I am so glad we took this on board as we will always have the footage to look back on (and also to see watch our day from a different perspective as there was so much to take in!).
Planning a Wedding in a Pandemic
We were supposed to get married in July 2020 however due to COVID-19 we unfortunately had to move the wedding date twice. It felt extra complicated with the wedding being abroad due to different travel restrictions and local guidelines.
Thankfully, our wedding planner, Sarah, helped us navigate through all the details and alleviated the stress massively.
With all the uncertainty of travel and the COVID restriction we didn’t want to wait until 2022 to get married, we instead decided to have a micro-wedding with just immediate family in a church in the town I grew up in, and a dinner at a quaint local pub.
After the micro-wedding so many people thought we were crazy to continue with our original plan to get married in France, however we knew there would never be another moment where we would get the chance to have all our friends and family in the same place again. It was absolutely worth the wait, and we are both so glad we went with our gut as the whole weekend was truly unforgettable.
A Needle & Thread Sequin Dress
It was a last-minute decision, but I then changed into the Needle & Thread dress I wore in our 2021 micro-wedding for the evening, it felt so special to me to wear again, and I was like a walking disco ball with the lights sparkling off the beautiful sequins – a true party dress!
Detail & Decor
The venue itself is so beautiful that it meant we didn’t need to blow the budget on décor and flowers. One of the main reasons we choose our venue was due to the barn which is beautifully adorned with rustic frames, mirrors, and sparkling fairy lights.
I did however want to have a couple of personal touches; we broke the tradition of a top table and instead chose to sit amongst our friends as we had already had a meal with our family during our micro-wedding the year before.
The day was so emotional as it was such a wonderful feeling knowing everyone made such an effort to be there and we could all finally celebrate together. Sadly a few people who were originally meant to attend couldn’t be there, such as my godfather who passed away late last year. It was really important to us that they were still part of our day whether mentioned in our ceremony, in the speeches or we also had a photo frame of our familys’ wedding days.
Kelly of White Cottage Weddings was so helpful and patient with all the changes to our order after the multiple date changes; she even gave us digital invitation updates to send to our guests when we had to update them.They produced our invitations, signage (including the flag) and place settings.
Entertainment & Dancing
We found a fantastic local rock band, the Tomorrow Band France, who played at the ceremony, champagne reception and in the evening. Our wedding planner had seen them many times before and couldn’t recommend enough for getting people on the dance floor. They had the versatility to play the romantic ceremony songs, right the way through to ’Killing in the Name of’ on the dance floor in the evening.
Choosing our first dance was one of the hardest decisions to make. I have two left feet, whereas Mat has a lot more rhythm! I didn’t want anything too fast or even too slow, instead we focused on finding a song we both loved that we would be happy to dance to in our living room. We changed our mind a lot and finally decided on Harvest Moon by Neil Young.
Words of Wedded Wisdom
Stay on top of the admin with a serious wedding spreadsheet! This was an absolute lifesaver to track all the details, especially when we had to keep replanning and postponing.
Lean on those around you for support, you don’t need to do it all alone. Alongside our planner, my bridesmaids to were such a huge help on the day, taking on my never-ending lists and jobs! It meant I could relax and focus on the day ahead during the morning of.
Love My Dress is so modern and authentic. I love that you show such a variety of real weddings for inspiration, whether there is a focus on fashion or incredibly talented suppliers. Every Sunday I would look forward to seeing the latest stunning wedding to add to my Pinterest board!
As our engagement and planning period was longer than anticipated I ended up changing a lot of the original decisions or details. I think this was because I was originally making decisions based on current wedding themes, rather than thinking about what would suit us or remain timeless looking back at our wedding.
I am actually glad I had more time to figure out what was right for us as a couple in the end.
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Annabel is the founder of Love My Dress. She has a passion for photography, walking, yoga, nature, and loves to support talented artists and creative businesses. In 2013, she became a published author. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters Eska and Leanora and menagerie of furry hounds. Annabel supports Philip in the running of the family flower farm at at Moonwind Flowers. She is also co-founder of What About Weddings.