I love France. I love the language, the culture, the countryside and the weather. I love French people, with their ability to be both stern and fun-loving at the same time. I spent a lot of time in the South of France when I was younger and had a lot of French friends, so when Gwendoline first emailed me about photographing her wedding in France, I was thrilled that I was available on that day, and delighted that we seemed to connect so well. We corresponded via email for a good few months before meeting, and during that time I discovered how important family was to Gwendo. She sent me photos of herself and Benoît, and in all of them she was laughing, joking, acting silly. I loved her immediately!
We met a few months later for their London engagement shoot, and she excitedly told me about how she’d met Benoît, and about their wedding plans. Gwendoline and Benoît met at Gwendo’s grandparent’s wedding anniversary party, in their garden, so it was only right and fitting that they should marry there, under the weeping willow trees – just as their grandparents did, 63 years before. It was an incredibly emotional day, especially for Gwendo’s grandparents, for whom so many memories must have stirred.
The theme of the wedding was “Trees”. Gwendo has had a love of trees since being a small girl – climbing them, planting them, even hugging them (I’ve seen the pictures, Gwendo, you can’t deny it now!). She’d seen a styled shoot on Once Wed with paper birds hanging from trees during an outdoor ceremony and her imagination had been sparked – what a perfect, simple but elegant decoration to complement her perfect, simple but elegant wedding.
Well, when I arrived on the morning of the wedding – during a heatwave, by the way – warnings were going out for old people, the infirm, and then English, to stay indoors. OK that last bit may have been untrue, but it was HOT, and it was only 9am – Gwendo’s American cousins were hanging paper birds from trees, climbing on each other’s shoulders to do so! Her Aunt was directing, although confessed that she was a bit nervous. Gwendo, meanwhile, was inside the house, having feathers and beads placed into her hair – oh I loved her up-do! The views from her grandparents’ house is just stunning, you can see for miles! I can understand why Gwendo and Benoit returned here from their home in Switzerland to get married.
Once she was ready, Gwendo walked downstairs, to gasps (and a few tears) from her family and friends – she looked amazing. Benoit was meeting her at the house for a ‘first look’ – a chance for them to have some quiet time before the long day of two wedding ceremonies, two drinks receptions and the wedding breakfast commenced. To say that Benoit was speechless would be an understatement – with tears in both their eyes, he whispered “You look so beautiful” and he looked like the proudest man on earth at that moment.
The ceremony was officiated by their good friend, and Gwendo’s bridesmaid’s boyfriend played guitar and sang. Her Aunt led everyone in a meditation after the service, a reflection on nature and love (as far as I could understand, at least!). It was just so very special, I can’t do it justice in words.
Then it was on to the town hall for the signing of the marriage contract – something that’s far longer, and requires far more signatures than a UK marriage certificate! Before heading to Le Chateau for their evening reception. Gwendo and her cousins had worked wonders in the Chateau wine cellar, bringing a dark space to life with miniature pots of honey on each table, each table named after a tree and decorated with miniature trees and seeds. I was on Marron – or Horse Chestnut. Our table had conkers on it, and our place names were clay leaves, in the right shape for a horse chestnut tree, with out names on. We had Horse Chestnut Honey (which I took home and tried, and it was delicious!). The food and wine was, as you’d expect, delicous, and after a 4 course meal, the first dance took place just before 1am. I’m sure the dancing went on until the early hours, with their friends and familiy being so very happy for them on their wedding day.