This is what it looks like to have a 3-day wedding in the South of France!
On the 23rd of August 2023, James and I finally got to have the wedding celebration of our dreams. We had sixty of our nearest and dearest flying from all over the world to join us for three days at the charming Domaine Le Castelet, located in the South of France town called Castres.
This wedding celebration had been almost two years in the making. James and I had a rather unconventional love story, which you can read about here.
In short, we ended up getting married on the 24th of September 2021, in a tiny ceremony in the middle of a forest in New Zealand during lockdown. No catering, no hair and makeup, no fancy flowers – not even our wedding bands arrived on time!
Watch our Wedding Video here:
As New Zealand had strict border control, our families and most friends couldn’t be there. Therefore, we decided that once the world returned to normal, we would have a grand wedding celebration in the South of France.
Why the South of France for our Wedding?
When I was 16, my family and I went on our first-ever overseas holiday to Europe. It was my grandma’s 80th birthday, so to celebrate, all of my Dad’s side of the family came together for the first time.
For context, I grew up in Australia, but because my parents are originally British, all of my relatives lived in the UK. We rented a beautiful chateau in the South of France, where I spent one of the best weeks of my life with my extended family.
Our days were spent visiting the local boulangerie for fresh croissants, lounging by the pool and exploring nearby medieval villages. Our evenings were spent cooking up feasts with produce from the local markets then sitting around a long dining table, eating, drinking and chatting the nights away.
Ever since this magical week, I was encaptured by the South of France and dreamt of one day having my wedding there.
The Wedding Planning Begins
Fast forward to September 2022, James and I had just moved from New Zealand to the UK. Once we were somewhat settled in London, we decided it was finally time to start planning our wedding celebration.
However, we quickly realized how complicated this wedding was going to be to plan. We have close friends and family spread across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, UK and Ireland. This meant there wasn’t going to be one location that was going to be convenient for everyone to get to.
A destination wedding in a place that everyone had to travel to kind of made the most sense in our situation. And what better excuse to finally make my South of France Wedding dreams come true?
How I found our South of France Wedding Venue
Once we had confirmed that we would have our wedding in the South of France, I went on a search to find a wedding venue that met the following criteria:
- Space to sleep 30-40 guests
- Area for an outdoor ceremony
- Area for an alfresco reception
- Not ridiculously expensive
Finding a venue that met these criteria proved to be a more difficult task than I expected. After months of browsing through venue after venue, I eventually stumbled upon Domaine Le Castelet in the tiny town of Castres.
Although the website was a little clunky and the photos on there didn’t seem to do the venue much justice, there was just something about this place that had me captivated.
I sent off an email enquiry and was met with a warm response from Suzy, the owner of Domaine Le Castelet, confirming that there was still availability for the summer of 2023.
Without laying eyes on the venue in real life, we decided to take a risk and lock in the venue for the 21st to the 24th of August 2023.
Suddenly, we realized that we had less than a year to plan a 3-day destination wedding celebration at a venue we had never been to, in a country where we didn’t speak the language, with 60 guests flying in from all over the world.
Planning a Wedding in the South of France
You’d think this realization would be motivation to either kick me into crazy wedding-planning mode or hire a wedding planner. Instead, once we had sent out invitations, I spent 9 months procrastinating doing any wedding planning whatsoever.
June 2023 came around, and I realized I now had 60 days left till our wedding celebration and all I had booked was our venue. It was FINALLY time to get my butt into gear, or this wedding was not going to happen.
I spent the next two months in chaotic wedding planning mode. As our wedding venue was located in such a small town, I quickly came to realise that there were a very limited number of wedding vendors available in the area. The language barrier also added a whole other level of complication.
The only saving grace was the fact we were having a mid-week wedding, so most of the vendors I found were still available. By some miracle, I managed to lock in a caterer, florist, hairdresser, videographer and band. Everything chaotically came together one piece at a time, just weeks before D-Day.
The Wedding Dress Debarcle
I had gone back and forth SO many times as to whether I would wear the same wedding dress as I had at our New Zealand ceremony. The wedding dress I wore was the Francios Gown from a New Zealand designer called Hera Couture.
To be honest, I felt a bit of pressure to get a new one as everyone had already seen me in that dress. However, I couldn’t find a new wedding dress that I liked nearly as much. I also realized what a privilege it was to wear my wedding dress again as most brides only get to wear their dress once in their life!
I ended up getting my parents to bring the wedding dress all the way over from Australia. It travelled in its own suitcase, and all I can say is thank goodness for AirTags as I was so worried it was going to get lost. I then had to shove it in a carry-on bag for our RyanAir flight from London to Toulouse. Somehow, it stayed intact for the wedding day!
Funnily enough, when I was looking at bridesmaid dresses on a site called Azazie, I ended up finding a dress that I kind of fell in love with. It was super simple and inexpensive, but I thought it would be perfect as a dress to change into for the reception.
My actual wedding dress was super tight and the satin material was very heavy, so I was extremely thankful to have something lighter to change into mid-way through the day (especially given the heat!).
Day 1: South of France Wedding Celebration
As our guests were flying from all over the world to come to our wedding, we never wanted to have just a one-day affair. Instead, we wanted as much time as possible to spend with our guests.
Guests arrived in town on the afternoon of Monday the 21st of August. Half were staying onsite at Domaine Le Castelet and the other half had accommodation in the nearby town of Castres.
We kicked off the celebrations with a very casual dinner by the pool. We devoured pizzas from a local shop in town and drank Rosé with friends and family that we hadn’t seen in years. It was the best start to our South of France wedding celebration.
Day 2: South of France Wedding Celebration
The next day the venue put on the breakfast spread of my dreams- fresh croissants, homemade preserves, breads, cakes, fruit, cheeses, cold cuts and eggs made to order.
The morning was a relaxed affair, with most guests spending the time swimming in the property’s massive pool. For lunch, we got a local boulangerie to make the most incredible selection of fresh baguette sandwiches, followed by some delicious patisseries.
For dinner, our wedding caterer, Wizard Weddings, served up an absolute feast of paella, jambon on toast and sangria. I know, it sounds a little strange to have Spanish food while in France. This was just what the caterer offered as a casual meal to serve pre-wedding.
Honestly, no regrets, as it all went down a treat. I had many guests come up to me and tell me it was the best paella they had ever had! Such a fun and relaxed way to spend the night before our wedding.
DAY 3: The Wedding Day
The 23rd of August 2023 was recorded as the hottest day of the year in the Occitanie region of the South of France. Temperatures soared to 42°C (107.6°F). That’s right, we picked the hottest day of the year to have our wedding!
The day kicked off bright and early. I put on my getting-ready outfit- an Intimissi silk slip and a lace robe by Dell’Amore Bridal. Then my bridesmaids and I started to get ready, while devouring plates of croissants and fresh fruit.
One of my dearest friends Kaity used to be a make-up artist, so I was very blessed to have her do my make-up. I found a lovely local hairdresser Annette Carr (English Hairdresser in France) who came and did an amazing job at everyone’s hair.
Around this time our photographer and videographer arrived and everything started to feel very real! Our photographer was Jeff from Milk & Honey Creative and videographer was Florian from FLOG Production. Both of them did the most incredible job at capturing the day!
We had our ceremony at 12pm in a beautiful spot on the property right next to the forest. The space was so naturally beautiful that we kept the decor very simple.
A local florist, Regine from Groseilles et Petits Pois, decorated a wooden arch and made little vases of flowers to line the aisles. We had cute little ceremony booklets by Rosemood Atelier and rose petal cones from Amazon filled with freeze-dried rose petals.
We thought 12pm would be early enough to avoid the worst of the heat. We were very wrong. By this time, it was already 40°C. Before the ceremony had even commenced, icecubes were being handed out to help guests cool down!
Thankfully, the guest seating was all shaded. However, just after I walked down the aisle, the sun decided to start blaring down on the exact spot where the whole bridal party were standing. By some miracle, no one fainted during the ceremony (not even the groomsmen in black suits standing directly in the sun!).
Besides the heat, the ceremony was absolutely perfect. It was so special to FINALLY have my dad walk me down the aisle and to get to say our vows in front of all of our nearest and dearest.
Champagne Reception + Lunch
After the ceremony, we held a little champagne reception while we got bridal party photos. At that point, the heat was getting unbearable, so we set up lunch indoors (in the ONE room on the property that actually had aircon!)
We did a DIY giant grazing platter with the most incredible selection of French cheese, cold cuts, baguettes and more. It was a real team effort- I had the vision, my dad and mother-in-law selected the ingredients and my friends set it up and made it look beautiful!
On to the highlight of the wedding day… After lunch, almost everyone ended up jumping into the pool- including me!
I got in my bridal swimsuit from Club L London, pinned up my hair and made all the men playing volleyball promise they would not splash in my direction. Never in a million years did I think I would go swimming on my wedding day, but it was the best decision ever!
Once we emerged from the pool we all had gelato from the cute little icecream truck our caterers had arranged. It really hit the spot in the heat.
After everyone had got changed and freshened up, it was time for canape hour. Our caterers put on a delicious selection of everything from smoked salmon blinis, goat cheese crostini, chicken and prawn skewers… Even pigs in blankets!
At 7pm (which was, believe or not, the hottest time of the day, our reception commenced. I have ALWAYS dreamt of an alfresco wedding reception, with long wooden tables illuminated by festoons. Seeing my vision come to life really was the most incredible thing.
For table decor, I managed to DIY a lot and source decor online for a much cheaper price than hiring it all. I lugged a suitcase full of gold cutlery, white gauze napkins and candle holders all over from the UK!
My sister printed some custom vinyl signs (she runs an Etsy shop called the Little Bundle) which we stuck on to frost acrylic for the table numbers and sign. Our florist provided some little clear vases and flowers, and we got stationery from Atelier Rosemood. My favourite detail was the seating chart labels which we stuck onto Rosé bottles!
As the whole vibe of our wedding reception was very relaxed, we decided to reflect that in the food that was served. As much as I LOVE fine dining, I never feel that style of food hits the same at a wedding.
Our caterers Wizard Wedding barbequed up a selection of chicken, beef, sausages, tuna, and salmon. This was served with salad, ratatouille, baked potatoes and of course, baguette. Everything was cooked to perfection and really went down a treat.
Instead of wedding cake, we decided it would be fun to serve what is traditionally served at French weddings for dessert… Croquembouche! This is a tower of profiteroles held together by spun sugar. It was honestly one of the most delicious desserts of my life!
We did our first dance to ‘This Will Be an Everlasting Love’ by Natalie Cole, which was a little nod to Parent Trap, aka my favourite movie as a kid. We even managed to (almost) pull off the lift from Dirty Dancing!
After this, I got changed into my FINAL outfit of the day… A little white number from Post Meridian. I’m so glad I did as it made the dance floor infinitely more enjoyable.
We hired a local band called Vital Signs to play live music for the dance floor, which really was the most epic way to finish off a perfect Wedding day in the South of France.
Total wedding Cost
Believe it or not, for our 3-day South of France wedding, we spent under $15,000. I understand that this is still a significant sum of money. However, most people seem to think that you need to spend over $100,000 to have a nice wedding, and this simply isn’t true.
Here are a few ways we kept our wedding costs down:
- Organized everything ourselves rather than hiring a wedding planner
- Choose a lesser-known destination in France, which meant vendor costs were lower
- Got discounts for having a mid-week wedding
- DIY’ed & bought a lot of decor online as this was cheaper than renting
- Had amazing family & friends who kindly helped out
- Organized all the drinks + the grazing platter ourselves
Do let me know in the comments if you have ANY questions about our South of France wedding and I’ll do my best to answer them!