Oh my goodness, where would I even start to pick our *favourite* venues in France?!?!
Just when I think I’ve finally discovered *all* the venues Southwest France has to offer, I discover a hidden gem or someone launches a fabulous brand new venture. The Dordogne is, after all, known as the “land of 1001 châteaux” – and that doesn’t even touch on our near neighbors the Gironde, Lot-et-Garonne, Gers, Cognac, Charente, and beyond those the Loire, Provence and Paris area (just for a start!)
Further, just like every wedding decision and detail should be – venue choice is an intensely personal thing! It is essentially the blank canvas on which your wedding day and style are built. So it should be an extension of the kind of vibe you want to create for your day and share with your guests – and indeed should form the basis for many of your décor/styling decisions. So me trying to tell you the “best wedding venues” is a bit of a nonsense!
I have taken big-budget clients to visit the most expensive venues in the area, only to have them choose one of the humblest for its quaint atmosphere (and in fact for how much more *wedding* they’d be able to have without an outsized spend on venue!) And conversely I’ve had couples who asked for a “rustic and simple” venue end up booking one of our grandest châteaux! It’s a bit like buying a house, really – or trying on a wedding dress, or even falling in love:
When you know… you know!
So the below are just a handful of venues that we feel are offering something really special. They have that French “je ne sais quoi” – an intangible factor that made us fall in love with them. And we suspect you will too!
Château de Redon somehow manages to be both grand and un-pretentious at the same time. The location is intimate with sweeping views over green hills and fields, the interiors are stunning (but again – unpretentious!) and the rooms are enormous and well-equipped.
The decor is Fresh and modern, which is a welcome change from the many local châteaux with musty “period” interiors that fall just on the wrong side of shabby rather than chic (!) At Château de Redon they have deftly mixed antiques with newer pieces for an overall vibe that feels comfortable and welcoming, but still stylish and impressive.
On the grounds of the château are many and varied options for ceremony, drinks, and dinner locations – and a newly renovated (enormous) barn space for dinner or dancing, or both!
And as a final bonus, the owners truly just couldn’t be lovelier!
If you’re looking for an elegant but laid-back location that will wow your guests – Château de Redon is the place!
2. The Castelnau
If you want to share the full French country wedding experience with your guests, I can’t think of a better way to do that than by renting an entire French village!
The Castelnau is a 12th century fortified township which has been lovingly restored. There are 14 renovated houses that sleep up to 80 guests in total. The vibe is very relaxed and very French, and the interiors are simple but comfortable (some a bit grander than others, and some more modern.)
There are stunning views in every direction, and you can (and should!) take advantage of the different locations for ceremony, drinks, dinner etc. so that you and your guests truly feel as though you’ve got your own private village for the weekend! You might host your ceremony in the village church or on one of several lawns each with unique features of their own – and then have dinner on a terrace under the stars or in an ancient vaulted ‘barrel room.’
While your guests sip cocktails at golden hour, you can stroll the meandering streets of the village with your photographer, the
ivy-covered medieval houses and sweeping Gascony vistas serving as a perfect backdrop for your couple’s portraits.
Aside from your wedding meal, an onsite private chef can provide anything from continental breakfasts to tapas or a full hog roast, and a number of local food trucks/providers are available for pizza nights, crepes, paella – or delight your wedding guests with a vintage-style ice cream cart in the hot French sun.
Such a perfect place to celebrate your wedding day with your nearest and dearest!
3. Château Ladausse
Château Ladausse is run by an absolutely charming Belgian/American couple. Eric can wax poetic about wines, and Diane is an amazing chef.
Due to its position on a hilltop, it seems to float there just at the treeline – and you feel a bit like you’re alone in the world with your favourite people in some kind of secret tree-top hideaway.
Though they are happy to host larger weddings (up to 150 with an added marquee) I think I might actually prefer Ladausse for slightly smaller/more intimate weddings – it’s not the kind of secret you’d want to share with just anyone!
The shaded, sun-dappled park is the perfect place to hold a wedding ceremony, and is always cool and welcoming on a hot summer day. Alternatively you could even hold your outdoor wedding dinner there, though most opt to dine on their beautiful terrace in front of the château (unless you wish to save that for your dancefloor in the evening!)
The château’s interiors are beautifully decorated in a balance of old and modern styles – with the occasional quirky touch to keep things from seeming stuffy or formal (like the hot air balloon wallpaper in the hall, brightly coloured buttons on traditional upholstered chairs, or formal painted portrait of a french bulldog! )
There’s charm literally everywhere you look!
We think it’s just the perfect place to to spend a few days as Princess (or Prince!) of the castle!
4. La Léotardie
7 years on, countless weddings later, and one of the simplest venues in the Dordogne still remains one of our favourites. It’s not a château but a large manor house set in a 1000 hectare estate of oak forests, wildflower fields, walnut groves, hiking trails, and even a little lake.
The buildings themselves are charming and rustic french stone – the oldest and largest among them being 350 years old! There are 4 houses on the domaine, sleeping a total of nearly 100 guests – each of which has its own distinct character (and its own pool!)
The interiors are grand and Impressive in scale, but decorated in a rustic and simple French style. So it’s not necessarily my first choice for my truly design-obsessed clients, but it does have an undeniable charm – and about 97% of the couples I take to visit La Léotardie absolutely love it!
Perhaps one of our favourite things about La Léotardie as a wedding venue is the sheer variety of available scenery for your wedding photos! Aside from the perfect portrait spot above (which no photographer can resist!) I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the same photo twice – which can’t be said for many venues. There are open fields with tall grass, ancient stone walls, wooden barns, woodland areas – the list goes on!
You can host your wedding dinner inside their ancient candlelit stone barn – or in the courtyard on a warm summer evening. Your evening dance can also be held in one of the barns, or under the stars. With no near neighbors there’s nothing to stop you partying until dawn!
Okay, okay – so I know I said top 5… but I really think this last one is so special it needs its very own post! Stay tuned…
Also, check back soon for posts on best venues for small weddings, big weddings, etc.!
Happy Venue searching!