I first met Jane when she was a bridesmaid for our lovely couple Kate + Paul back in 2015. They had all grown up together in a small town in Ireland and then all moved all the way over to Australia for their various careers in their early 20’s.
K+P’s wedding was truly epic in every way! (Confession: I kinda loathe the over-use of the word “epic” to describe things that are just kinda awesome!) But K+P’s was literally a 4-day long celebration, culminating in a killer dance party and surprise fireworks for bride and groom – with a next day brunch that kicked on long enough to rival the wedding night both in levels of alcohol consumption and the hour when the last guests finally called it quits. And a big part of what made that weekend so special was their amazing friends and family.
So colour me tickled when I got the call from Jane a few years later wanting my help planning their own wedding – with about 80% of the same friends and family.
But the question was: how to plan a weekend that rivalled K+P’s, but would be totally different in it’s resemblance to and representation of Jane and James’ individual personalities, and them as a couple?
Enter Villa La Tosca..
J+J were quite keen on a relaxed coastal/seaside feel, somewhere that guests could drive to from Ireland if needs be, but relatively convenient for the many guests flying in from overseas. So we dove into an *exhaustive* venue search encompassing the entire west coast of France (!) and finally landed on the Bassin d’Arcachon – just an hour west of Bordeaux. To add to it, J+J weren’t able to make the long trip from Australia for venue visits, so I had to make the choice on their behalf. (No pressure, then!)
“Intimate but Wow” is how the villa is described on the website – and that couldn’t be more accurate. You very much get the feeling that you’ve just invited 60 of your closest friends ’round to your fabulous beach-side villa to soak up some sun and zen vibes while sipping rosé and indulging in the world-famous local oysters.
It doesn’t have the sprawling grounds that some of our favourite châteaux do, but it definitely packs a concentrated oomph in its large manicured garden with a natural infinity pool and view out on to the tidal basin. If luck, tide-timing, and weather are with you, you can even have a ceremony on the beach – or if you’re “unlucky” (ha!) you just end up with a backdrop of the tide lapping at the villa’s steps and a perfect view of the water just behind your ceremony arch – basically a beach ceremony without the messy feet. 🙂
As a designer, my favourite way to work is with a super-stylish and creative couple who are keen to bounce ideas back and forth and develop a unique concept together. But that’s closely followed by the equally stylish but super busy couple, who just want everything to look fantastic but aren’t that fussed on the exact details – and are therefore happy to just leave me to it! (Cut to me, rubbing my hands together like an evil genius in a B-grade movie.)
J+J were the latter, and it’s incredibly liberating as a creative to have clients that trust you enough to work your magic and give you the freedom to do just that. This is why I always take the time to get to know my couples before pitching a styling brief – to me, anything else feels false and pasted-on. What good are pretty details if they don’t tell your story or “feel” like you as a couple? When you really *know* a couple and therefore really “get” the vibe they want to create for their guests, it’s easy to nail exactly what they want with or without much direct input from them. And as an added bonus, when they’re not super-involved in every detail, they’ll be surprised and delighted right along with their guests on the wedding day!
We wanted to create décor that felt relaxed and beachy – without constantly beating their guests over the heads with “Hey! You’re on the beach! Get it?!?!” (As Beach weddings too often do. Therefore, not a starfish candle or cloyingly bright turquoise in sight!) We stuck with natural woods, greys, and just a few accents of beach glass-esque muted aquas and greens – a low-key windswept organic vibe that suited La Tosca’s garden and surroundings to a T.
And I also knew just what to do when Jane dropped the bomb: “Uhhhh…I don’t really *like* flowers…” (a statement that would definitely strike dread in the hearts of most wedding enthusiasts!) But I sent her straight to Agnès Laye Fleurs, for her pragmatic approach and willingness to think outside the box. Based on a bit of design briefing from me, Agnès ran with the concept and used driftwood, greenery, air plants, succulents, cotton, and dried grasses and seed pods to capture the flower-free beachy feel we were after. She absolutely nailed it, and our flower-averse bride was truly thrilled with everything.
At low tide, J+J took to the beach to grab some truly stunning sunset couple portraits (hat tip to Bert Palmer, as these two claimed to absolutely hate having their photos taken – they look pretty comfortable/happy to me!) And then on to an intimate dinner full of raucus laughter and lots of toasts, followed by a wild night on the dancefloor (having dragged ALLLLL of the silly photobooth props out to join them) fueled by local French band EchOo, playing lots of favourite belt-along tunes. And finally gathering around beachy bonfire with s’mores, sparklers, laughter, shouting and singing into the wee hours.
What a weekend!
Ps. so far I’ve been a part of this wild bunch’s celebrations every few years, so I’ll be expecting to start planning another one any day now!