If you have always dreamed about having a traditional wedding in a French Château, you’ve come to the right place! Living in France for 10 years, I’ve been to more French château weddings and ceremonies in castles than I can count.
A question I often get asked is, is it as romantic as it sounds? Yes, most definitely! There is something about pledging your love in an enchantingly beautiful castle, that will give you the memories of a lifetime. An idyllic dream that will transport you to another era.
And I’ve got just the tips to make that dream a reality. Allons-y!
1. Plan at least 12-18 months in advance
It will take a while to get everything in order, especially if you don’t live nearby, so start planning at least 12-18 months in advance. In addition, the most beautiful châteaux are booked many months in advance, especially if couples want to book a date in the summer busy wedding season.
This way everything can be booked with plenty of advance notice, and friends and family can start booking their tickets.
2. Get a local wedding planner
Maybe the most important one on the list: get a local wedding planner. There is a lot that goes on at a wedding, and for a château wedding, you really need it. Most châteaux are in the countryside, far from suppliers so it will not be easy to find everyone you need.
A local wedding planner will have connections and will be able to easily source:
- the DJ
- the Photographer
- the Caterer
- the Hair & makeup artists
- the Babysitters
- the Tailors for last-minute alternations
A wedding planner who can recommend caterers and photographers who already know the lay of the land and the facilities of château will save you a lot of time and stress.
3. The marriage certificate
If you’ve read my other articles, you will know that it is actually quite difficult to get married in France. Legally, marriages in France can only take place in the local town hall where the couple or their parents live. This means that if you are not resident in France, you cannot get married here.
You can find a full list of the paperwork requirements here, but in general, I recommend having a courthouse marriage ceremony first, and then coming to France for your château wedding. This is actually what most French brides do anyway, with a civil ceremony first and then a more formal one.
4. Chateau Location & Amenities
Next up, it is time to select the château! Along with the location and transport links, make a list of the amenities that are most important to you such as:
- Reception hall
- Professional kitchen for caterer
- Dance floor
- Wheelchair Accessibility
- Swimming pool
- Sauna, jacuzzi and spa
In France, the caterer has prepare the meal in a professional level stainless steel kitchen, so you need to make sure that the château you select has one.
In addition, think about if you want your wedding in a grand ballroom reception hall, or in a tent out on the gardens. Do you need for premises to be handicap-friendly? Would you like to have a spa? Make a list of what is important to you and check with your wedding planner to narrow down your options.
Most French brides narrow down their château choices on mariage.net but the website is in French. Google translate and your wedding planner will be your best friends.
5. Number of beds
Some châteaux have several bedrooms and cottages for guests and other members of the wedding party to stay at, while others like the grand Château de Breteuil near Paris only have accommodation for the bride and groom, and 2 other couples.
This is important for the type of vibe you are going for. Is it a weekend party sleepover with all your family and friends, or are the other amenities of the château that are more important?
6. Mother Nature
Châteaux are usually not in the middle of the city. This means be prepared for Mother Nature, and especially insects. There is not much you can do about it but be prepared for insects that like to congregate around water features likes ornamental lakes and fountains.
Another thing to note is that if your wedding is in summer in the south of France, most historic châteaux don’t usually have air-conditioning. And in winter, the heating may not be up to modern standards.
7. Hot water & Mirrors
When picking your château for the wedding, think about how many people are going to be staying at the château and how they are going to get ready. Is everyone going to rush to the showers at the same time? Historic castles don’t have usually have the same hot water tanks as 5 star modern hotels.
In addition, what are the mirrors and lighting like for people getting ready at the château? Even the nicest hotels don’t always have good mirrors for getting ready to go to a wedding.
You may need to take into account whether or not your guests are going to have their own makeup artists or getting ready themselves.
The profile of the Château may say that it has “10 beds” but you may want to check out exactly what the layout is. Many châteaux were built with rooms enfilade, meaning one room connecting to the other. This leaves no privacy for guests because other guests have to travel through their room to get to their own.
In addition, master bedrooms with enjoining ensuites were not the norm previously. So some châteaux have come up with creative solutions, putting the bathroom directly in the bedroom.
This maybe fine if you are putting a couple together in a bedroom, but if you are expecting different guests to share, you have a privacy problem.
9. Arrive a few days in advance
This may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: if you are coming from overseas, do not plan to get married the day you arrive, or even the day after. Jetlag will ruin what should be one of the loveliest days of your life.
In addition, things may not be exactly as you imagined, so having a couple of days leeway will allow all the pieces to fall into place.
10. The wedding pedestal
One of the most underestimated decisions is where to put the wedding pedestal. In other words, what angle of the château do you want as the background of your wedding photos? I went to a château wedding once where the guests had their backs to the château, meaning only the garden was in the photos.
In addition, you need to take into account what time your wedding will be and where the sun will be in the sky. You can work with your photographer and wedding planner to decide what is the best angle.
11. Plan B for outdoor ceremonies
And once you’ve decided on Plan A for an outdoor ceremony, you need a Plan B in case of bad weather. Wind and rain can cause havoc on the best of plans.
12. The night before
If you are planning on having a weekend sleepover type wedding, where everyone sleeps over at the château, you need to check that your bridal party does not start the party one day in advance.
A hungover bride and groom is not a good look 😉 Not to mention the bridesmaids and groomsmen.
13. Hire a van
As I mentioned before, French châteaux are usually in the countryside. You will need some sort of transportation to ferry guests around, either from their lodging or to the closest train station and airport.
Hiring a large van from the outset will ease the burden as you should easily be able to find a driver within your wedding party to run last-minute errands.
14. The Cake
French weddings usually have a cake but the star of the show is the piece montée. Made out of small doughy balls of pastry called pâte à choux, the choux are mounted in a small pyramid using honey or melted sugar.
You can consider adding a fun traditional touch to your wedding with a fabulous piece montée.
There are always long periods of waiting around at a wedding, including the days before and the traditional brunch the day after. Consider getting some traditional games like pétanque for your guests to play while they are waiting. It is also a great ice breaker if you have guests who don’t know each other.
16. Food & drinks
And finally, the food and drinks! Nobody is hungrier than guests coming to a wedding, and if you are going to have people stay at the château, you are going to have to plan a lot of food. The caterers will take care of the actual event of course, but don’t forget the days before and after.
Have on hand plenty of snacks and plan on whether how you are going to feed your guests, who will not easily be able to pop down to the shops to buy things.
And with that I wish you all the best in the world for your upcoming nuptials, and good luck planning that fancy château wedding!
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