Years ago, when a friend asked where I’d like to get married, I said, “maybe somewhere in France.” It was a wispy dream, one of those items you write down in a list of things you’d like to do in life. I hadn’t thought much beyond that short response, but now that our wedding is actually happening in France, I feel incredibly lucky. In those early days (oh, just seven or so years into our relationship) when I considered it with friends, I didn’t really know if a destination wedding would work out. J and I were not engaged, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of my wedding. Perhaps my opinion would change, or J would want a different place, or some other reality would block it from happening.
Once we were officially engaged, J and I both agreed we wanted to get married in the south of France. We had visions of outdoor wooden tables below strings of romantic twinkle lights, and simple delicious French food; bread, cheese, and the lightest pink rosé. I wanted most of all to get married in Provence, a place we both love and where J grew up. However, after thinking it through, it wasn’t practical. The more we talked, trying to consider specifics, we realized logistically it was too much to ask of our guests, many of whom were coming from both US coasts. There are no direct flights or big hotels in Provence, so not only would guests have to take a few plane rides, they’d also be scattered around the area. Also, distances are further and everyone would need a rental car to get around. We seriously considered this option only for a few minutes before we realized it wasn’t going to be as easy as organizing a few buses from a hotel to a venue. We wanted our wedding to be small, but we did want people to come! And so, Paris it is. Not too bad for a second choice. Honestly I could settle for a tent somewhere near the French border if it meant I could marry in the country, but luckily it didn’t even come close to that. Not only are there direct flights to Paris and many hotel options, but we wouldn’t be required to schedule every minute of our guests’ visits. It’s important to me that the trip is worth it for our friends and family – we couldn’t exactly ask people to come from far away for a wedding in a tent on a muddy field!
The first step was finding a venue. There are so many locations in and around Paris I quickly was overwhelmed by the crazy number and variety of options. I realized the right choice for J and I would be the Parisian version of a wedding in the south of France. This meant a smaller venue, a nice outdoor space, and a more relaxed elegance to the whole event. Most people who dream of getting married in France want to do it in a giant castle, but that wasn’t interesting to me. I didn’t want to have a place that was overly showy, expensive, or tailored to the extravagant wedding industry so popular in the US. It’s also not who we are as a couple or what we care about. This was even more clear after I looked at one popular château, suggested in many of the “Dream Wedding in France” blog-guides. It had an entire menu of wedding options, including a horse drawn carriage and helicopter drop off for the bride and groom. The photos plastered on their website were of a surgically enhanced bride, posing with a unicorn. Or rather, a white horse with a papier-mâché horn tied to its head. I felt bad for the horse, and quickly took the search elsewhere. I know a lot of weddings generally have the same schtick, but I didn’t want to go to a place that was marketing unicorns to people!
After an exhaustive search both online and through J’s family, we managed to find 15-20 options in and around Paris. I got pretty clever with Google’s reverse image search and was able to hunt down unlabeled locations on Pinterest and other wedding sites. J devised a way to rate and score each place, and we were able to get it under 10. After cutting a few oversized and overpriced places (I’m looking at you Rodin Museum), we worked it down again to 5 realistic venues within two hours of Paris – this was the max distance we wanted our guests to have to travel beyond the city. Of course I had known my first choice from day one – a place J’s mother suggested, which seemed to be perfect in every way. I don’t want to reveal the location until after the day, but needless to say, I am thrilled with our final choice and can’t wait to share our beautiful venue!