Grace & Charles met at her previous place of employment but as he was new and she was the outgoing, social butterfly, it wasn’t until they bumped into each other at a mutual friend’s birthday party (and she picked up on that gorgeous faint, French accent) that sparks really flew. From that day forward, they flirted, dated and fell in love, visiting his family every year in Dijon, France. During those trips every year, they would also stop by castle called Clos de Vougeot to take a photo together – and last year on Christmas Eve they were able to take one together as fiancé & fiancée and then continue to celebrate their engagement with Charles’ family.
Given that their families are spread across the world (Hawaii, New Jersey, Washington, South Korea, France) it is no surprise that Grace & Charles chose to hold a destination wedding in France, at the Chateau de Barbiery, a stunning castle with a gorgeous garden not too far from Charles’ hometown. Along with the 40 or so guests from France, another 42 guests flew across international waters to attend the wedding. Many guests decided to arrive a few days early and made the trip extra special by meeting the Bride & Groom a few days earlier in Paris, travelling together to the Chateau, having intimate pre-wedding dinners and day trips to explore Dijon which really created a bond amongst all the guests.
What we really loved about Grace & Charles’ wedding is the huge amount of personal touches they incorporated into their day. They choose which traditions they would honor and which ones they could let go of and overall made it such a special experience for themselves and their guests.
Read on for Grace’s first person account on finding her wedding dress, her wedding day and her advice to other brides planning destination weddings!!
“Perhaps I was naive in thinking that picking a wedding dress is not a big deal. I originally picked out a dress I saw on Pinterest and found a boutique overseas that could make it for a really affordable price. Well, I literally got what I paid for; a poorly stitched together dress made from cheap material. I immediately dumped it and went into panic mode. Luckily, I found Lace & Liberty when I searched for "bridal separates", inspired by Olivia Palermo’s wedding look. At first, I was wary of ordering another dress online, but everything about my experience with L&L from start to finish was exceptional. I tried on the Big Celebration Skirt at home and knew immediately, "this is the one!" It was challenging to find the right top to go with the skirt, but having options was fantastic. I tried on everything from t-shirts to bodysuits until I found a great little, white V-neck dress that paired so perfectly with my skirt. Together, the whole outfit was so "me" because it looked elegant while non-traditional.”
Charles and I decided early on that we wouldn’t have bridesmaids or groomsmen. Instead, we’d break tradition and get ready together. And we loved every moment of it. He helped me put on my shoes and my skirt; I helped him put on his tie and boutonnière. When he first saw me in my dress and skirt together, he was moved to tears. That experience is something only he and I can say we shared together on our wedding day.
Our ceremony was outside under a beautiful tree by a small lake. The weather was perfect. My dad and I marched down the aisle, both smiling ear to ear. Seeing Charles standing there made me feel an overwhelming sense of calm and happiness. Charles and I received wise words from our officiant and mentor, Phil. Our guests laughed as we both struggled through our vows (they’re really long and hard to remember!) and they cheered us on. When we finally kissed, everything in that moment was absolutely perfect.
After a wonderful cocktail party and photo session with our amazing photographer Amanda Kate, we made our entrance into the reception to Earth Wind & Fire’s “September” and danced with not a care in the world. Then we transitioned into a slow dance to Johnnyswim’s “Take the World” and embraced each other tightly. After our moving and emotional Father-Daughter and Mother-Son dances, the night really took off. We feasted like kings and. Our guests danced and imbibed until 5:30 am! Charles and I could not have asked for a more incredible evening with the most important people in our lives.
While there were many memorable moments (believe me, many) one of my favorite moments was when I finally decided to take off my Big Celebration skirt later in the evening. Charles unbuttoned my skirt in front of our guests on the dance floor. As I started taking it off, all our guests gasped and could not believe I was wearing a little white dress underneath. All the women marveled and several expressed that bridal separates is a brilliant idea. So way to go L&L!
Looking back on our wedding day, there was not a thing we would’ve done differently. We were especially moved that many of our guests, from different geographies and backgrounds, befriended each other. In fact, we’ve received so many requests from our guests to plan a reunion for next year. Same place, same time, same people. We’re really considering it ;)
Destination weddings are challenging for a variety of reasons – language barrier, distance, and time difference, just to name a few. While I was able to get by without a wedding coordinator, I would strongly recommend one if you choose to get married abroad. Also, don’t be afraid to be unique and do things a little differently! Non-traditional is the new new tradition :)
Photography | Amanda Kate Photography