After months of activity and planning, the last few weeks running up to your wedding can be as frustrating as the first. We knew we wanted to get married in the sunshine. We knew we wanted great food, great wine and a relaxed atmosphere. We knew we wanted the promise of decent weather, the chance to eat outside and, ideally, a weekend affair to give our guests longer to enjoy celebrating with us.
When we found le Chateau du Bijou we were simply over the moon. Its proximity to London (under 6 hours by train from St Pancras!) and the fact that a return ticket is around £1000 meant that it was absolutely within reach for all of our guests (but, wonderfully, it also gave some of the questionable invites a great excuse to make their apologies!). It’s in the South of Provence (we reckon it’s just about within the upper reaches of Provence!) so the weather’s as guaranteed as it’s possible to be in Europe, and the real piece de resistance (sorry!) was that we could take it for the whole weekend. We spoke to the team at Bijou Weddings and almost didn’t think we needed to visit the Chateau before booking simply because of how glowingly they talked about it (I mean, their whole business is named after it so I guess it makes sense!) but then we figured we might as well use the excuse to pop down for a weekend, do some wine tasting, and have a little scope.
Suffice to say we really didn’t need to have gone – it really is as beautiful as it looks – but we had a fantastic weekend and fell in love with the place entirely. We decided we wanted to take advantage of the Bijou team’s proximity to London and do our wedding planning with them (rather than with a local wedding planner, who we understood we could have been introduced to by the Bijou guys’ local catering partner, Peggy). We visited the team in their offices at Botleys Mansion (uh, hello, also quite a splendid wedding venue!) a couple of times during the planning process and kept in close contact using their online planner, messaging system and, of course, the good old-fashioned dog and bone.
Everything went very smoothly through the planning process. We did one more weekend trip down to the Chateau during which time we met and did a tasting with Peggy at Comme une Abeille (Like a Bee!) in Montelimar – Bjiou’s recommended local traiteur (caterer), who we decided to go with because of her focus on locally sourced ingredients, traditional french cuisine and just enough va-va-voom to earn the requisite “ooooh” from our friends and family. While we were down there we took the opportunity to visit some more of Wine Country, spending a lovely afternoon in the Chateau-Neuf du Papes region (wouldn’t recommend hiring a car if you’re doing this – unless you’re planning to stay overnight!). Even just popping into the local supermarket (Hyper-U!) you get the distinct impression that you’re somewhere a bit different. It’s not just the quality of the food and wine, the weather and the smell of the pines drifting up from the Cote d’Azur. It’s a totally different pace of life – and it’s catching.