A Romantic Summer Wedding at Chateau du Bijou in Provence for Jenny and Rob

Jenny and Rob loved every minute of planning their rustic wedding at Chateau du Bijou in Provence

 

Finding the Dream Wedding Venue in France

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 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.

Finalising our French Wedding Plans

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.

A Wedding Weekend in Provence

When it came to the wedding weekend itself we added a few personal details here and there to really make it ours (although arguably the venue had already set us apart form anyone else we knew!). We booked out a carriage on the Eurostar (we had to ask for contributions sadly) and laid on some drinks for our friends and family during the journey, and arranged for coaches to collect them all from Valence TGV, which is only about 30 minutes away. We had beautiful welcome packages in the rooms for our guests who were staying over (we filled the place, and then some!), Jenny did all of the table decorations herself in the couple of days that we were there before everyone else arrived (yes, she was that chilled out!), and we worked with Peggy to create a special menu which combined all of her expertise when it comes to French cuisine with some traditional British favourites. She wasn’t initially thrilled by the idea of a “Saucisson Pie Wedding Cake”, but we got her round to it in the end! We stocked up on Cotes du Rhone wine, ordered a batch of Taittinger Champagne through Bijou and even paid homage to local traditions with a crepe station on the Friday evening (I went for ham and cheese – when in the Rhone, right? - Jenny insisted on Nutella!). My groomsmen and I wore DJs and the girls were all in slightly differing shades of pink, with Jenny in a gorgeous vintage-inspired number.

Because we’d done the legal bit of the ceremony back in the UK (as advised by Bijou – apparently the French aren’t the most welcoming at times… who knew!) we were able to be totally flexible and have an entirely unique blessing at the Chateau on the Saturday (late) afternoon. We’re not ones for too much huffing and puffing so we kept it short – a school friend is a vicar so he said a few words, we did the vows in front of everyone, and then we cracked open some fizz. Absolutely perfect as far as we were concerned. We’d all spent the morning and early afternoon by the pool so there was a chance we might doze off if we didn’t keep the momentum up – we kept the fizz flowing (we actually put some of it on ice which worked really well!) and had some very Francais games of Petanque on the gravel by the front of the house. Everyone milled and mingled at the front of the Chateau, enjoying the views of the Alps, and on the lawn down towards the pool as the sun gently wandered down towards the horizon.

We started the banquet quite late (we’d taken on board Bijou’s suggestion of signing up to the traditional “nuit blanche”!) and enjoyed a thoroughly leisurely dining experience under the stars and with the Chateau as the most stunning backdrop. Our guests literally wouldn’t shut up about how blown away they were. Peggy’s approach was perfect – several rounds of canapés to start (cold and then warm) followed by a starter, then a main, then cheese (it comes before pudding in France!), then dessert, then coffee and chocolates. And of course all sorts of interesting wines to accompany each step of the way.

Evening Celebrations

After the meal my childhood friend Ben (ex-part-time-amateur-DJ) took us for a little trip down memory lane with some tunes we’d chosen, and virtually everyone had a little turn on the dance floor. At this point we had decided to move inside into the main hall, in order to keep everyone a bit closer together, but we had the huge doors open at both ends so it still felt very much like an outdoor party. Peggy brought out the evening food (more cheese!) at about 2am and then we had a survivors breakfast as the sun came up at about 5. Amazingly there had been very few dropouts by that point – I guess that’s what happens when you party French-style!

We had a flight to catch at 8am so we powered through, said our teary (emotion, not booze, promise) goodbyes, and had a little doze in the cab (only an hour mind!) - I’m reliably informed that we were by no means the last people standing. We had an incredible week in Italy continuing our research into the wonderful world of sparkling wine, and now we’re back home basking in the warm post-wedding glow. The great thing about keeping the whole thing relaxed is that you don’t get the anti-climax, and we’re still absolutely on cloud nine. 

Jenny and Rob's Wedding Suppliers

Wedding Venue: Chateau du Bijou
Wedding Catering: Comme une Abeille