This Intimate Wedding Took Place on Top of a Hamlet in Southern France
Jessica and Alex first met in October 2011, on a camping trip with mutual friends in Big Bear Lake, California. The pair didn't start dating, though, until six years later, when two of Alex's friends nudged him to ask her out. It's a good thing he did, because almost exactly seven years after the two first met in the mountains, they became engaged in them, as well. Jessica was recovering from two surgeries and getting a bit stir crazy, so she asked Alex to take a short hike up to Mount San Jacinto. Despite a few hiccups, like unexpected thunderstorms pushing the hike to the following day and spotty cell reception (making it tough to communicate with Jessica's friend, Amy, who was helping set up the proposal), Alex pulled it off. Jessica immediately said yes, and the pair began planning their March 17, 2019, wedding.
The pair initially wanted to elope in France, but later decided to host their ceremony at Alex's family's vacation home in St. Jean-du-Gard, which has been in his family for several generations. The venue inspired their vintage French theme complete with a natural color palette, and the bride and groom took on the majority of the planning themselves. Following the at-home ceremony, the pair hosted a reception at a 12th-century hamlet called Mas le Brès in Saint Sebastien d'Aigrefeuille; the venue also housed their 40 guests throughout the celebration.
The couple wanted to infuse the vibe of their original vision—an elopement—into their big day, and ensured the event was simple, authentic, slightly spontaneous, and stress-free (for example, in lieu of formal invitations, the pair sent texts and emails to their family and friends informing them of the details). According to the bride, convincing their guests to fly out to France to celebrate their wedding was the easiest part of the whole affair.
Fashion and Blooms
When Jessica went shopping for her wedding dress with two of her girlfriends, she thought she knew exactly what she wanted. But when she tried on a bespoke gown made of lightweight cotton and soft charmeuse lining, her friends gasped and told her it was the one. The gown by Yanique at Dreamers and Lovers had long sleeves, a cathedral train, and a sweetheart neckline underneath a modest high neck overlay.
Jessica wore an elongated veil, also from Dreamers and Lovers, that was trimmed with the same lace as her dress; she also wore vintage pearl earrings that were a gift from a friend. Her best friend Sarah handled her hair, while she did her own bridal makeup. Jessica planned on grabbing some flowers from a local farmers market the day before the wedding, but her photographer, Charla Storey, connected her with Moss Floral—who happened to be visiting France simultaneously—instead. She crafted her bouquet, composed of roses, tulips, and poppies in neutral tones of pinks and whites, last minute.
The Groom's Look
Alex wore a dark navy suit with a matching tie that he originally bought for a friend's wedding. He purchased a white button-down shirt for his suit in Paris, the week before the wedding.
Flower Girl in Navy
Alex's niece, Annie, served as their flower girl. She donned a navy dress with long lace sleeves and a tulle skirt and a faux flower crown. "Annie really wanted to throw petals on the aisle as she walked down so we took petals from the bouquets I had made for the guest rooms and found a small basket at the hamlet that she carried!" says Jessica.
Sentimental Ceremony Spot Location
Jessica was a bit overwhelmed by the thought of planning an extravagant wedding, so she and Alex were set on having a celebration that focused on their union, rather than the event itself. They loved the idea of having a sentimental ceremony on Alex's family's property. "I was surprised that no one in the family had ever thought to get married there!" Jessica says. "His aunts and uncles told me they were so touched that we chose to do so!" The rustic vacation home sits atop a hill called Cabrieroux, in St. Jean-du-Gard, France.
The Olive Leaves
Jessica envisioned using olive leaves as confetti, so, with her cousins' help, she rolled cones from the pages of a French book to hold them.
Alex's uncle and aunt, along with a friend they recruited, played the violin, cello, harpsichord, and recorder at various times throughout the ceremony.
On the Hilltop
The couple wanted their wedding to feel easy and unplanned. "Since our original plan was to elope, I really just wanted to keep it as simple and pure as that!" Jessica says. Her father walked her towards the altar and said a prayer at the start of the ceremony. The couple's friend Baxter then took over, and married them on top of the hill.
Surrounded by Friends
Instead of setting up chairs on the hillside, the couple's guests stood around them for the duration of the short service.
After they sealed their union with a kiss, the couple led their loved ones back down the hill.
The Group Photo
Jessica and Alex stepped away briefly during the cocktail hour to take photos, but their guests first joined them for a group photo on the hillside. "We just loved that we brought our friends and family together—a lot of them had never met or only met briefly," says Alex. "And yet, everyone had such a good time together and a lot of our friends have kept in touch with each other even after the wedding."
Wine and Cheese
Alex's father put together a menu for the cocktail hour, which included a variety of wines from local vineyard, Mas Oncle, in the Ventoux region. Some of Alex's relatives who live in France and Switzerland surprised the couple by providing an al fresco aperitif of Tête de Moine cheese and charcuterie. "Our American guests (myself included) got such a kick out of turning the wheel to produce the beautiful flower-like shavings of cheese," Jessica says.
Their event might have been relaxed, but Jessica and Alex's guests didn't hold back on the fashion front—they were a stylish bunch.
The couple's reception took place at Mas le Brès, in the dining hall at the hamlet, which used to be a shelter for Christians fleeing prosecution. "It was initially a small farm house and as more people would arrive to hide and seek refuge, they would build on an additional 'gite'," the bride says, "So it's like several houses that are somewhat connected, but not completely." Because of this, the hamlet had plenty of room to accommodate the couple and their 40 guests for the weekend.
Jessica recruited her cousins Julie and Sally to decorate the wooden dining table with olive leaves. "They were literally cutting down olive branches on the property just hours before the ceremony!" the bride says. Julie and Sally also used fresh loaves of bread and fruit along the tablescape.
Come dinner, guests enjoyed their choice of braised beef with carrots confit or vegetable risotto with tomato sauce for dinner. "Communicating with the caterer was a little bit of a challenge because of the language barrier," Jessica says. "The menu didn't get finalized until probably a few weeks before. We weren't sure if we would end up having to cook the reception dinner ourselves!"
The First Dance
During the reception, the couple hooked up their phones to a speaker system Alex's father brought from home. "One of our friends happens to be a DJ, although we weren't planning on putting him to work!" Jessica says. "Our friend just made up a quick playlist—including our first dance song." (Their friend chose "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.) They didn't exactly plan on having a dancing portion of the event, but their guests pushed chairs out of the way and insisted they get moving.
The French Wedding Cake
For dessert, the couple served a pièce montée, a traditional French wedding confection; the cream puffs were filled with vanilla and chocolate hazelnut cream.
Following their nuptials, the newlyweds spent their honeymoon in Saint-Paul de Vence, France, at a charming home where the poet Jacques Prévert once lived.