This Romantic Destination Wedding Took Place in a Parisian Castle
Rachael Affleck (the owner of Rachael Ellen Events), knew that she wanted a destination wedding. "Being a planner in Utah, I really wasn't interested in having a wedding there because I thought it would feel like work," she explains. So, when she and her opera student fiancé, Cameron Mayo, pitched marrying in Paris, France, to their families, they were thrilled when everyone was on board.
As they were planning, "We realized that getting [legally] married outside of the U.S. was complicated," Cameron shares. They discovered that Croatia's process for foreign marriages was simpler than France's, so they decided to host their civil ceremony there instead. Because the country's laws required the couple to spend at least three days in Croatia, they stopped in the city of Split right before their Parisian affair. "We sort of got to elope," Rachael says, which she and Cameron found exciting. "It ended up being such a wonderful few days for us to just be together and enjoy each other before the craziness of the wedding set in."
For their religious ceremony and wedding reception, the couple met their 56 guests in Paris. They made a week of the festivities, hosting a bridesmaids' brunch, their bachelorette and bachelor parties, and the rehearsal dinner there, too. The events culminated with their big day on August 31, 2017. "We wanted it to feel, more than anything, romantic," Rachael says. With the beautiful floral details, soft and regal colors, and a castle venue, their vision was certainly achieved. According to the bride, "It was absolutely magical, and everything we'd ever dreamed of."
Save the Date
Guests were first given notice of the wedding via save-the-dates by Ink & Press Co. The letterpressed stationery featured gray text that read "save the date" in both French and English. The cards were mailed in blush envelopes, which Rachael lined with old maps of Paris. "I wanted something that felt very Parisian, but not something so literal as a photo of the Eiffel Tower," she shares.
For their formal invitations, the couple worked with gold foil and floral details, and chose envelopes lined with a French-blue toile print. Rachael's favorite part of the suite was the reply card and accompanying return envelope, the latter of which came in a stunning shade of blue.
The invites were addressed in French-blue calligraphy and mailed with meaningful stamps, including a Michigan one (in honor of Cameron's roots) and a Grace Kelly one (the star's style inspired Rachael's wedding dress).
A Stylish Couple
Cameron wore a navy-and-black tux, a black bowtie, and black patent shoes from The Black Tux.
Rachel knew that she wanted a beaded lace wedding dress, but originally thought that she'd buy a form-fitting gown. Instead, she fell for this classic-meets-edgy dress, with a high neckline and sheer details. To make the Galia Lahav style more her own, she added a custom overskirt as well. "I loved the idea of one dress, two looks," she explains.
The Bridal Bouquet
Rachael wore her cathedral-length veil for the ceremony and exit, and credits it with making her feel exceptionally bridal. When she wasn't wearing that, she swapped in a gold Laura Jayne headpiece. She decided to take a minimalist approach to jewelry, wearing just a pair of diamond studs from her parents.
Add in the bouquet, and her bridal ensemble was complete. "I wanted my bouquet to be lush, large, romantic, and garden-inspired," she says. Florésie delivered with this spray- and garden-rose arrangement in muted shades, tied with ribbon that the bride hand-dyed.
The Bride's Shoes
It took a lot of work for Rachael to score these Harriet Wilde shoes, but boy, was it worth it. "I saw an image of them online with no credit and spent the majority of the night scouring the internet for them," she admits. The botanical design was so dreamy, it would later inspire another wedding detail. And because they were made specifically to fit her foot measurements, they were comfortable—even on the cobblestone streets of Versailles.
Rings with a Story
While in Croatia, a ring in a shop window caught the couple's attention—so much so, that Rachael told Cameron that she'd return the wedding band she'd bought him if he'd rather have this one (center). The couple thought it over and decided to make the switch, only to find the jewelry store closed when they returned. In a rush to make their civil ceremony slot, they left and planned to come back once more afterward. Following yet another obstacle (the jeweler only took cash, forcing them to search the city for ATMs), they finally purchased the locally-made piece.
Rachel paired her emerald-cut engagement ring (designed by Cameron) with a delicate wedding band (top). She chose one with baguettes to complement the proposal piece (bottom).
All of Rachael's bridesmaids were either best friends or cousins. The couple's wedding was black tie, so she chose floor-length Adrianna Papell gowns for everyone. The gold was glamorous and the lace was elegant, which was a winning combination for the bride.
As a token of gratitude for fulfilling their roles, Rachael gifted her girls custom perfume that she'd created to match each of the personalities.
In Cameron's opinion, black groomsmen tuxes "are the only way to go," so his entourage dressed accordingly. His crew was made up of his best friends, plus Rachael's three brothers. All of the guys received monogram cufflinks to wear on the big day, too—a present from the groom.
Though Rachael's career is in event planning and she obviously loves the details, both she and Cameron considered their religious ceremony the most important part of their big day. Only a handful of guests were invited to the private Mormon proceedings at the Paris France Temple of the LDS. They were made more intimate by the fact that Rachael's grandfather officiated.
A Fairytale Setting
After the ceremony, the pair headed to Château de Bourron, a castle (complete with its own moat) that made for a gorgeous portrait backdrop. The 16th-century venue gave Rachael and Cameron the "fairytale" reception that they'd dreamt of.
The rest of the couple's attendees joined them at the château for their cocktail hour. There, everybody snacked on appetizers like mini sliders (Cameron's favorite) and chose from floral and fruity lemonades.
The building's outdoor staircases were covered with dahlias, roses, delphinium, and greenery, while more blooms hung from the balcony above. The design came about when Rachael asked Florésie to run with the idea of creating a "statement piece." "If I could give any advice to brides it would be to trust your vendors! Laetitia (of Florésie) had my total trust and the end result was really so amazing," she insists.
The Head Table
Following cocktail hour, everyone was seated on the lawn at tables of different shapes, which Rachael chose for a mismatched look. The round ones were designated for the wedding party, and the long ones for everyone else. "I love the romantic vibe of long tables and the intimate feel of rounds. It was a win-win in that sense," Rachael says. She also notes that selecting a variety helped to fill the space in a visually-pleasing way.
The couple's parents sat with the newlyweds at the reception. "We wanted to really honor them and thank them for all that they had done to make our amazing day possible and our head table was a way of doing that," Rachael shares.
Tables were dressed in silvery linens, a perfect contrast against the pastel floral arrangements. There were large vases filled with roses and dahlias, and smaller bud vases, too. Tapered candles in brass candlesticks flanked the assortments of blooms.
The Place Settings
The flatware and chairs were gold, while the napkins were blue. The handmade-paper menus were tied with ribbon, and stamped with the couple's monogram seal. They were placed on vintage plates, and had bilingual text like the wedding invitations did.
Rachael and Cameron are big fans of casual food (hence the sliders) but couldn't find a caterer that understood their vision. So, they went a different route, and had a formal, five-course meal instead. "It was so fun for us to eat foods we might not typically have and for our guests to experience something a little out of their comfort zone," the bride explained.
Asparagus panna cotta (pictured), duck, and sorbet were just some of the dishes served by their caterer, MG Réception.
The First Dance
For their first dance, the happy couple entered through the château's doors and descended down the grand staircase. "The view from the top of the staircase was breathtaking," Cameron shares. "I got to stand next to the love of my life, looking out over the most beautiful wedding spread I've ever seen, filled with the faces of our favorite people in the world smiling up at us. That image is carved into my mind and will be for the rest of my life."
The newlyweds met on the lawn to dance to Sidney Bichet's "Si Tu Vois Ma Mère" (Cameron's song choice). They credit the groom's family with teaching them their moves. Later, Rachael and her dad danced to "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses (he used to sing it to her), and Cameron and his mom spun to Aretha Franklin's "I Say a Little Prayer" ("She says a little prayer for me every day," Cameron says).
A Special Singer
Cameron surprised Rachael by joining the band (Jazz Around Midnight) and performing "La Vie en Rose." "I'm studying music and singing is a huge part of who I am. I loved singing for my bride and our guests," he explains.
The Wedding Cake
The cake (by Synie's) featured his and hers flavors: white cake with raspberry filling and rose-flavored frosting for Rachael, and red velvet for her husband. But the design came from something that was all hers—the bridal shoes. "I loved the idea of creeping gold vines," she shares. "It felt so fresh, different, and almost antique, like so many details in the château."
When Sparks Fly
Following a fireworks display set to the song "Electric Love" by BØRNS, the couple made their escape. Guests threw petals for a romantic send-off. "It was absolutely magical! My expectations were far exceeded," Cameron recalls of the show. "We love those photos," Rachael adds of the toss.
Off and Away
The couple drove off in a vintage Bentley convertible. "It was so fun sitting in the back of the car waving goodbye to all of our guests. The moon was full and gorgeous and it was so special to cuddle together in the back reflecting on how perfect the day was for the whole drive to our hotel," Rachael shares.
Photography, Mary Claire Photography
Event design and styling, Rachael Ellen Events
Event planning, Jennifer Fox Weddings
Catering, MG Réception
Videography, Russell Alboroto
Music, Jazz Around Midnight
Hair and makeup, Celise Artistry
Bridesmaids' dresses, Adrianna Papell
Groom's attire, The Black Tux
Groomsmens' attire, The Black Tux
Transportation, Paris Automédon Services
Cameron's wedding band, Zlatarna Vagus