This Dreamy Wedding in France Was a Family Affair
Bride and Groom
The first time Mickaël Hanany saw Leah Wayne, he stopped in his tracks—literally. A French high jumper studying at the University of Texas at El Paso, Mickaël was in the middle of practice when he spotted Leah, who worked in the athletics department. "This is my wife," he remembers telling his track coach.
They went on their first date in July 2008, just before Mickaël left to train for the Beijing Olympics. The mother of two girls, Leah was struck by his intelligence, his commitment to his sport, and how well he treated her. "He's very thoughtful and sweet," she says. But it was a difficult time to start a relationship. Leah's 2-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with cancer, and Leah was spending most of her time at the hospital. "My priority was taking care of Natalia," she says. "But he was there for me and provided the support I needed." Their love grew, and her daughter's health improved, and in December 2010, Mickaël took Leah to France to meet his parents and proposed under the twinkling Eiffel Tower.
Between Mickaël's meet schedule and the birth of their daughter, Charlie, it took a few years to organize a wedding. The El Paso–based couple chose to marry in the medieval French city of Poitiers because it was convenient for Mickaël's family and meaningful to Leah's (her ancestry can be traced to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, who also married there). The couple relied on Ireland-based company Pearl & Godiva to create the event, which they envisioned as intimate, spiritual, and kid-focused.
During the wedding week, most of the 34 guests stayed at the 56-acre Château St. Julien. They cooked meals together and made trips to town for croissants and wine. On the afternoon of July 24, 2015, (a Wednesday), the couple exchanged Catholic vows in an English and French ceremony at Notre-Dame-la-Grande. Natalia, who celebrated five chemotherapy-free years that summer, performed one of the readings, and the church's ancient bells announced their marriage. A reception at the château followed, the notes from the live band mixing with the sound of laughter from guests, the couple, and their children.
The Happy Family
Like a Princess
The older girls wore handmade crowns of semiprecious stones.
The couple wed at Notre-Dame-la-Grande, which was built in the 11th and 12th centuries.
The couple collected vintage Sacred Heart ex-votos, or votive offerings, which are used in both French and Mexican Catholic traditions, and repurposed them as keepsake lockets.
After mass, Leah and her daughters lit candles in a side chapel. The darkness of the church juxtaposed with the lightness at the reception symbolized the family's emotional journey.
Airy fabric, dyed to match the blue in the wedding palette, draped the dining table and chairs.
Floral designer Saipua arranged romantic centerpieces of lilies, roses, crabapple, eremerus, poppy pods, and chamomile foraged from the 12th-century property.
The Place Cards
Guests dined on white and green asparagus, honey-marinated duck, and local cheese at a long family-style table.
The guestbook was created with the same textured paper as the place cards.
A Petite Treat
The cake stood atop an antique brass stand the bride purchased at a French flea market.
The First Dance
The couple swayed on the terrace during their first dance to "Sabor a Mi," performed by a live band. It was Leah's favorite part of the evening.
Each guest received a bottle of wine and calligraphed letter with a Sacred Heart wax seal. Handmade paper labels, glued to the bottles, had a verse from the couple's wedding song, "Sabor a Mi."
Each guest lit a candle and made a wish for the couple, who blew them all out at the end of the night.
Event planning and design, Pearl & Godiva
Catering, Oscar Jyr
Photography, Kate Holstein Photographs
Videography, Arno Waser
Cake, Blush Bakery
Music, Salsa Band Nantes
Vintage cutlery, Hélène Millot
Bride's and bridesmaids' gowns, Sarah Foy
Bride's jewelry, Kristin Hayes Jewelry
Hair and makeup, My Beauty Corner
Bridesmaids' crowns, Elemental Child
Groom's suit, Atelier NA
Groom's shoes, Finsbury
Ribbon and invitation paper, Silk & Willow
Kozo place-card paper, SHare Studios