This Couple's Six Guests Never Saw Their Surprise Elopement in France Coming

bride and groom stand on hillside south of france venue
Erich McVey

The first vacation Jeremy Collyer and Hilary Rushford ever took together was one to Paris—a trip on which Hilary decided they would one day host a destination wedding in France. She could see how it would one day play out: The beauty of the French countryside paired with time on the water and plenty of sunshine. The couple made that dream a reality on September 10, 2018, after whisking six guests to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat for a surprise wedding.

Yes, their wedding was a total surprise for their guests. Hilary and Jeremy planned their wedding, an elopement, in secret for months—then asked their closest friends to join them in France under the auspice of taking a joint bachelor and bachelorette weekend. Then—just mere hours before the group left for the airport—Hilary and Jeremy revealed their true intent: They'd be wed in an intimate ceremony, with their friends serving as officiants, bridesmaids and groomsmen, and wedding guests, of course.

"My wife is the only person I know [who is] crazy enough and brilliant enough to kidnap six unsuspecting friends who fell for a cover story," Jeremy says, describing the big reveal—as well as the days spent in France leading up to the wedding day itself—as truly "electric." A fashion stylist and entrepreneur, Hilary put her talents to good use as she planned the wedding, taking inspiration from Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat's surrounding mountains and sea to create a color palette rich in greens, purples, and blues. An intimate ceremony held on a hillside gave way to a stunning reception at the Four Seasons Cap Ferrat, where the florist, East Olivia, used even more bright hues—like fuchsia—to "inject joy," Hilary says. The result? A flawlessly romantic celebration that dreams are made of.

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The Ring

antique wedding ring in velvet box
Erich McVey

Hilary's engagement ring was never meant to be a permanent situation. As Hilary explains, she knew she had been gifted a diamond ring from her grandmother, who has since passed, but couldn't recall what it looked like. She suggested Jeremy use it when he proposed, with the knowledge that after she said yes, they'd go shopping for the real ring together.

But when he got down on one knee and Hilary saw the ring, she was blow away by its beauty. "I immediately knew I didn't want anything else." And, as it turns out, the ring was perfect for her in another way, beyond aesthetics: "My grandmother bought the ring for herself, saving up her tip money as a manicurist working from home," Hilary says. "It wasn't until I heard that story I realized that—as an entrepreneur who makes women feel beautiful—I've followed in her footsteps, and apparently also share her sense of style."

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The Stationery

surprise destination wedding stationary suit
Erich McVey

A surprise wedding doesn't exactly call for invitations. But Hilary still wanted to give their six friends something "so they could start to wrap their head around what was happening," she says. She worked with stationer Steph B to create vintage airplane tickets for the "elopement adventure" printed with the guests' names and their titles (bridesmaid, groomsman, and so on). These tickets were paired with an itinerary that laid out the plans for the coming days.

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The Dress

bridesmaids gathered around hanging wedding dress ball gown
Erich McVey

Hilary pictured a "red-carpet ball gown" for her wedding dress, she says. The first dress she spotted fit the bill—in fact, it was so beautiful that Hilary's jaw dropped. She wanted to showcase that "you can have an intimate wedding with a dramatic dress," she says. "Just because you elope doesn't mean you have to keep your dress simple."

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Dress Details

beaded applique Rivini ball gown
Erich McVey

The Rivini ball gown featured delicate beading and appliqués. Hilary wore a floral veil, too.

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Bride's Bouquet

jewel-toned wedding floral bouquet with mustard colored ribbon
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Hilary's bouquet, created by her friend and florist East Olivia, featured a mix of jewel-toned flowers such as roses, eucalyptus, leaves, and greenery, tied with mustard-colored ribbon.

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Groom's Suit

groom wearing blue wedding suit
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To pop against his copper hair and to match Hilary's blue eyes, Jeremy donned a blue suit.

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Bridesmaids' Dresses

individual bridesmaids dresses in pastel, a jewel tone, and a pattern
Erich McVey

Because the wedding was a surprise, Hilary had to shop for bridesmaids' dresses in secret, choosing BHLDN styles she felt confident would suit her friends. "With only three bridesmaids, I loved the idea of having them in a pastel, a jewel tone, and a pattern."

But rather than pre-purchase and pack them in her luggage, Hilary asked her three friends to walk from her Brooklyn apartment—where moments before, they'd just announced the surprise wedding—to a nearby BHLDN store, where Hilary had set aside three gown options for each bridesmaid to choose from, to ensure "she wore something she loved," Hilary says.

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Groomsmen Suits

groom with groomsmen in neutral toned suit
Erich McVey

As for the groomsmen, they were asked to pack neutral-hued suits—which Hilary approved via text—for the supposed weekend party; she bought them BHLDN ties to wear, too.

09 of 20

Ceremony Site

Chataeneuf Villeville south france village church
Erich McVey

Hilary dreamed of a historic site for their ceremony, and "finally, I stumbled upon the ruins of an old church and castle on the mountain top, and the idea of being married not in but in front of a church captured my heart," she says. "So, we married in Chataeneuf Villeville, a village so remote the driver that [day] asked how we had found it coming from America."

10 of 20

The Ceremony

bride and groom stand with 6 friend outside stone church
Erich McVey

Each of the couple's six friends were involved in the ceremony: Two, with whom the couple had done pre-marital counseling, served as the officiants, while the others read poems, led prayers, and read scripture. "What's so special about that is there's no audience," points out Hilary. "There's no one to perform for. We laughed, cried, paused to fix my veil, get tissues."

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Boat Ride

bride and groom with six person wedding party on boat
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After the ceremony, the couple and their friends went to nearby Villefranche Sur Mer for a bite to eat and gelato, then boarded a boat to take them to the Four Seasons Cap Ferrat.

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Perfect Light

bride and groom standing on boat
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The boat provided the perfect place to snap some casual portrait shots, like this one.

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Driving in Style

bride wearing Phoebe by Kelly Faetanini next to vintage car
Erich McVey

After disembarking the boat, Hilary—who changed into a second wedding dress by Phoebe by Kelly Faetanini—and Jeremy took a vintage car to their cocktail hour. Those moments alone in the car were some of Jeremy's favorite, he says. "Of course, driving my dream car was amazing," he says. "But Hilary also came out in her second dress—which was super sexy—and it was our one time that day to have just the two of us."

14 of 20

Just Married

just married french sign on getaway car
Erich McVey

On the car, the couple hung a banner that read "just married" in French. To capture photos as they drove, "our photographers and cinematographers were literally hanging out the back of a van with the doors open as we drove along the winding coast," Jeremy says.

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Cocktail Hour

private garden cocktail hour outdoors
Erich McVey

Before kicking off their official reception at the Four Seasons Cap Ferrat, Hilary, Jeremy, and their friends enjoyed cocktails in a private garden.

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The Reception

chartreuse table cloth covered reception table
Erich McVey

At the venue, Hilary, Jeremy, and their friends sat at a rectangular table covered in a chartreuse tablecloth to have dinner while taking in views of the ocean. Taper candles and low flowers in ombré pink hues only added to the romantic theme.

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Place Cards

luggage tags escort tags on placesettings with floral decor
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A nod to their destination wedding, place cards were created in the shape of luggage tags.

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Dinner Conversation

tall candles and floral arrangements on reception table
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In between bites of food, "everyone spontaneously went around sharing a story and toast about our friendship," Hilary recalls. "We were in tears at every one. I felt so incredibly loved, so honored to hear what an amazing man my husband is. Some of my best friends shared things that I never knew they thought or had experienced in our friendship."

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bride and groom pose for portrait south of france venue
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Looking back on their wedding day, Hilary cites the reception as one of her favorite experiences, because it was so intimate and filled with love, she says.

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bride and groom oceanside kissing
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Photography, Erich McVey
Location, Four Seasons Cap Ferrat
Event styling, Hilary Rushford
Flowers, East Olivia
Videography, The Brothers Martens
Stationery, Steph B
Rentals, La Travola Linen
Bride's gown, Rivini and Phoebe by Kelly Faetanini
Bride's accessories and Bridesmaids' dresses, BHLDN

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