A Worldly Wedding at a Glamorous Estate in Charette-Varennes, France
IT finance developer Elijah Moyo proposed to marketing director Natalie Wessene after two years of dating—but he knew the moment he met her that he'd eventually get down on one knee. The couple's relationship officially began nine months after meeting online; from the start, Elijah knew Natalie was the one. Elijah, who was eager to propose, had been practicing in the shower—still, no amount of trial runs could have prepared him for the emotions (nerves included!) he felt while presenting Natalie with the ring.
Their wedding—which took place on September 1, 2018, after a one-year-long engagement—was a worldly affair beyond just its destination locale of Chateau de Varennes, France. Out of the 125 attendees, guests traveled from a total of 13 countries, including America, Tobago, Australia, Ethiopia, France, Zimbabwe, Djibouti, Dubai, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and South Africa to be present on the big day.
To Natalie, the most special aspect of her wedding was that family members ventured from all over the globe celebrate her and her husband's love, which is why they felt a venue in Europe would be the best meeting place for everyone. "These were people who have known us for a majority of our lives and have been a part of many milestones and we were grateful that they could be there as part of our big day," she explained.
Overall, Natalie learned a lot from planning her dream wedding, which she calls an "avant-garde Wakandan affair." Her words of wisdom for any bride-to-be are simple: "Don't obsess over everything—it's your wedding day and it will be beautiful." The couple recommends focusing the majority of your attention on three to four things you care most about. This tactic proved successful, since the pair valued their venue, flowers, guests, and photographer above everything else.
A Regal Venue
Believe it or not, the couple's venue, the picturesque Chateau de Varennes, was an online find. "We were looking for a location that was all-inclusive and had experience hosting international weddings," says Natalie. "We found the chateau online and fell absolutely in love with it. It was our one-stop shop for all of our events that weekend and housed our family and bridal party."
Her Lace Wedding Dress
Natalie tried on her mermaid-style wedding dress three times before finally deciding to purchase it. She was drawn to the lace overlay and off-the-shoulder neckline as well as the jeweled detailing. When she went to purchase the David Tutera original, it was on clearance—proving it was meant to be.
Natalie's makup artist, Annette Thornton, created her natural look with a nude, pink lip and lightly-blushed cheeks. A few cascading curls framed her face, while the rest of her hair was pulled back into an updo by Ciara Coiffure.
Before walking down the aisle, friends and family helped Natalie secure her Vera Wang veil.
Natalie's big-day accessories consisted of champagne-hued Jimmy Choo shoes, a Bony Levy bracelet, tear-drop diamond earrings from Nordstrom, and her Blue Nile engagement ring and band. The Christian Dior perfume Natalie wore during the ceremony was a precious keepsake from her last trip to France, which was when she finalized the event's venue and menu.
Elijah and his groomsmen's boutonnières, also made by Fleurs de Fée, complemented Natalie's bouquet thanks to pops of pink and burgundy roses and astilbe.
The bridesmaids—Natalie's three college friends, her niece, and Eli's cousin—wore burgundy chiffon gowns from Weddington Way in two neckline styles: off-the-shoulder and one-shoulder.
A Global Guest List
These attendants' vibrant ensembles beautifully represented the global guest list's diverse cultures.
Elijah and Natalie's circular floral altar was placed in front of horse-filled pastures, which made for a fun, dynamic backdrop.
First Look on the Aisle
Natalie and Elijah's first look didn't take place until the bride, escorted by her mother, walked down the aisle to "Can't Help Falling In Love" by Kina Grannis. The groom cites "Natalie walking down the aisle," as the most poignant moment of the day, "as this was the first time that day I was able to see her."
A Special Ceremony Reading
The couple's non-religious ceremony was officiated by their good friend Travis Peoples, "who did a great job," says the bride. A very special guest performed the ceremony readings. "We had Eli's four-year-old son read his favorite children's book, Waiting Isn't Easy, with our friend Tiseme Zegeye," says the bride. The groom's vows were another highlight of the service: "Eli is a big fan of the film Interstellar and was able to infuse a quote into his vows."
With Elijah's son in hand, the couple walked up the aisle as newlyweds to "Happiest Man" by Winky D.
Fresh off of their "I dos," the couple quickly took their wedding portraits in front of their gorgeous venue—they were eager to mingle with guests and enjoy their cocktail hour.
Chic Escort Cards
Handmade by Natalie designed these simplistic, acyclic hexagon escort cards that directed guests to their assigned reception seating.
Private Sweetheart Table
The reception took place on the chateau's Orangery terrace. The newlywed's sweetheart table was placed under the same floral arch that was used during their ceremony.
NKT Events used gray linen tablecloths, deep blue napkins and table runners, gold cutlery, and gold-accented white dinnerware to create the reception tabletops, which were further decorated with floral arrangements in metallic vessels and an assortment of burgundy and gold pillar candles.
Surprise Dance Party
Music played a huge role in this celebration. Elijah suggested close to 150 songs for their DJ, Prestige, to play, from hip-hop to top-40 hits in order to please the diverse crowd. Natalie's bridal party even choreographed a dance performance as a surprise to the newlyweds, which was the perfect way to kick off the evening.
First Dance Outfit
The newlyweds took their first dance to "Cruisin" by Smokey Robinson—which faded into "September" by Earth Wind & Fire "to get the crowd going," says the bride—after Elijah switched into his second look of the evening: a gold African ensemble by his friend Wongani of KoelesClothing. The outfit was inspired by the movie Black Panther.
Local bakery Cakes in the City brought the couple's modern dessert vision to life with an off-white cake complete with rose-gold foil and pink and red florals. The cake's raspberry and white chocolate flavors mimicked its external appearance.
Natalie surprised her groom, his son, and all of their guests with an unforgettable fireworks show, which unfolded over the French chateau. It was her way of thanking everyone for traveling for the occasion. Not only was it Natalie's favorite moment, but she knew she nailed it when Elijah's son shouted, "This is the best surprise ever!"
Photography, Christina Bernales
Location, Chateau de Varennes
Event planning, NKT Events
Catering, Nathan Muir
Flowers, Fleurs de Fée
Cake, Cakes in the City
Rentals, Joli Bazaar
Linens, Mademoiselle Coton
Bride's gown, David Tutera
Bride's accessories, Jimmy Choo (shoes), Vera Wang (veil)
Hair, Ciara Coiffure
Makeup, Annette Thornton
Bridesmaids' dresses, Weddington Way
Groom and groomsmen attire, The Black Tux
Groom's second outfit, Koeles Clothing
Groom's accessories, Gucci (shoes), Longines (watch)