A Worldly Wedding at a Glamorous Estate in Charette-Varennes, France

bride and groom happily pose for photo
Christina Bernales

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.

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A Regal Venue

couple poses outside in front of wedding venue
Christina Bernales

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."

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Her Lace Wedding Dress

off the shoulder lace overlay mermaid wedding gown
Christina Bernales

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.

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Veil Preparations

bride putting on wedding veil before ceremony
Christina Bernales

Before walking down the aisle, friends and family helped Natalie secure her Vera Wang veil.

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Glitzy Details

champagne colored heels, diamond earrings, perfume, and other bridal accessories
Christina Bernales

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.

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Romantic Blooms

red and purple hued floral bouquet with greenery accents
Christina Bernales

Fleurs de Fée created Natalie's bouquet, which was a mix of roses, pink astilbe, purple scabieuse, deep burgundy dahlias, red amaranthe, and foliage that coincided with the wedding's romantic and whimsical theme.

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His Accessories

embroidered gucci loafers, bowtie, and watch
Christina Bernales

Elijah went bold when picking out his wedding accessories, which consisted of embroidered Gucci loafers, a dark blue bow-tie from The Black Tux, and a Longines watch.

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Masculine Florals

red and white floral boutonnieres with greenery accents
Christina Bernales

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.

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Jewel-Toned Dresses

bride surrounded by bridesmaids wearing red floor length gowns
Christina Bernales

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.

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Well-Dressed Guys

groom standing with groomsmen before wedding
Christina Bernales

Elijah and his groomsmen, his three closest friends, donned tuxes from The Black Tux and accessorized with pink ties and brown shoes.

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A Global Guest List

guests wearing vibrant cultural dressings
Christina Bernales

These attendants' vibrant ensembles beautifully represented the global guest list's diverse cultures.

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Floral Altar

circular floral alter outdoors in front of horse pasture
Christina Bernales

Elijah and Natalie's circular floral altar was placed in front of horse-filled pastures, which made for a fun, dynamic backdrop.

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First Look on the Aisle

natalie and elijah wedding ceremony
Christina Bernales

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."

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A Special Ceremony Reading

natalie elijah wedding ceremony couple at altar with child
Christina Bernales

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."

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Joyous Recessional

bride and groom with son during wedding recessional
Christina Bernales

With Elijah's son in hand, the couple walked up the aisle as newlyweds to "Happiest Man" by Winky D.

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Post-Ceremony Portraits

bride and groom hold each other during portrait photo
Christina Bernales

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.

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Chic Escort Cards

custom acyclic hexagon escort cards
Christina Bernales

Handmade by Natalie designed these simplistic, acyclic hexagon escort cards that directed guests to their assigned reception seating.

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Private Sweetheart Table

terrace wedding reception with sweetheart table and floral arch
Christina Bernales

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.

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Elegant Tablescape

white and gold place settings with navy blue linen accents and floral centerpieces
Christina Bernales

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.

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Surprise Dance Party

bride and groom with guests dancing during reception
Christina Bernales

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.

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First Dance Outfit

bride and groom during first dance
Christina Bernales

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.

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Pink-Foiled Cake

four tiered white frosted wedding cake with red and pink floral accents
Christina Bernales

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.

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Surprise Fireworks

fireworks display after wedding day
Christina Bernales

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!"

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bride and groom holding hands outside wedding venue
Christina Bernales

Photography, Christina Bernales
Location, Chateau de Varennes
Event planning, NKT Events
Catering, Nathan Muir
Flowers, Fleurs de Fée
Cake, Cakes in the City
Music, Prestige
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)

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