A Family-Oriented Wedding at a French Chateau—Complete with a Firework Finale
Monica met Harvey when she was working in the film publicity department for Walt Disney Motion Pictures back in March 2010. She was planning a screening and reception event for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, and Harvey was running a screening room at The Crosby Street Hotel in New York, so he was in charge of the technical aspects of the event. The two ended up working a few more events together that year and realized there was a spark; they began dating three years later.
On the fifth anniversary of their first date, the couple was on their way to dinner in New York City when Monica saw a beautiful diamond ring in a shop window that had just closed for the evening. The store owners saw the couple looking at the jewelry and decided to open the store for them. "The ring was perfect and we got engaged on the spot!" Monica says. The couple quickly decided to invite 35 guests to Chateau Bouthonvilliers in Dangeau, France, for a week of events including a wine tasting, cooking class, and an outdoor screening of The Princess Bride before the wedding.
With Monica's half of the guest list traveling from the United States and Harvey's loved ones mostly coming from the United Kingdom, the couple wanted to invite everyone to a convenient location near Paris, with accommodations on-site. And since Monica is an event planner, she managed the entire event herself, bringing it together over the course of their two-year engagement—though she admits that planning from afar was a challenge. "The French work on a much different planning timeline than we do in the States, so when I was trying to book certain things two years out it was difficult," she says. "I also don't speak much French so Google translate quickly became my best friend when working through contracts and specifics." No language barrier or stressful planning timeline, however, put a damper on their celebration: Monica and Harvey hosted a joyful chapel ceremony followed by a family-oriented reception in front of the chateau.
Join Us in France
Monica and Harvey used custom raw silk folios to share all the details about their week-long wedding celebration in France. The navy-colored booklets were finished with vintage silk ribbons and a custom wax seal with the couple's crest. The navy envelopes were lined with a print of Paris, giving guests a glimpse of their travels ahead.
The bride wanted to keep her wedding-dress shopping experience low key, so she tried on dresses during a lunch hour at work. She chose a V-neck Marchesa gown with crystal embellishments. "I didn't want a white dress, but still wanted to feel like a bride and wanted something a little more ethereal," Monica says. "When I saw the color and vintage details on this dress I was sold." She also wore a marcasite watch—a gift from her mother-in-law—and she carried a hand-embroidered handkerchief that once belonged to her great-grandmother.
Harvey wore a classic single-breasted tuxedo with a cummerbund and bow tie from J. Crew. He paired his ensemble with navy velvet loafers and a vintage Cartier watch from Monica.
On the morning of the wedding, Monica and her two sons, Kieran and Cameron, presented Harvey with custom socks printed with their faces. "In case Harvey got cold feet," she explains.
The Family Affair
In lieu of a traditional wedding party, Monica and Harvey decided to give day-of duties to the children in attendance. Monica's sons wore J. Crew pants and vests, matching her nephews who served as ring bearers. "Our nephews were so worried about losing the rings that we found special hollowed-out French books for them to be carried in," Monica explains. "When it was time to give us the rings, they ended up confused about who had which ring and had a hard time moving past it, afraid that they messed it up. It was really cute and funny how worried they were!"
The First Look—Sort Of
Monica and Harvey shared a first look outside of Chateau Bouthonvilliers. When Harvey turned around in anticipation, he was surprised to find Monica's sons wearing felt woodland animal masks instead of his bride! Once the couple officially got their first glimpses of each other, they took some photos around the property and felt excited for the ceremony to start.
Going to the Chapel
The couple's ceremony took place in the chapel on the property, and since the space was small, they decided to place the chairs in a curve. The result was an extra intimate service, during which Monica and Harvey were surrounded by their closest loved ones. They decided to keep the décor minimal and let the beauty of the historic church shine.
Monica was escorted down the aisle by her sons—one on each arm.
Let's Get Married
One of the bride's best friends officiated the ceremony, ensuring it was personal to the couple. "It was perfect—there were tears, laughter, and really thoughtful, special moments," Monica reflects. The couple exchanged personal vows, Harvey speaking on the fly and Monica referring to some notes she wrote down that morning.
Toss the Petals
As Parisian swing trio Jazz Around Midnight (a band featured in the movie Midnight in Paris) played The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," guests threw flowers in the air while the newlyweds made their way down a pathway—which was covered in 1,000 cups of petals flown in from the United States. The couple decorated the columns of the chapel with a eucalyptus and rose garland.
The Cocktail Hour
The jazz continued during the cocktail hour, while attendees enjoyed Champagne, lavender lemonade, and fruit infused water. Passed appetizers included French favorites like croque madame sandwiches along with American bites like mini hamburgers and charcuterie stations.
Monica and Harvey created an area for guests to grab ballet flats, pashminas, fans, and other comfort items during the cocktail hour and reception. A blue sign emblazoned with their custom crest read, "Kick off your heels and get cozy."
A Place to Rest
Lounge areas were set up throughout the outdoor space; rugs and couches creating small areas for guests to mingle. The couple placed whisky and cigars on a mobile bar cart, as well, for easy access.
Find Your Seat
Celebrants found their seating assignments on a large sign that featured the couple's logo. Each escort card was finished with the custom wax seal that held the invitation suite together.
Monica initially thought she'd wear a champagne-hued, beaded Badgley Mischka gown with silk flower appliqués to the ceremony. Ultimately, however, she says that it didn't fit with their "French country elegance" theme—so, she simply decided to change into it later in the evening.
We Are Family
Harvey and Monica wanted to embrace the family atmosphere of their big day, so they set up just three long country-style tables, which overlooked the chateau's grounds. Wreaths were hung on the second-story banisters and a garland was placed atop the doors; personalized banners added a custom touch.
Each table was covered with a blue gauze runner, vintage candle holders, and lush garden arrangements in gold urns.
Place settings featured antique amethyst wine goblets, plates with a blue floral pattern along the rim, and napkins that matched the runners. As for the place cards? Monica and Harvey etched each guest's name on a harmonica as a nod to the couple's wedding hashtag, #HarMonicaWeds.
The duo set up a kids table and made sure the little ones had plenty to do—they stocked the station with light wands, glow sticks, and hacky stacks, and even arranged a scavenger hunt.
Monica and Harvey had hoped the activities they set up for the kids would keep them entertained. "But after trying unsuccessfully to keep them in their seats, we let them have the bikes which they rode all around the grounds through the reception—they had a blast," she says. "Letting go made it a lot more fun for everyone."
With the kids happy and cared for, Harvey and Monica were able to stay fully present during dinner.
The Guest Bottle
Monica and Harvey asked everyone to sign a "guest bottle" of Champagne as a keepsake; they'll pop the bubbly on a future anniversary.
A Song with Meaning
Harvey and Monica shared their first dance to "First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes. "During the first several years of our relationship, we lived about two hours apart, so it was lots of time in the car and lots of chats along the way," says Monica. "This song always used to pop on randomly and it always makes us think back to where we started and how lucky we are to be where we are now."
A Sweet Spread
The newlyweds decided against a wedding cake and set up a dessert spread of macarons, chocolate mousse, and French croquembouche, instead. The table was dressed with lanterns, crates, and pillar candles for a French countryside touch.
The Firework Finale
At the end of the evening, guests enjoyed a spectacular firework show. Monica admits that working with the firework vendor was difficult due to the language barrier, and she wasn't entirely sure they'd show up on the big day. "Not only did they show up, but they put on the most dazzling display that we have ever seen," Monica says. "We thought we were getting a quick five minute show and it went on over 20 minutes and ended in our initials lit up in a heart. It was insane!"
Photography, Claire Morris Photography
Videography, Colin Peacock Photography
Venue, Chateau Bouthonvilliers
Event Planning and Design, Rock Paper Sugar Events
Flowers, La Boutique des Saint Peres
Stationery, Minted; Basic Invite; Rock Paper Sugar Events
Silk Invitation Folios, Dennis Wisser
Calligraphy, Monica Welsh of Willow Wynn Studio
Bride's Gown and Jewelry, Marchesa
Hair and Makeup, Sanni Sorma
Menswear, J. Crew
Music, Jazz Around Midnight; Vintage Vinyl Events
Catering, Maison Francart
Rentals, Options; Vaisselle Vintage