A 400-Year-Old Château in the Loire Valley Inspired This "Once-in-a-Lifetime" Wedding

bride and groom toast outside
Molly Carr

Three years after their first meeting, Ryan treated Natalie to a birthday trip to Santorini, where he proposed in June 2018 "during a private dinner on the panorama balcony at Canaves Oia." But though the question was a surprise for Natalie, it wasn't a last-minute decision for Ryan: "This was planned an entire year in advance, as the restaurant was booking eight months in advance at the time," says the couple.

Natalie and Ryan originally planned their wedding for August 2020, and then rescheduled based on Canada's COVID-19 restrictions, waiting for reassurance that they would be able to re-enter the country after their destination wedding in France. Finally they confirmed plans for a three-day wedding for 40 guests at Château de Jalesnes in Vernantes, France. "The Château required the 'Pass Sanitaire,' as did mostly everywhere in France, so guests had to be either fully vaccinated or test negative every 72 hours in order to attend," says the couple. "Luckily we had zero cases associated with the wedding and everyone was able to continue on their travels afterwards."

With help from Jennifer Fox Weddings, Natalie and Ryan created a dramatic and opulent garden-themed affair with a palette of blush and ivory accented by gray, gold, and onyx. "We changed our design concept after we rescheduled our original date; we started out with a design that was more in line with the vintage French country direction and then updated to French garden style with more contemporary design accents and touches," says the couple.

More than three years after their engagement, the couple finally said "I do." And though they found accommodating the changing safety guidelines stressful, they were thrilled with the end result. "The one piece of advice I would give would be enjoy each and every aspect—the planning, travel, day of, and day after," says Natalie. "This is usually the first thing you create as a couple and it is a beautiful example of your love together coming alive for the most memorable event of your life. There was such genuine emotion and sincerity from having all our closest friends and family together that everything else could have fallen apart and it still would have been the most beautiful day of our life."

01 of 21

Speaking Their Language

wedding venue chateau exterior
Molly Carr

Natalie and Ryan dreamed of "a grand destination wedding," they say: "We wanted to have something that would be a once-in-a-lifetime moment for both ourselves and our guests." They toured multiple locations before choosing Château de Jalesnes in France's Loire Valley. "We were looking for something that was awe-inspiring to look at, with all the comforts of a modern luxury hotel," says the couple. "We needed somewhere where our guests could stay on-site, and each room had a charming design with modern amenities. We loved how truly grand the château was."

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Suite Spot

wedding invitation suite with hand-drawn illustrations
Molly Carr

Neutral tones of ivory, onyx, and gray anchored the couple's invitation suite from Pirouette Paper, while a monogrammed crest and custom sketch of the château added personalized accents. "We chose to mix romantic, intimate, and delicate design with touches of modernity," says Natalie.

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Queen for a Day

bride getting ready with mother
Molly Carr

Natalie's Reem Acra wedding dress set the tone for the rest of the couple's wedding-day aesthetic—including the venue. "As soon as I looked in the mirror, I was transported to France and just knew that this dress had to be 'it,' she says. "I purchased the dress before I had even picked a venue, and I always joked that the venue had to match the dress. Not to be cliché, but once I put the dress on, I felt like royalty."

04 of 21

In Spirit

wedding bouquet with blue ribbon
Molly Carr

Flawless blooms—including garden roses, sweet peas, campanulas, dianthus, and lisianthus—in shades of blush and ivory were tied with a trailing silk ribbon for Natalie's bouquet. "I also walked down the aisle with a locket attached to my bouquet that my maternal grandfather gifted my grandmother over 50 years ago. It was filled with pictures of my late father and his parents, who were unfortunately unable to make the wedding due to health concerns," says Natalie. "It was a nod to having them walk me down the aisle."

  • From Start to Finish: Here's How a Wedding Bouquet Is Made
05 of 21

Perfectly Polished

bride's hair in twist bun with flowers
Molly Carr

Natalie's low twist, from hair and makeup artist Trine Juel, was accented with a delicate spray of baby's breath. "The night before the wedding, Ryan gifted me a pair of pear-shaped diamond earrings that matched my new wedding band and solitaire pear engagement ring," says Natalie. The bride's mother and sister also gave her Stuart Weitzman sandals to wear with her gown. When her family saw her dressed for the ceremony, Natalie says, there were "tears, lots of tears."

06 of 21

Men in Black

groom getting ready with groomsman
Molly Carr

Ryan donned a Tom Ford tuxedo, cummerbund, and bow tie, with his brothers, the co-best men, in custom Suit Supply suits and Hugo Boss dress shirts and ties. "Their outfits were chosen to be classic and timeless and to compliment Ryan's tuxedo," says Natalie.

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Fancy Footwork

grooms accessories and Christian Louboutin shoes
Molly Carr

Ryan wore Christian Louboutin shoes and gave his brothers each a pair when he asked them to join the bridal party. "They had to wait just over two years to finally wear them," says Natalie. The groom also wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date watch—a gift from his father for the wedding day.

08 of 21

In Black and White

bride with attendant in black dress
Molly Carr

Natalie's maid of honor wore a strapless black gown from House of CB, and carried a smaller version of her bouquet. "We wanted everyone in the wedding party to be in black and white so that the photos would remain timeless and nothing would clash with the décor," says the bride.

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Garden Style

outdoor wedding ceremony set up with chairs and flowers
Molly Carr

The drama of the château provided "an elegant and timeless background" for the couple's ceremony, where white chairs and fresh flowers enhanced the classic architecture. "For the entrance to the aisle, two beds of flowers were placed at the bottom of the aisle as if the flowers were growing up from the ground to create a natural garden style," says the couple.

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Height of Beauty

pink and neutrals wedding flowers
Molly Carr

Oversized arrangements of blush-and-ivory blooms and vibrant, trailing foliage framed the couple during their vows. Designers from Florésie incorporated the château's railing and stairs into the design, and added pedestals to vary the height of each vessel.

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Music Notes

wedding ceremony harpist
Molly Carr

Harpist Lauren Woidela provided music for the ceremony—including a version of "At Last" by Etta James while Natalie's mother escorted her down the aisle. "We even showed the harp a bit of floral love by adorning vines to the front," says Natalie.

  • What Kind of Music Should You Play During Your Ceremony?
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A Special Moment

flower grandma walking down the aisle
Molly Carr

Ryan's brother escorted the flower girl—Natalie's grandmother—down the aisle during the processional, as she "lovingly tossed white rose petals to announce the entrance of her granddaughter."

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Words of Love

Bride and groom exchanging vows
Molly Carr

The couple asked Ryan's father, Brendan, to officiate their ceremony, while they exchanged vows they wrote to each other. Ryan wrote of how he had met his match and how lucky he was to be spending the rest of his life with Natalie; he ended his vows with, "I will always love you bigger." "It was a competition who would say this first!" explains the couple.

14 of 21

Sunshine Day

bride and groom ceremony kiss
Molly Carr

After a week of forecasted rain for their wedding day, Natalie and Ryan decided to risk it and hold their ceremony outdoors. "About 10 minutes before I was supposed to go out, my mom felt a couple drops of rain, but we moved forward anyway," says Natalie. After exchanging vows, the newlyweds left the altar as the harpist played "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles. "I swear the sun came out during this song—it was like a movie," says Natalie. "It truly was a magical moment!"

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French Toast

champagne glass tower
Molly Carr

After the ceremony, the couple poured a Champagne tower—set up on a vintage glass-and-gold bar car—from a very special bottle. "For my first birthday that we spent together, Ryan bought me a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon," says Natalie. "He wanted to open it, but I told him that we should wait until our wedding day. Five years and over 7,000 kilometers later we were able to open the bottle for our first Champagne toast as a married couple!"

16 of 21

Highs and Lows

elegant dinner reception with cream and gold accents
Molly Carr

After their outdoor ceremony, Natalie and Ryan hosted their reception in the venue's on-site chapel. "We loved the tall stained-glass windows and the idea of utilizing this stunning space since we had our ceremony in the garden," says the couple. "For our guest tables, shorter floral arrangements sat in low gold vases that ran along the center of each table. Tall floral arrangements on pedestals were dotted around the perimeter of the chapel."

17 of 21

Such Great Heights

indoor wedding reception with long banquet tables and floral arrangements
Molly Carr

At the head table, floral arrangements on soaring gold pedestals were alternated with lower arrangements. "We wanted to be sure we stood out!" says Natalie.

18 of 21

Mixed Materials

dinner reception with black and white candles and elegant floral displays
Molly Carr

An elegant, smoky palette of onyx, ivory, gray, and gold elevated the understated table settings. "Custom-made onyx candleholders holding ivory-and-taupe tapers and etched cut-glass candle votives sat alongside gold rimmed plates, contemporary white-and-gold cutlery, and onyx water glasses. Guest menus were tied with a gray silk ribbon," says the couple.

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Good Eats

wedding reception croquembouche with sparklers
Molly Carr

A dinner menu from Le Val d'Evre included courses of crispy crab ravioli with artichokes and beef filet, both paired with Loire Valley wines; a cheese course; and three individual desserts. Sparklers then lit up the couple's traditional croquembouche. "As a late-night snack, we served mini burgers and fries!" says Natalie.

20 of 21


bride and groom watch wedding reception fireworks
Molly Carr

Natalie and Ryan treated their guests to a glowing firework display over the venue's gardens. "The fireworks were surprisingly wonderful!" says the couple. "They seemed to go on and on, and were such a great piece of entertainment for our friends and family."

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bride and groom walking venue grounds
Molly Carr

Photography, Molly Carr
Venue, Château de Jalesnes
Event planning, Jennifer Fox Weddings
Catering, Le Val d'Evre
Flowers, Florésie
Videography, Matthias Guerin Films
Stationery, Pirouette Paper
Music, Anthony V; Lauren Woidela (harpist)
Rentals, Options
Bride's gown, Reem Acra
Bride's accessories, White Toronto veil; Stuart Weitzman shoes
Hair and makeup, Trine Juel
Bridesmaids' dresses, House of CB
Groom's attire, Tom Ford
Menswear, Suit Supply suits; Hugo Boss shirt and tie
Groom's accessories, Christian Louboutin shoes; Rolex watch
Rings, Corona Jewelry Company

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