What an amazing day and an amazing couple in an amazing venue. This is a story that encompasses a French farm house, Napoleon’s mistress, a classic car, white doves, an artistic burlesque gymnast, a run-down chateau, some serendipitous Facebook friendsips, and an incredible amount of love.
But how does a half-Scottish Englishman end up shooting the wedding of an American photographer and a Belgian filmmaker in rural France?
This story starts in the medieval city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France that stretches from Provence to the Pyrenees.
It is a lovely area of pretty provincial French villages, picturesque cobbled streets, orchards and vineyards, and of course the famous tree-lined shady tranquility of the much-celebrated Canal du Midi
Here, it was that Napoleon drained an area of mosquito infested swampland to build a house for his mistress Maria Countess Walewska, that would become the main geographical focus of our story La Thibaude Domaine Saint-Jean
Fast forward to the present day and Alice, photographer and academic, who had grown up in the area, but who now lives in Salt Lake City Utah, and Fred, a talented professional filmmaker who lives in Belgium, both decided that it was time to seal the deal on their two-year long-distance love affair with a kiss and a ring.
Alice, Fred and I had become firm friends on Facebook through our shared love of photography, and as you can see, Alice’s collection of vintage cameras played their supporting role in the day with truly aesthetic aplomb. Not sure what that means but sounds fancy, right?
Unlike many weddings, where everything is timed with barely minutes to spare, Alice and Fred were super-keen to build in lots of time for photography. So it was that we could factor in not only a perfect first look, but also some pre-ceremony portraiture. And this was where things started to get really interesting.
“I don’t know if this would be of interest to you”, said the venue owner, with a wonderful mix of modesty and generosity, “but we have just bought a run-down chateau a couple of miles away, if you might like to take some photos there”.
Just let that sink in for a minute: two photographers and a filmmaker, on a wedding shoot, with time to spare. Run-down chateau. Photos. If that would be of interest. Me, I nearly exploded. And when we got there, my eyeballs did that cartoon thing when I saw just how beautiful and rambling the place was. When I die, I want to come back as someone who gets to do this ALL THE TIME. What a location! Complete with ramshackle barns and wine cellar!
Finally we dragged ourselves away from the photography. Damn, we have to go and do this marriage thing. And so it was on to the Mairie de Malves en Minervois, the local town hall, for Alice and Fred’s offical legal wedding ceremony. Alice took a classic Citroen Traction Avant, possibly the prettiest car known to humankind, lovingly restored by the courteous young driver himself. While we all had fears of overheating in the 36 degrees summer sunshine, those concerns were more for the over-enthusiastic photographer than the car, which performed admirably.
And then it was back to the house of Napoleon’s mistress (I probably shouldnt keep mentioning that) For the real ceremony. That’s right, one ceremony just wasnt enough for these two, who had the most lovely rustic outdoor ceremony arranged, beneath a tasteful flower arch, in the french sunshine, in the french countryside. Romantic doesnt even begin to describe it.
Now we had already done a whole bunch of portraiture, but alongside our shared love of photography, there was another reason to go out and do some more portraiture. I mean honestly, orchards and vineyards and crumbling french farmhouses in the warm, low summer sunlight is reason enough, but Fred had a big surprise in store for Alice, so a distraction was important.
Because while we were busy getting all romantic and stylish out in the fields, back at the farmhouse - you know the one with Napoleon’s…. (stop it with the Napoleon’s mistress stuff now Adam for God’s sake) - back at La Thibaude - Fred and Alice’s friends had been busy setting up the rig for Alice’s good friend Mandi to do her thing - a hypnotic and truly beautiful gymnastic burlesque performance. The photos are nice, but really, the grace of movement, the music, the sheer artistry of it. You had to be there.
And after this beautiful lady had caught the bouquet it was on with a fantastic summer night’s party of eating, dancing, doves and champagne. An incredible day, and an incredible couple, with fantastic friends and family in an lovely rural setting in the French countryside. Without doubt, an affair to remember. Fred and Alice, from the bottom of my heart, congratulations and a bientot xx