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Destination Weddings: J’adore l’amour

> Written by Jessica Latimer

On a day where people gather to celebrate a couple’s marriage, hosting a destination wedding in the country known for The City of Love seems an obvious choice. Located in Western Europe, France is most easily accessed via Air France from the United States and has something for everyone. Gorgeous coasts, majestic mountain ranges, vast countryside, river valleys, and the famous Champagne and Burgundy wine-making regions are just some of the attractions to explore.

Located in the Loire Valley, the Count and Countess of La Rochefoucauld-Bayers commissioned a Parisian architect to design Chateau de Challain. After her husband passed away, Ida de la Potherie was determined to finish the 120-room neogothic castle. Completed in 1854, it has been named the Jewel of Anjou with its limestone sculptures, gothic paneling and painted ceilings. Chateau de Challain now operates as a bed and breakfast and, thanks to planner Cynthia Nicholson, has built an enviable reputation for castle weddings. Small gatherings can be held in the chateau’s private chapel and larger celebrations can take place in the gardens, Memorial Tower or across the street in the village church. Receptions are catered by the house chef and the property can arrange for everything from fireworks to a live event painter.

On the Côte d’Azur lie resort towns Nice, Cannes and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The stomping grounds of artists Picasso, Renoir and Matisse, writers Edith Wharton and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and celebrities like the Beckhams, Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp, the luxurious French Riviera covers 560 miles of coastline and is known for its five-star hotels. Its largest city, Nice, boasts Hôtel Le Negresco and Palais de la Méditerranée.

Hôtel Le Negresco was built in 1913 and was revitalized in 1957 when Monsieur Mesnage and his daughter Jeanne Augier purchased the hotel and invested in an exceptional art collection—larger than many public museums—and restoration of the Salon Royal with its famed Gustave Eiffel stained-glass dome and one-ton Baccarat crystal chandelier. The carrousel-themed La Rotonde is a playful choice for rehearsal dinners.

Owned by Concorde Hotels and Resorts, Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice and Hôtel Martinez in Cannes, are two more of the areas five-star hotels. In 2004 a multi-million-dollar restoration made the Palais an area attraction. Located on the first floor of the hotel’s casino, Salon Azur is an ideal wedding venue with panoramic views of Promenade des Anglais and the Mediterranean Sea. Madisson is the largest facility outside of the casino and has an expansive terrace for those seeking an outdoor space.

Hôtel Martinez is located in the social heart of Cannes on Boulevard De La Croisette. When its doors opened in 1929 it was the largest hotel on the French Riviera. The hotel’s private beach, Zplage, and its pier (which has been known to welcome couples via luxury power boat and to be lined with red carpet) are the perfect location for nuptials. The Acajou I room is the most popular choice for receptions and can virtually double in size with the use of the neighboring Acajou II room.

Also in Cannes, is Hôtel Majestic Barrière. Located opposite the Palais des Festivals the hotel is a partner of the film festival and even has its own private screening room. Weddings at Majestic Barrière are usually held at its private beach with receptions to follow at Croisette and Dinard halls. The hotel’s head chef is notable for conjuring up decadent menus tailored to each couple.

In Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat lies Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat and Royal Riviera. Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat was built in 1908 and in 1909 its Rotunda was completed by the aforementioned Gustave Eiffel. Couples who choose to wed here can feel safe in the hands of the hotel’s Michelin-starred executive chef. Wedding locations include Salon Ferrat, which can accommodate 120 guests, while Salon des Collections boasts one of the world’s most impressive wine collections and is perfect for intimate elopements or rehearsal dinners. If ample space and privacy are on your must-haves, consider booking four-bedroom Villa Rose-Pierre (with a private terrace and pool) for a week or more during your stay.

Royal Riviera has had a colorful history, which began in 1904 and peaked when it was refurbished a century later. Weddings up to 150 can be held outside under the Pergola or in the combined space of Salon Méditerranée and Salon Azur, both of which have panoramic views of the private beach to one side and pool to the other. The Garden Deck is perfect for cocktail receptions.

Just outside of Paris is Trianon Palace Versailles. Located on a three-acre wooded park, the palace underwent a full-scale renovation and now has amenities like Spa Guerlain and Gordon Ramsay Au Trianon restaurant. Consider reserving the Chef’s Table for a unique rehearsal dinner experience. The hotel’s manicured gardens offer a stunning backdrop to your nuptials and receptions can be hosted in the Grand Ballroom or by privatizing La Veranda or Au Trianon restaurants. Whatever you decide, the hotel’s personal wedding planner will oversee every detail.

Located in the heart of France are the Mandarin Oriental Paris and Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris. Having only opened last summer, everything in this Mandarin Oriental hotel is brand new. Weddings by Mandarin Oriental can accommodate up to 60 and overlook the garden. Before you leave consider booking a mini-moon, experiencing fashionable rue Saint-Honoré.

Those that know the Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris know Jeff Leatham. Artistic Director of the hotel since 1999, couples can book the Gardenia Wedding Package securing the talents of Leatham who will set the stage for a romantic affair with his signature style [shown left]. All weddings also include the expertise of a Wedding Specialist who can assist with everything from menu design to arranging for pictures by the Grand Staircase.

An hour outside of Paris, Château de Baronville is a private estate with all the charm of a country setting. The Park features an abundance of trees, sprawling greens, ornamental lakes and Le Carrousel, which can accommodate more than 1,000 guests. Weddings usually consist of al fresco receptions or are set up under marquees. Because of the expansive grounds, couples can arrive via helicopter and cap the night with a fireworks display.



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