This Couple Exchanged Vows in Provence, France, Surrounded by Lavender and Olive Trees
Samantha and Grayson first crossed paths on an app in 2013, when the concept of online dating was "relatively new, and [neither of us knew] what to expect," says Samantha. After messaging for a couple of weeks, the couple met over wings and beer—and have been together ever since.
After four years of dating, Grayson decided to propose during a trip to visit family in Wilmington, North Carolina, for Thanksgiving. While on a walk through the holiday display of a local garden with some friends, Samantha was surprised by Grayson, who emerged from behind one of the oldest trees on the property and popped the question. Unbeknownst to Samantha, Grayson had also planned an additional surprise—after an overjoyed Samantha agreed to be his wife, he swept the future bride away to a local French restaurant, where the couple was greeted by family and friends who had flown in from across the country to celebrate the newly-engaged duo.
Samantha says this celebratory dinner at a French restaurant was "the perfect kick-off to [their] French wedding." Samantha and Grayson were married on June 19, 2019, over a year-and-a-half after their holiday engagement. The intimate, family-only ceremony, with just five guests in attendance, took place in the Provence region of France. A private ceremony (which unfolded after the couple's one-on-one vow exchange) at the Domaine Clos Saint Estève in Le Thor was followed by a candlelit, Old-World-inspired dinner at sunset, catered by private chef Gerald Koening of Isle Blue; the meal, says the couple, was one of the very best of their lives.
When deciding where to hold their special day, it was important to Samantha and Grayson that they select a venue with plenty of natural beauty—and the Domaine Clos Saint Estève provided everything the couple was looking for. "We knew we didn't need to add much to make it our dream spot," Samantha says.
The pastoral 17-acre property in Le Thor, Provence, boasted olive trees, expansive fields of lavender, and carefully maintained gardens. The recently-restored stone home on the property was the perfect size the couple and their five guests, who stayed there throughout the duration of their trip; they were wed on their last night in France.
A Mother's Touch
Samantha cites getting ready with her mother as one of her favorite parts of the day. The bride's hair and makeup were both done by Sanni Sorma, but her mother was present to help her with her wedding dress, veil, and any last-minute details. "Spending time with my best friend was the perfect way to calm my nerves as I prepared to walk downstairs," says Samantha.
A pair of aquamarine drop earrings crafted by Beth Zink, an artisan based in North Carolina served as Samantha's something blue. The earrings were gifted to the bride by her mother, and were meant to serve as a touch of home while away in France. "They'll be pieces I treasure forever and hope to pass down to generations to come," says the bride.
The bride's shoes, a pair of strappy nude Stuart Weitzman heels, aligned perfectly with the classic French venue—and completed her ensemble.
A Different Dress Approach
Samantha approached wedding dress shopping with a very clear vision of what she wanted in a bridal gown; however, the dress she landed on was completely different than the styles she initially sought out. Her mother encouraged her to try on this strapless, classic A-line Stella York creation at Coastal Knot in North Carolina, and Samantha says that, after putting it on, she "immediately felt like a bride." While she tried on a number of different ensembles, Samantha says this gown was the only one "that brought tears to everyone's eyes, so [she] knew it was the right choice." As a tribute to her Parisian garden location, she selected a delicate lace veil, also found at Coastal Knot, to complement the gown.
It was incredibly important to the couple that the natural beauty of the surrounding locale be highlighted in their décor selection, and the bridal bouquet was a realization of this vision. Billy of Luxe Paris Events, who served as wedding planner, designer, florist, and officiant (an all-in-one vendor!) picked the arrangement right out of the surrounding garden. Sprigs of lavender, white-and-pink floral elements, rosemary, and other green foliage were loosely arranged and tied with gold and white ribbon.
A Custom Fit
Using the Made to Measure service, Grayson donned a custom made Brooks Brothers tuxedo for the big day.
The groom's accessories included a black bow tie, dress shoes, a white pocket square, and black cuff links rimmed with gold. However, his favorite element of his attire was a vintage 1960 Gruen 510 watch, which he purchased specifically for the wedding.
Samantha and Grayson's ceremony took place directly outside the Domaine Clos Saint Estève residence. For the service, vintage, mismatched chairs from the property were arranged along the lavender lined pathway leading up to the stone structure. The garden served as the backdrop, highlighting the natural beauty of the space. While there was a heat wave just a few days after their nuptials, their special day saw perfect weather; the lavender fields had bloomed two weeks early and provided the perfect setting for their event.
Here Comes the Bride
For the processional, the bride walked down the aisle to a pre-recorded string quartet rendition of "All I Ask of You" from The Phantom of the Opera. The couple opted out of having a first look, so the processional marked the first time Grayson saw his bride.
Samantha and Grayson's spiritual ceremony, not tied to any particular religion, was officiated by Billy of Luxe Paris Events. The couple decided to exchange their written vows in private, with only their videographer, Zen Film Works, present.
Following the service, the newlyweds and their families paused for a toast.
From Proposal to Reception
The couple and their guests then gathered at the dinner table, which was placed in the courtyard under the oldest tree on the property (a nod to Grayson's proposal). While the table was decorated and lit with candles of varying heights, the space surrounding the table was minimal (the couple "didn't want anything to distract or take away from the incredible natural views and Old-World feel of the 18th century home we had as our wedding backdrop," says Samantha).
Aligning with the locally-sourced, Old-World vibe of the wedding, the tablescape was comprised of a conglomeration of vintage pieces selected from both the venue and the wedding planner's personal collection. Samantha says she and Grayson loved how the mismatched flatware and varying crystal plates and vases "made things feel more casual and unplanned." White table runners, dusty blue cloth napkins, and wrought iron candelabras added to the vintage aesthetic. Like the bride's bouquet, the florals and greenery were plucked directly from the gardens, and featured lavender, rosemary, and garden roses.
While newlyweds often mourn the fact that they're too busy during the whirlwind of a reception to enjoy their menu, Samantha says she and Grayson are "thankful [their] wedding gave [them] one of [their] best meals surrounded by the people who matter most." Soft jazz played in the background as the couple and their guests enjoyed a multi-course meal comprised of locally-sourced ingredients from the Provence. The dinner included a selection of seasonal vegetables, foie gras, and skewered beef gardianne, all prepared by private chef Gerald Koening of Isle Blue. All courses were expertly paired with regional wines. "Our dinner was truly one of the best meals we've had to date," says Samantha.
A Perfect Sunset to End a Perfect Day
The couple wanted their wedding to center around a true celebration of their love, away from the pressures of social media. Their intimate, family-only wedding provided the ideal opportunity for a celebration of their relationship—in the middle of idyllic French garden, to boot. As the sun set on their reception dinner, Samantha knew she and Grayson had made the right choice. "It was the perfect way to end a day built around celebrating love. Our wedding was small, stress-free, and full of laughter and love, and we couldn't have asked for anything more."
The wedding cake was a classic two-tier creation by Made in Cake. The vanilla genoise sponge confection was complemented by salted caramel buttercream filling. Sprigs of greenery rested on the bottom layer, serving as a simple and natural decoration.
Photography, Claire Morris Photography
Venue, Domaine Clos Saint Estève
Event Planning, Design, Coordinator, Florals, and Officiant, Billy of Luxe Paris Events
Videography, Zen Film Works
Bride's gown, Stella York, Coastal Knot
Veil, Coastal Knot
Bride's earrings, Beth Zink of Ziabird
Bride's shoes, Stuart Weitzman
Hair and Makeup, Sanni Sorma
Groom's attire, Brooks Brothers
Catering, Gerald Koening of Isle Blue
Cake, Made In Cake