A Summer Wedding at a 14th-Century Seaside Castle in the South of France
An airport gate change brought Marine and Chao together—but not directly (flight pun intended). Marine was flying to Seoul from Shanghai when a man struck up a conversation about the flight's last-minute change; he ended up offering her a job on his marketing team in Los Angeles. She relocated to California in September 2016 and met her new employer's best friend: Chao. "We started as friends but quickly felt a spark," she says. When she moved back to France a year later to pursue a master's degree, the couple began a transatlantic relationship only slightly hampered by the time difference. "While distance was difficult, the many FaceTimes (at 6 a.m.) helped bring us closer together and realize, as cheesy at it sounds, that we didn't want to be apart anymore," she says.
In August 2018, Chao surprised Marine by proposing during a trip to her family's home in Greece. "Marine moved a lot as a child and the house in Greece had been a constant," says Chao, "so I thought it was the perfect place to get engaged." After a small civil ceremony in Santa Barbara, the pair began scouting locations for a 150-guest wedding on July 13, 2019, deciding on Château de la Napoule in the South of France. "We wanted our wedding to feel like family, but very fancy," says Marine. "We wanted the day to be special not just because we were getting married, but because people from all over the world, and from different moments in our lives, were going to come together. So the highest priority was for everyone to feel comfortable, to be well fed, and to have fun!"
A Castle by the Sea
The couple says choosing the 14th-century Château de la Napoule as a venue was easy: "Chao had always imagined his wedding to take place in a castle by the sea," says Marine. "We loved that it was a beautiful venue, with plenty of history and charm."
Their invitations from Silent Word Studio followed their digital save-the-date, sent months before the event. "With guests from all over the world, we wanted to send them the date as soon as possible to plan for travel," says Chao. A custom design reappeared on other paper products throughout the event's décor, while the slate blue printing previewed the rest of the color palette.
Simple and Chic
One of Marine's friends picked out her ivory wedding dress from Jenny Yoo for BHLDN. "And I'm glad she did, because I would probably have passed it over," says the bride. "I knew it was the one because it was very simple but still bridal, not too tight, elegant—it just felt like me and it made me feel confident."
She accessorized the understated high-stretch crepe gown with a veil from Davie and Chiyo ("I loved the pleated texture," she says. "To me it was simple, but added some flair to the outfit"), drop earrings from NevaBridal, and a gold and peal bracelet by ArsiArt, handmade in Greece as a nod to the couple's engagement.
Marine's bouquet from Sisters and Blush was designed with a "wild and organic" shape, and included roses, peonies, and sweet peas tied with ivory-and-beige silk ribbons. The bridesmaids carried similar, but slightly smaller bunches; the men's boutonnières included coordinating roses and lisianthus.
In the Pink (and Blue)
The bride gave her nine bridesmaids the freedom to choose their own gowns based on three criteria: "One: floor length; two: within the color palette; and three: makes you feel beautiful!" says Marine. "I wanted my bridesmaids to all feel comfortable standing up there with me."
Chao and his groomsmen wore classic black tuxedos and matching pink-and-blue socks he gave them as a gift. "I love wearing fun high socks with colorful patterns or illustrations," he says, "so when we were looking up gifts, socks were the obvious answer."
The outdoor ceremony site didn't require much dressing up, since the couple wanted to highlight the natural majesty of the venue. They blocked the view of the reception area by filling a stone archway at the end of the aisle with a wall of greenery, used shoulder-high floral arrangements to define the altar area, and chose acrylic chairs to create a bright, open feeling in the space.
Marine asked both her maternal grandfather and her father to escort her down the aisle to Wagner's "Here Comes the Bride." "My grandparents helped raise me from the age of 14. I wanted my grandfather to be part of it, with my grandmother no longer being with us and my mom being too sick to attend," says Marine. "My father and I are very reserved with our feelings and I saw less of him growing up, so I wanted to show him how much he matters."
Since Marine and Chao had chosen not to see each other before the service, the bride's entrance also served as their first look.
Saying "I Do"
The couple's non-religious ceremony included readings in French and Chinese, and vows in multiple languages so all guests could understand. "For the vows, Chao and I are not comfortable being the center of attention and being vulnerable or sentimental in front of others, and we worried we'd forget them," says Marine. She recited her vows in French and Chao recited his in English, "so we said the same things in each other's languages."
On the Waterfront
After the ceremony, Marine and Chao snuck away from the party for their portrait session by the sea.
Back in the Garden
Back inland, celebrants enjoyed the venue's protected gardens, where guests were able to wander and explore the space, during the "short and sweet" cocktail hour.
Something to Sip On
Guests sipped on the couple's favorite cocktails—a French 75 (Marine's pick) and a vodka transfusion (the go-to drink for Chao and his friends at their hometown golf club).
On the seating chart, strategically shaped greenery nodded to the custom crest detailed on the invitation suite.
In the château's courtyard, long and round wooden tables dressed in gray or blue linens were paired with wooden cane and oval chairs. Stylists from White Eden Weddings used soft textures, neutral colors, and natural materials to soften the stone and sharp angles of the castle.
Sweet and Low
White flowers, chosen for their "timeless and classy" look, ran the length of the tables; the pretty arrangements were bundled into low glass vases.
At each place setting, a gold-rimmed charger and gold-and-white flatware added a dose of glimmer to linens, candles, and water glasses in coordinating deep blue shades. Tasseled place cards, elegant table numbers cards, and printed menus were designed with the same iconography seen on the couple's stationery.
The New Mr. and Mrs.
After making their reception debut, the newlyweds shared their first dance. Choosing a song for this moment took a little work, they say. "We both have very varied musical tastes and we were making multiple playlists with songs that resonated with us, but couldn't make up our minds," says Marine—until they came across "Can't Help Falling in Love." "We both already liked the song, but also felt it was a timeless classic that would fit the venue, ambiance, and international crowd very well—and also because we couldn't help but fall in love with each other!" shares Marine.
The couple opened the floor to speeches before and during dinner, giving Chao's father, friend Dan, and best man a chance to offer a toast alongside Marine's grandfather, stepmother, and bridesmaids. "My stepmother and Dan were both last minute, spontaneous speeches," says Marine, "and they were touching and hilarious. I wouldn't recommend a fully open-mic wedding but letting little bits of improvised love happen made our night that much better."
Time to Eat
Both Marine and Chao considered their menu a critical part of the wedding-planning process. "We bonded over our love for food from all over the world, and we love cooking together," says Marine. "We originally wanted the menu to reflect our different cultures, but we used French caterers and as such, were advised that the food would be better if we stuck to French cuisine." The final menu included a starter of tomatoes with goat cheese and prosciutto and an entrée of duck breast filet with fresh peaches and polenta from Pavillon Traiteur.
After dinner, guests satisfied their sweet tooth with a four-tier red velvet wedding cake—Chao's favorite flavor—from Made in Cake. The couple cut the gold-and-blue iced confection while DNCE's "Cake by the Ocean" played in the background: "Seemed perfect for the occasion!" says Marine.
Their Favorite Memory
For both the bride and groom, the hard work of preparing for an overseas wedding paid off when they saw their loved ones. "I got to greet all the guests at the front gate," says Chao. "It was very special to see our friends and family from all walks of life in one place to support us and celebrate—and to know that would likely not happen again anytime soon."
For Marine, a similar moment came later on the dance floor: "As I looked around, I saw our friends and family mingling, no groups, no language barrier, all having fun together. That moment of appreciation for all the love around us made me realize how truly lucky we are, not just to have found each other, but to be surrounded by such happy, open, and loving people."
Photography, Lauren Fair Photography
Venue, Château de la Napoule
Event planning, White Eden Weddings
Catering, Pavillon Traiteur
Flowers, Sisters and Blush Floral Design
Officiant, Rev. Sherry-Lynn of Peter Madan Weddings
Stationery, Silent Word Studio
Cake, Made in Cake
Music, G-Star Events (reception); Incanto (ceremony)
Rentals, Deco-Flamme; Maison Options
Bride's gown, Jenny Yoo for BHLDN
Bride's accessories, Davie and Chuyo (veil); NevaBridal (earrings); ArsiArt (bracelet); Sam Edelman (shoes)
Hair and makeup, Belle Comme Un Camion
Groom's suit, Armani
Groom's accessories, TieBar (tie); SilverSmithHK (cuff links)
Lighting, D&X Events
Transportation, AJM Touring