Chateau de Bangols, which has medieval towers, French formal garden and Roman pool, overooks the scenic Beaujolais valley.
When it comes to wedding planning, the old adage holds true: Location, location, location. Venues across the pond hold the added allure of European romance and sophistication. For couples looking to live the fairy tale, these stunning spots are guaranteed to keep guests talking for years.
Hands down one of the most extraordinary castle-hotels in Europe is the Château de Bagnols, a 13th-century heritage-listed monument that’s just two and half hours from Paris by TGV. The setting alone—overlooking the rolling vineyards of the Beaujolais valley—will leave you with stars in your eyes. Built from gold sandstone, this enchanted chateau has it all: medieval towers, moat, French formal garden, Roman pool, and France’s largest gothic fireplace. Did we mention the helicopter that can ferry guests to sister property, Les Suites de la Potinière, in glam Courchevel? Needless to say, the Château de Bagnols is the perfect place to host a throwback affair, where the bride and groom don period costumes and party like royalty. (One such bride arrived at the chateau with a wedding dress weighing 30 pounds.) Have your pick of a few different party spots, like the outdoor terrace shaded by lime trees, or the winery with a beamed ceiling and open-log fireplace. Contact Clémentine Bréal ([email protected]debagnols.fr; 011-33-0-474-71-4000) to arrange your event. The sky’s the limit when it comes to personalizing your party. Literally. A previous client offered hot-air balloon rides to guests; another threw a giant pool party with fireworks. Most wedding parties privatize the chateau (hence you can revel with your guests into the wee hours). There are 12 rooms and eight suites accented with original painted panels and period antiques. The price for exclusive use is $38,000 per night, with a two-night minimum from May to September; or $61,000 for a two-night stay in low season. Under new ownership, Château de Bagnols unveiled a refreshment last year, then promptly scored a fifth star. The restaurant—situated in the magnificent Guard Room—has long been considered one of the best in the region, and new Head Chef Jean Alexandre Ouaratta has worked under some of France’s top talent (Chefs Paul Bocuse and Yannick Alléno). On November 23, the hotel will close for a four-month renovation that will add a spa, cover the main courtyard with a glass roof, and add seven more guest rooms.
If you have your sights set on Paris—the City of Light sets the stage for many a marriage proposal, not to mention weddings—the Shangri-La Hotel, Paris is a noble choice for fêtes. It was the former Shangri-La CEO, Giovanni Angelini, who personally scouted the real estate for the brand’s first hotel in Europe. Facing the Eiffel Tower across the Seine, Prince Roland Bonaparte’s historic palace was resurrected in December 2010 after a four-year restoration project. The Shangri-La oozes opulence with marble columns, a gilded staircase, and—since December 2012—a jewel box of a spa with a mosaic-lined pool in the former stables. Here you can throw a bash in the same spaces where Prince Bonaparte once entertained guests in the 19th century. As if transplanted from the Palace of Versailles, the historic salons are classified monuments with soaring ceilings and cornices etched with the imperial insignia, a gold bee. En plus, you’ll have a gourmet menu designed by Michelin-starred Chef Philippe Labbé, with a choice of desserts (like the “chocolate intensity cake” made with 70 percent Guanaja cacao) that would make Marie-Antoinette swoon. With weddings, the devil is in the details, and the Shangri-La delivers. The hotel can arrange epic arrivals (the bride and groom in a horse-drawn carriage); exclusive floral arrangements (imagine white orchids everywhere in the lobby); calligraphy for table place cards; make-up (to get the bridal party runway ready); and music—whether a classical concert or one of the hottest DJs in town. For one event, the DJ was perched on a swing suspended from the ceiling. A number of wedding packages are available; contact Jennifer Bunan ([email protected]; 011-33-0-153-67-1935) for details.
Get Hitched in Horse Country
Across the Channel, Coworth Park is the perfect venue for a genteel British affair. Nestled on 240 acres of Berkshire parkland, the Dorchester Collection’s country house hotel has an unbeatable location for ease of access: Twenty minutes from Heathrow International Airport, and a 45-minute drive from central London. The vibe? Elegant and understated, in the classic British sense. From intimate ceremonies to large receptions, Coworth Park is quite popular for weddings, often with a “country chic” theme. Overlooking the estate’s own polo grounds, the marquee can accommodate 350 guests, while the 18th-century Dower House, facing the lake where swans glide by, can host 20 people. Here your guests can partake of leisure pursuits like croquet on the lawn, golf at the neighboring Wentworth Club, horseback riding or polo lessons. Before the big day, the bridal party can indulge in some pre-wedding pampering at the eco-friendly spa, designed with a living roof planted with herbs. The “Best of British” wedding menu is a contemporary take on classic dishes featuring the finest ingredients sourced from the British Isles. Think quail with Scottish girolles, cauliflower purée, and baby leeks; applewood smoked salmon with horseradish cream and pickled beetroot; local cheeses served with chutney; and milk chocolate ganache with Earl Grey ice cream and shortbread crumbs. Tip: The pastry chefs can create lovely favors or table centerpieces, like chocolate horses. Housed in a Georgian manor house, Coworth Park has 70 rooms and suites, so it’s ideal for privatizing for a destination wedding. Contact Groups and Events ([email protected]; 011-44-0-207-319-7081) for more information.
Amore on the Med
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more magical backdrop for exchanging your vows than Sicily. The Mediterranean’s biggest isle, a cultural crossroads for ancient civilizations, boasts serious sunshine and dynamite cuisine representing a melting pot of flavors. Chefs work with a bounty of products straight from the island’s own vineyards, orchards, and olive groves. At Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort, you’ll find natural beauty coupled with impressive resort facilities—a championship golf course, infinity pool, and one of the finest spas in Europe, complete with a circuit of pools overlooking orange groves. Stage your nuptials on the palm-lined beach, in the double-height ballroom, or at Zagara restaurant. The menus feature stand-out local dishes like busiate with Sciacca shrimp and pistachio from Bronte; Datterino tomato soup; and red mullet served with Verdura’s very own artichokes and couscous. The five-star resort can be rented out in its entirety; contact Event Sales Manager Francesca Vizzini ([email protected]) for details. The 203 elegant guest rooms are contemporary in style with local touches, like potted citrus trees and reproductions of classical sculptures. (We love the in-room beach bags with flip-flops, plus the bed frames draped in white fabric.)
Kim Petyt, an award-winning wedding planner in Paris and author of The Paris Wedding, is au courant when it comes to stylish celebrations.
“Believe it or not, the trend these days in France is American and English-style weddings. Until recently, French weddings had been fairly traditional, with the ceremony being held only in a city hall or place of worship, and the reception decoration kept to a minimum—with brides often having to accept what was offered by the reception hall [think Jordan almonds wrapped in peach-colored tulle sachets]. There wasn’t cake for dessert, but a traditional French croquembouche [choux pastry balls, glazed in caramel, stacked like a small Christmas tree]. The day itself was long and formulaic. With the rise in popularity of wedding blogs like Style Me Pretty in the U.S. and Rock My Wedding in the UK, French brides are embracing the ‘shabby chic’ and ‘offbeat wedding’ styles that have been hot on the scene in these countries for a while. Right now in France you’ll find Liberty of London bunting, stacked cakes with rolled fondant icing, DIY photo booths, and ‘laique’ [non-denominational, symbolic] ceremonies in lofts, galleries or barns.”