Laura Southgate heads up the French Wedding Company and has been planning weddings and events for over 20 years, working on over 200 weddings and 500 events! That’s some serious experience right there!
Laura and her team can spend anything up to 300 hours on each individual couples wedding planning, as long as it takes to ensure the clients are 100% happy. If you are planning a wedding in France they are the award winning team you have to contact.
We interviewed Laura to hear all about her tips and advice on planning a wedding in France and what she sees as the up and coming trends in Weddings this year! Make sure you find out what is her one piece of advice she’d give to couples, we think its a fantastic idea!
Where is your favourite location to plan a wedding in France and why?
I don’t have a favourite location as France is such a diverse country. That is, in fact, what I love about it – I have planned weddings in vineyards, on beaches, with views of the mountains, as well as at many chateaux, of course. The whole reason I decided to go freelance was so that I wasn’t tied to a specific location or venue. My favourite location is the new one I find, that a couple never even knew, existed.
What makes weddings in France different to UK weddings?
The biggest difference is the way a wedding is organised. In the UK, it tends to be very ‘packaged’ and the venues provide everything. Even though more and more venues are getting into ‘packages’ in France, it is still not the norm. In France, couples start with a venue that is just a blank canvas or ‘dry hire’ and can then choose their own suppliers to create the day that they want. Whilst ‘packages’ can suit many couples, all the clients that we work with at French Wedding Company are looking to create a unique day with special experiences for their guests and so don’t want the constraints that a ‘package’ and fixed set of suppliers, bring.
Why did you relocate to South West France to be a Wedding planner?
I didn’t relocate to SW France to become a wedding planner, I just relocated for a change, to get out of the London scene and do something different. I didn’t come with a plan. Life just evolved. I managed a couple of chateaux for a while and developed their wedding, holiday rental and events businesses. When the chateau I was working at was sold, I was made redundant and I had to move six weddings… so I became a freelance wedding planner.
What’s been the most unusual thing you’ve been asked to plan for a wedding?
There have been a few things over the years. Last year I was asked to source professional ballet dancers for a wedding (we arranged for two ballerinas from the Royal Ballet in London to come and perform a specially choreographed piece of dance). I am currently working on sourcing a falcon for a wedding next year, but one of my favourites was organising a jockey race as part of the wedding day experience.
The Groom’s Dad was editor of the Racing Post and they had this ‘idea’ of having a jockey race but weren’t sure how to go about it. Anyway, after the site visit and over a few glasses of wine (the best ideas spring to mind over a relaxed glass of the local tipple!), we threw around some ideas and ended up creating a parade ring at the welcome dinner the night before. The jockeys paraded around in their silks and had to go over a trial jump whilst the Groom’s Dad commentated on their ‘form’ so that guests could place bets. The next day, a ‘racecourse’ was set up around the wedding tent and just before dinner, six guests, representing different groups in the party, raced three times around the course, jumping wine barrels, whilst the rest of the guests cheered them on to the Father of the Groom’s commentary. It was great fun, the winnings were divided up and there was a prize-giving at the end of dinner too… It really created some great memories.
Do you prefer a Chateau or Beach Wedding?
They are both beautiful and both present their own challenges. My favourite weddings are the ones where it is a true reflection of the bride and groom. This is often less about the venue, although the right setting helps.
In your opinion what makes a “Good Wedding”?
A good wedding is about the people. Brides and grooms often get caught up in worrying too much about keeping up with the Jones’ or planning lots of little details that are so often unappreciated, overlooked or end up in the bin. Guests will take the day as it comes and are there because they want to support the couple. If the couple are relaxed, the guests will be relaxed. The key then is about creating the right level of activity to keep everyone entertained and the vibe going. This is where guidance from a good planner comes in.
What new styles/trends do you think are going to be the next big thing for weddings in France?
Experiential weddings are becoming the new trend. Today’s couples are looking to create memorable experiences for both themselves and their guests, and not follow the traditional wedding format. At French Wedding Company, this is how we have always approached our wedding planning and we love the challenge of coming up with new ideas as to how the couple can style, entertain or deliver their day differently, whilst staying true to themselves.
What’s your favourite wedding trend currently?
Doing food differently. Couples are looking for new ways to offer food at their weddings, with many couples not wanting to sit down for long drawn-out meals. This year we are planning weddings with food trucks, picnics, gourmet hog roasts and cocktail dinatoire to name a few, but all with a twist… like an opera-singing Italian ice cream seller!
What’s the one piece of advice you would give couples on their wedding day?
Apart from… get a planner who you can hand everything over to so that you can truly be ‘in’ your day and enjoy it? The next would be to give up your mobile phone 24 hours beforehand or give it to someone else. When guests need to know something, even the simplest of things, they always contact first the person hosting the event, (often without even bothering to try and sort it out themselves). We’ve all done it. It’s easier. But, so often I have seen brides and grooms running around and getting stressed the day before trying to sort things out for guests that really they could be sorting out for themselves. This is not how you want to be spending the 24 hours before your wedding day