“Most of our guests were coming from outside of France, and we wanted them to have a true French chateau experience in the Loire Valley,” says Marlie, who works for an NGO in the healthcare sector, of how she and Kevin, a project manager for an energy company, decided on Chateau de la Bourdaisiere for their wedding location. France was the perfect destination because it served as the starting point for the couple’s romance as well. “We actually met on the Pont des Arts—the bridge in Paris that tourists attach padlocks with their names written on them to—in 2010,” remembers Marlie. “A mutual friend of ours had organized a picnic there, and we ended up sitting next to each other. There was an immediate connection. Unfortunately, I was finishing my Master’s program in a month and had planned to move back to the U.S., so we became very close very fast and then had to do over three years of long distance before finally moving to Cameroon together.”
After two years there, the two moved to Norwich in the United Kingdom. And then, on a surprise trip back to Paris, Kevin proposed on the Pont des Arts with a ring from Waskoll, the only independent jewelry shop in Place Vendome. “They have certified conflict-free diamonds, which is something that is very important to me,” says Marlie. “The ring Kevin ended up choosing was exactly what I wanted—gold, elegant, and with a vintage-feel!”
Being from different cultures—Marlie is Senegalese-Canadian-American and Kevin is French and from Brittany—and with friends and family from all over the world, they wanted to incorporate their diverse backgrounds and also involve their loved ones in their wedding day. “We are both obsessed with traveling,” says Marlie. “Our relationship has spanned four countries and three continents. Plus, our wedding was a destination wedding, so travel became the theme, along with our favorite color accents of peach, coral, and gold.” The two did all of the planning themselves, and then hired a day-of coordinator from Alexa Organisation to deal with logistics. “It was challenging because we were living in the U.K. and only able to visit the venue together once,” says Marlie. It was a team effort, and the travel theme remained the constant: Kevin’s mom painted the world map that they used for their seating chart and gift bags were made of Senegalese wax fabric and included keychains from Senegal, luggage tags, white paper fans, Perrier, sweet treats from Brittany (salted caramels, shortbread cookies), and a pouch filled with sugar-coated almonds (Dragets), which are traditionally offered at weddings.
Marlie and Kevin aren’t religious so they had a civil ceremony in London the week beforehand. “We wanted the service at our wedding to really represent us so we made it bilingual,” explains Marlie. “It was personal and emotional. Plus, the ‘Venetian alley’ at the Chateau de la Bourdaisiere, decorated by our talented and lovely florist Delphine of Niveole provided the perfect backdrop. In addition to our flowers, she handled all of the décor and understood exactly what we wanted. She also didn’t mind that we frequently changed our minds. She was so patient and kind throughout the whole process. I almost cried when I saw the flower arrangements and decorations she put together!”
Marlie wore a Jenny Packham dress called “Portia” that she found in Paris. “I loved that it had an Art Deco, elegant feel, and that it was sleek and comfortable while still being bridal due in part to all of the beautiful sequin details,” she explains. “A puffy princess dress isn’t me, and I felt it would have been too much for the venue. I really wanted to be able to dance in my dress so this lightweight look was perfect.” She accented the look with Badgley Mischka shoes and a BHLDN hair comb. After the ceremony, Marlie put on her signature ‘Bissap Bangles,’ which are from Senegal and for sale on Etsy.
Unfortunately, hair and makeup weren’t as seamless. “This ended up being the most stressful moment of the day,” remembers Marlie. “The makeup and hair artists who had originally been book 7 months in advance cancelled for absolutely no reason the morning of the wedding—via email, no less! Thankfully, our day-of coordinator Alexa saved me and called her incredible friend Sylvia, who came to our rescue. It ended up being for the best as she was incredibly sweet, talented, and super quick!”
The ceremony took place outside on the grounds of the chateau. “The venue itself is so gorgeous, so we were fortunate in that we didn’t have a million things to add to it. We focused on accent items with a more vintage-style travel angle, including vintage suitcases, an old-fashioned camera, and wooden crates, with a variety of white, coral, and peach flowers and greenery with gold accents,” explains Marlie.
Marlie walked down the aisle with both of her parents to “There Will Be Time” by Mumford and Sons, featuring Baaba Maal, a Senegalese artist. The bride’s best friend and Maid of Honor’s father, who hails from Serbia, served as the Master of Ceremonies and chose a famous Serbian reading about marriage that he translated into English and French, and then each member of the bridal party read a quote that the couple had assigned to them. The quotes were both in French and English and on the them of love and relationships. Sources ranged from Leonardo Da Vinci (who built the archway at the Chateau de la Bourdaisierie to Antoine de Saint-Exupery to Will Ferrel. Marlie and Kevin wrote their own vows—Kevin’s were in French and Marlie in English—and read them to each other at the end of the service. “It was nerve-wracking, but we were so happy to have done this,” says Marlie. “It was the most personal, romantic part of the wedding for us.”
After the ceremony, guests moved into cocktail hour. “We love food and having a delicious cocktail hour—which ended up being over 3 hours long!—was very important to us,” explains Marlie. “We were blown away by the quality and presentation that our caterers, Fredeville Organisation, provided—guests still talk about the hors d’oeuvres!”
The party got started with the newly minted husband and wife leading a procession of their bridesmaids and groomsmen into the reception hall dancing to Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” “This was definitely the most memorable moment of the wedding for us,” says Marlie. “Guests had been seated, and then we came in with our entire bridal party dancing, and everyone else joined in. It was the perfect way to set the tone for the rest of the night!” The newlyweds then did their first dance to Bob Marley’s “Is This Love (Montmartre Remix)”—and the party didn’t stop until 5:00 A.M.