Daniel Knol and Carl Hamilton met each other on a dance floor they both frequented, that was before that special night found to be full of people and fun memories, but lacking in meaningful connections. The two had been dating for three years when Daniel proposed in a hot air balloon 1,000 meters above the Loire Valley. “I planned everything out in the greatest detail; the only thing I didn’t really think about was my tremendous fear of heights which made me more nervous than asking the question,” Daniel says.
The two spent six months and several international trips, from their home base in London, looking for the right destination and venue. Then they came across a Vogue.com article on how Karina Waters had saved Château de Gudanes from ruin. They reached out, and by coincidence or fate they were looking to host their first wedding—no one had hosted one there in a century. The event planning was a creative and collaborative process between Karina “The Captain” (as they called her) and her daughter, Jasmine, Anine Leakey from A9 Event Design, and the grooms. Karina brought in a group of local and international specialists known as the Château Family for the four-day celebration.
The sixty guests were kept out of the loop on the exact wedding location, even as they were welcomed in Toulouse on the first day—“We wanted to keep the château under wraps, so our guests could experience it for the first time together,” Carl explains. Toulouse was no longer a suspicion as they hopped on a coach to the château. Karina and the team met everyone at the beautiful iron gates with trays of Blanquette de Limoux, the first sparkling white wine produced in France. “Our family and friends were lost for words,” Carl says.
Both Carl and Daniel were heavily involved in creating their custom ensembles for their wedding day. “We really wanted our fashion to reflect the essence and grandeur of the château and it’s history. Previous guests from the 18th century include Voltaire, Denis Diderot and Montesquieu,” Daniel notes. With the help of the suave Ed from Beggar’s Run, the two oversaw the cut and fabric processes—including several trips to Saville Row. Carl landed on a forest green two-piece suit with golden vein, and Daniel chose a midnight blue tuxedo with silk lapels. Both had each other’s initials monogrammed on their shirt cuffs for an added sentimental touch.
In the vestibule at the bottom of the grand staircase, a celebration of all forms of love was held. “It was very emotional because I felt so blessed to not only be marrying the man I love but because despite most of my family having never accepting me as queer, Carl and I have been able to create our cherished chosen family—many of whom had travelled half way across the world to celebrate with us,” Daniel shares.
After vows and rings were exchanged, guests moved to what can only be described as an elegant feast. The team’s chef de cuisine for all events, Tracy Valentina Wood from Sydney, created and styled the whole locally sourced meal. She had help in the kitchen from a dear local, Marie-Andrée, who hand-picked asparagus for dinner. Before each course (and there were many), Tracy introduced what was being served and shared across the table. “We drew on the beautiful causality of French dining, wanting the food to be shared like family coming together,” Carl says.
For dessert, three Chefs Pâtissiers, Jennifer Pogmore, Mariana Correa, and Larissa Mamprin from Le Cordon Bleu Paris and Brazil created a cake forest made up of more than 60 confections, arranged in the opulent Salon de Musique, adorned with 18-carat gold detailing.
The newlyweds had their first dance to a medley of songs performed by Zoë O’Sullivan on vocals and Mathieu Blake on guitar. In order, they swayed to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley, “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston.
After dancing the night away, guests regrouped the next day for a barbecue that included a paella so large you had to see it to believe it. Carl and Daniel then took off on a three-month honeymoon, exploring the most romantic corners of Europe.