Et Voila! Is a French wedding planning service based in London specialising in the coordination of weddings in France. Run by French wedding planner Anne-Laure, the agency offers a bespoke service to couples dreaming of getting married in France. Anne-Laure, who has organised events for high end planners and companies like Louis Vuitton, offers a wealth of experience, style and organisation skills to those wanting to plan a beautiful wedding anywhere in France. Anne-Laure adores her work and loves to help brides and families plan their very special day. Her knowledge of French venues and a vast network of French contacts means that Et Voila! can add real value to a French wedding plan.
Anne-Laure is currently planning the first ever French Wedding Show in London, bringing French suppliers to the city and enabling couples planning their wedding in France to meet potential vendors for their special day!
Originally from Lille, in the North of France Anne-Laure has worked all over France, in Argentina and London where she is now based. We asked the French wedding planner expert more…
How did you get into the business of wedding planning?
I graduated in Business and Marketing and loved it but I really loved the idea of working in events and in my career I’ve been really lucky to work for some fantastic companies. I started with a party planning agency arranging private events on the Cote d’Azur; after that I joined Louis Vuitton in London; then a private Jet company. In each of my jobs my French culture and languages have helped and one day I thought that if I could be helpful to large companies, maybe I could help couples even better. And that is how I created Et Voila! My ex manager at Louis Vuitton was one of my first brides!
Do foreign brides usually go for a French theme for weddings in France?
Couples getting married in France do tend to incorporate French elements to their wedding. It can be by having a French “piece montée” instead of a wedding cake, or in the favors for the guests such as local sweets… For instance last summer we planned a wedding with a Jouy fabric pattern, which is very typical of French chateaux. We used it in delicate touches on the chairs, the table planner, the orders of service…
What makes a wedding in France great do you think?
The atmosphere. Getting married abroad brings a whole different atmosphere to the day. Because guests travel, take a plane and stay at a hotel, they feel on holiday and are much more relaxed. Also most of the time the guests would arrive at least the day before the wedding and the couples usually organise a small get together before the big day, so the mood is already focused on having a great time and partying when the wedding day comes!
What are your favourite locations in France for a wedding?
That is SUCH a hard question. The amazing thing with France – which makes my job a little bit complicated sometimes – is that there are so many beautiful venues everywhere… Each region has something great to offer, and depending on what the couple is after – in terms of venues, weather or activities around – one will be more suitable than another. Generally speaking I would say that Provence is great for a relaxed, sun drenched wedding. The Cote d’Azur is more suited to lavish celebrations. The South West is great for couples looking for a venue with lots of history or a dramatic chateau. Paris is perfect for elegant weddings in a precious and sparkly setting. Normandy and Brittany would be for nature lovers who appreciate all the colours the sea has to offer, including deep greys and purples!
Do brides from other countries getting married in France buy their wedding gowns in France or at home?
In general brides would buy their outfit in their home country – there can be many fittings which need to be planned ahead. There are a few shops in London that have retailers in France (the designers of Kate Middleton’s dress have opened a shop in Paris) and who are happy to send the dresses over to France for pick up – a great service for the brides who are worried about travelling with their dress! This will soon be available for bridesmaids and the little ones as Nicki Macfarlane, designer of Kate Middleton’s flower girls and page boys outfits, is planning to open a shop in Paris. Otherwise boarding the plane with a big white pouch usually makes an impression and the crew is often very happy to find a good storage space for the precious gown and outfits.
How do you marry French and British traditions together for a wedding in France?
UK couples getting married in France for instance want to incorporate a few French elements to their wedding, but they remain much attached to their own traditions. In that respect, most of the weddings I organise would have bridesmaids, a spirits bar during dinner, a bride and groom first dance and a wedding cake. The French elements we include in the celebration are usually smaller things, such as French candies as wedding favors (in France dragées or calissons de Provence for example) or a “boules” (or pétanque) competition on the next day brunch.
Can you tell us a bit about the cakes you arrange for weddings in France?
French couples do pay great attention to their cake, but it is nothing compared to the wedding cake tradition in the UK! I really love the fact that they can be so personalised and perfect and beautiful… The diversity in shapes, decorations and sizes amazes me. I see the wedding cake as another opportunity to be creative and sometimes, when the couple allows, a little bit adventurous.
Finding wedding cakes in France is becoming easier every year as so many couples, foreign or French, are asking for them now. The difficulty with cakes is that, unlike bands or photographers, you cannot really make them travel, so it is important to have good local contacts. There are a few great wedding cake designers in France. My recommendations would be Sugarplum Cake Shop for a Paris wedding, La Crique for a wedding in the South West (former dessert Chef at the Connaught Hotel in London) and Delphine Tollari Cakes for Provence.
Do you notice the “Kate effect” creeping into demands from brides when planning their weddings in France?
I find that since the Royal wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William more brides think about having two dresses: one for the day and one for the evening. I usually suggest to my brides that they change their hair and accessories between cocktail and dinner or between dinner and dancing: it makes them look completely different and it enables them to play a little with their style. But a second dress is even better!
How do you work with your couples to create their dream wedding?
It all starts with a meeting. Most of our couples live in London and the first meeting is about getting to know them and understanding the style of wedding they are after. From then we can discuss locations and venues that would enable them to create the atmosphere they are after for their wedding. I present a choice of venues, the couples choose – sometimes arranging a visit and then the planning of the big day starts: catering, entertainment, photography, beauty, transportation, accommodation, stationery…
This way we create the perfect day – it’s a bit like assembling a puzzle. If all goes well the week before the wedding all the pieces of the puzzle are in place, and it is time to pack!
What do you enjoy most in your job?
I absolutely love that I get to be in contact with so many great professionals. The wedding industry is full of people who are passionate about what they do and who are really keen to make the day special for the couple. My job is to select the best companies and contacts – those that are talented, passionate and professional – who care about making sure the bride and groom and their family have exactly what they want on this very special day.
I also love the diversity in my job. In the space of a week I can have a very relaxed barn wedding where the couple insists that their guests can help themselves at the bar – or – a lavish wedding in an exclusive property, and anything in between! I do not have any preference, I love all beautiful events and I honestly find that a beautifully planned and decorated barn wedding can be just as stunning as a five star luxury venue wedding. As long as the event is harmonious from start to finish, that is what counts!
Are French brides trending towards British/American style weddings?
Wedding blogs have made a great change to how French women imagine their wedding. From wedding cakes to bridesmaids, French brides are definitely taking inspiration from the UK and the US…but adding their own style. For example we see more and more bridesmaids in French weddings, but they rarely wear the exact same outfit. Instead they would wear dresses in the same colour tone and have the same bracelet, but no more… Try and make a French girl wear the same dress as another guest! [This makes Anne-Laure laugh out loud].
That said, most of the traditions remain and at a French wedding you will probably witness some embarrassing group speeches with jokes, photos and videos! I just hope that the father-daughter waltz tradition stays as this is one that I really find beautiful. I have done it at my own wedding and it is a souvenir I will cherish always.