Updated: Apr 27
In times of uncertainty we realize more than ever the importance of human connections to create a better brighter future. Today I am giving you various little pieces of the world connected in a big love story as a reminder of the good days, and to give hope that our best days are still ahead of us.
Although Nico & Naomi only lived one mile from each other in Clapham, South London, they actually met online on My Single Friend. On their 5th date he proposed a two week safari trip to South Africa which is a strong indication of a serious intent! 5 years later came the marriage proposal on a surprise weekend away, on top of a mountain in the beautiful Italian hills. The couple got married on 29th April 2017 at the stunning Chateau de Cazenac in the Dordogne region of France, surrounded by their friends and family.
Photography by Julie Kim Photography
"As Nico is French, I always dreamed of a wedding in France where we spend a lot of our year visiting friends and family. His Dad comes from a beautiful village in the Dordogne, Siorac-en-Périgord, where Nico spent his summers learning to fly (that impressed me on date no. 1!) and where his parents have a house. We have had a couple of holidays there and it's so calm and beautiful I thought it would be a great place for a long wedding weekend. Nico and I have fairly crazy jobs and weren't able to go to France till the winter so we enlisted our lovely wedding helpers i.e. His parents, to scope out a venue I had found online - a huge old chateau on a hill, overlooking the river with 3 swimming pools (I love swimming) and a big old stone barn. It looked perfect and there was only one weekend left the following spring so we booked it immediately after their visit without seeing it ourselves. When we finally visited in the winter, we were relieved and excited to see it was perfect!"
"One thing I disliked about British weddings was all that money and time planning gone in 8hrs so was keen to stretch ours over a long weekend. Luckily our dates coincided with a bank holiday in France and the UK - perfect! The chateau we found houses 30 people and the others stayed nearby so everyone made a weekend of it. Controversially we wanted a no kids wedding, and thankfully all our mates were up for an adult weekend leaving the kids at home with grandparents to well and truly let their hair down. Nico is quite a modest person and was clear from the off he would like wedding to be small and low key. After working in events and weddings in a previous job and experiencing several hundred 'traditional weddings' - I was keen for it to be super informal, fun and against tradition - so no matchy matchy bridesmaids, no theme, no stationary, no favours, no cake, no stuffy canapés etc. Just close family and friends for a chilled weekend away with an official part in the middle, a good party, some good relaxed food and sport thrown in. So we had 55 of our nearest and dearest invited. Friday was a relaxed buffet and games when everyone arrived, Saturday was the big day (kicked off with an early morning bike ride much to my make up artists dismay!), Sunday a hungover BBQ and canoeing race on the river, and Monday brunch and farewell."
"I met Andrea 12 years ago on a shoot in Shropshire when we were working in television together. A few years later, I was honored when she asked me to film her epic wedding in Portugal. I felt so chuffed to have been involved and totally inspired by a foreign wedding fun too! It was the very start of 'Shoot It Yourself' and I knew she was on to an absolute winning business idea. With her incredibly successful company now flourishing, she very kindly offered to trade places. Andrea and her lovely husband Johnny managed to cover all aspects of the prep and day, many hilarious moments captured, gorgeous messages from loved ones, they even developed a story line (Nico losing things) as well as capturing all the emotion (yes I cried a lot) and messy fun of the party late into the night. They didn't miss a thing and having this video means we can re-live the whole day."
"I met Julie Kim at my good friend Andrea's wedding in Portugal 8 years before and after seeing her photos knew that if I was ever to get married I would want her. Being a bit extravagant to fly your photographer over, I needed to convince Nico it was a good idea but after meeting Julie for a gin in a London bar, he saw her photos, felt she was just the right person to blend into our wedding weekends and agreed. Julie is a documentary photographer so is really talented in taking natural in the moment photos, which was our preference over posed photos. She was there from Friday to Sunday and subtly captured everything without you even noticing. We are absolutely thrilled with the photos and Julie was an absolute dream to work with."
The Wedding Dress Experience
"I found getting the dress very difficult at first. I knew immediately that I didn't want anything remotely traditional 'bridal' and it's quite hard to find a wedding dress which isn't bridal in the quite frankly enormous and terrifying world of wedding dress shops. I tried various avenues - the big shops, the small shops, high st, designer over Skype and nothing ticked the boxes. I also hated the over the top and rather pushy service and pressure to spend thousands and thousands of pounds. Initially I thought I would get a short 50s dress but actually felt quite frumpy in them and decided being sexy was top priority for me and because I knew Nico would like it."
"Browsing across Pinterest one night, I saw a super sexy and stunning gold dress and looked up the designer - Margo Stankova, a Bulgarian dress designer, who operates out of her London studio - perfect! No awful bridal shops! It was so easy and quick - within 3 short visits over a 6 week period I had walked away with my dress. Margo is an absolute delight - and made me feel so sexy and gave me the confidence to be bold and unusual when many others thought going gold might be 'a bit much'. We chatted and shared photos on WhatsApp regularly as she made suggestions for shoes, jewelry, hair do's and generally making the whole process fun. I am thrilled with the dress and loved to be a non-white bride on the day, and hopefully people will remember that it wasn't just another white dress."
The dress sets the tone of the wedding day, the mood, the way the bride feels and the entire wedding party too. I always ask my brides to trust me with the making of this most important dress, with my vision, with my very own process. And I'm so blessed to always be given what I need to work well and to enjoy it. For this I am grateful to all my ladies and especially to Naomi.
Highly organised, she have done the hard work beforehand - keeping healthy and in great shape, the research and planning, trying dresses on and ultimately deciding on non-traditional wedding dress from my designer collection. Naomi became the invisible thread between many other women I came across in the past, which choices I loved so much I kept recommending to others. She took every advice given to create the full look I had in mind for a long time. I'll never forget the evenings we were exchanging links to different accessories and the little collage she made.
We also had the great support of her beautiful mum Jenny. It's very important for me as a designer because the approval of different generations is what turns a Fashion statement into a Timeless piece.
The Non-flowers Choice
"I wasn't keen on over the top girly flowery bouquets everywhere so decided early on that I would prefer herbs! They smell nice, and can be picked to add to food, double use! Nico's jolly uncle in Lozère had a farm so started growing tons of herbs for us the summer before. On the day, we potted them into big old tinned tomato cans I blagged from our local pizza restaurant in London, which was a nice food connection! My Mum, a garden designer, worried I was going to 'carry weeds down the aisle' and convinced me to a simple very green natural bunch of olive branches, herbs and other foliage to hold on the day which I loved."
The Official bit
"Neither of us are religious so we opted for the local Mairie (town hall) In Siorac-en-Perigord which felt very special for Nico's family. We then rode in our van rental back to the chateau for a symbolic ceremony in the gardens of the chateau with Stephanie from Celebrants in France. We chatted to Stephanie over Skype to make the arrangements, and she was very helpful in writing our vows which neither of us had a clue about. We placed the chairs around us in a circle for the ceremony which made it feel really intimate. I cried a lot throughout both parts, it was such an emotional and very happy day! After the ceremony, our friends held bicycle wheels in an arch when we came out which was something Nico planned."
The Wedding Theme
"We didn't want much of a theme! We are both big cyclists so we got a cool logo done for our cow bell wedding invitations (I didn't want boring paper ones!) and people then brought them along to ring at us when we came out of the town hall which I loved as I am a noisy person! With our logo, we then used it on our engraved shot glasses for the day. So I guess it is bikes, gold inspired by my dress and green inspired by the herbs!"
"One the my favorite things was a table plan which was a flow chart of embarrassing, insightful or funny questions which lead people to their table setting. For e.g. - Bride or groom? Did you go to School with Naomi? Did you once throw up in my Mum's handbag after a house party? It was enormous fun to make and reminded us the reason why we had invited all these wonderful people to our wedding"
Instead of cake the couple decided on a stack of cheeses from Nico's region - Auvergne, but in the excitement (and drunkenness) of the meal they totally forgot to cut and eat it! Well it made a wonderful picture so nothing is lost.
"Nico and I are great foodies, but we also wanted a fuss-free menu and after all the years working on the catering industry I knew I didn't want an overcooked piece of meat with sad vegetables. We did tastings with 3 local traiteurs during our winter trip who kindly agreed to go with a menu we devised ourselves. Our fave food at recent weddings were super relaxed Buffets and BBQ's so we decided on a 'cochon à la broché' (hog roast) for the main with some delicious fresh salads. Rather than fiddly canapés, Nico's sister gave us the idea of food stations so we picked our fave foods (oysters, fois gras, jambe de jambon cru, and Nico's favorite - mini burgers) and had high tables set around the garden for people to mingle and munch and drink after the ceremony and before the hog was ready! We had a yummy Auvergne cheese selection from our favorite cheese shop in a market in Nico's hometown of Clermont Ferrand, served with bread of course, not crackers. For pudding we did a 'café gourmand' with a selection of French and English yummy puddings and an espresso for everyone to wake up before the band started...
"Being in France - getting good wine was always going to be easy. We spent several trips in France with Nico's jolly uncle, his thirsty best man and his parents tasting a lot of wines, we probably spent more time than we took on the food tasting! After living in London for 12yrs enjoying the growing beer culture - Nico was keen that we take over some 'proper ale' to France so we got a bargain bulk order of Meantime pale ale from the brewery in Greenwich where we had done a knowledge tour/ tasting day the year before, and drove it over in a little van with all our other wedding stuff. We are also huge gin fans so we collected up a wide selection of British gins to take over with us to stock the gin bar. We had a delicious gin and Prosecco cocktail as the reception drink which my sister found in a magazine. Finally (this sounds like we are quite boozy) - we decided to have Jaegarbombs (served in people's personalized shot glasses with our logo on) for the toasting drink rather than the traditional champagne which kicked off the evening festivities! And we had a few early casualties who didn't make it to the first dance as a result...
Videography by Shoot It Yourself
"A great live band was also a top priority on our list, you always remember a good band. We both love 80's power ballads and are regulars at a night club called Ultimate Power in London so it took a while to find a band who would be happy to play our fave kind of set list. We found Tomorrow band online and hired them after listening to all their sound cloud and YouTube links hoping they would be OK on the night and of course they were. We massively rocked out (with many inflatable instruments) and everyone danced until dawn."
Word of Advice to Future Brides
"My biggest advice would be to not give in to all the pressure you receive as a bride to be. There is so much emphasis on big weddings, long guest lists, traditional aspects, and all the things you 'should' do. Sit down with your partner early on and decide what is most important to you and ditch the rest! Also, enjoy all the lead up and making something of each part of the organisation - have a lovely lunch when you collect your beer, take a friend to a tasting to make it more fun etc."
Happy 3rd Wedding Anniversary Nico, Naomi & Bertie (baby boy)!
Thank you for sharing your special day with us, your journey and all the inspirations and ideas. Hope you find time to look back on all your sweet memories together!
Love and Happiness Always
Venue: Chateau Cazenac, Le Coux et Bigaroque, Dordogne, France
Photography: The amazing Julie Kim
Videography: Talented friend Andrea who owns 'Shoot it Yourself'
Wedding invites: Personalized Cow Bell
Hair & Makeup: André Suard for Geilly Green
Bride: Margo Stankova LONDON 'Johanna' dress,
Ted Baker cape, clutch bag
Perfume: CHLOÉ present from the groom on the wedding morning
Rings: BOUDOL Joaillier in Clermont-Ferrand, France
Personalized shot glasses made by Matthew Chapman of Coluna
Lighting: IA Sound&Light
Entertainment: Live Rock Band Tomorrow from the Dordogne. And a powerful pop and 80's power ballad playlist made by the groom