This lavish Saudi celebration was filled with stylish surprises
Allow me to introduce this extraordinary destination wedding at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, featured in the prestigious Grace Ormond Wedding Style magazine’s spring-summer edition. The gorgeous couple, Lama and Mohammed, are from Jeddah. Most of their guests flew in to join them from across Europe as well as Saudi Arabia. With a bride who loves everything fashion and glamour, we were really able to push the envelope in terms of wedding design. The result was an ultra-luxurious event where guests were surprised and delighted at every turn!
The venue, Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, is truly a jewel, an awe-inspiring Baroque villa just an hour outside of Paris. The bride had originally thought of hosting the wedding in Lake Como but for logistical reasons the groom preferred to marry in Paris. On visiting the château, Lama discovered that it has an incredible lake on the property with an Italian-style visage. So she was able to please her groom and have her lake views too. The perfect combination! She also loved the idea of her guests being able to enjoy horse and carriage rides around the grounds as part of the celebrations. And, of course, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the spectacularly beautiful gardens and architecture. So a Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte wedding it was!
When it came to the wedding design, the bride really wanted something both original and architectural. I immediately recommended Daniel Ost, a master of floral architecture and installations based in Belgium. One of Lama’s requests was that she appear to walk on water as she made her entrance, so we created an aisle and altar floating on the lake itself. It was quite a feat! Lama also wanted airy, ‘floating’ floral décor. After seeing three designs, she opted for a massive backdrop with bamboo and fuchsia pink and purple flowers. It also had a custom-designed Kosha chair for the bride and groom to match. The lavish floral displays were rendered in soft pastel colors with just a touch of purple, since the décor in the château is already so grand.
A bridal entrance like no other
I love planning Arabic weddings as they’re filled with so many lovely traditions. This Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte wedding was no exception. The event started with the zaffa, a ceremony which is very festive and social. The guests (all female, and extremely glamorous!) are seated on couches and served coffee and chocolates while they socialize until the men come in. Only the groom himself and the closest men in the couple’s families attend – usually not more than fifteen in total. They arrive, followed by a procession of bridesmaids or children. However, it is the bride’s entrance that is the all-important moment. All eyes are on her!
With so many amazing chocolate stores in Paris, we struggled to decide which to distribute to the guests. So we decided: why choose! We had six different chocolate offerings, including Pierre Herme, Maison du Chocolat, Alain Ducasse and Patrick Roger. We even had Potel et Chabot chocolate sculptures designed to resemble the trees and décor in the gardens!
For the bride’s big entrance, we commissioned an original Arabic song, which was so moving and special. We also worked with Aquatique Show to add fountains to the lake, so that as Lama made her way down the aisle, we could synchronize the movement of the water to the music in an incredible aquatic ballet. It took a lot of practice and patience, but the result was jaw-dropping! When the bride appeared in her spectacular Alexander McQueen gown, walking on water with the fountains dancing around her, it was a moment of pure magic.
A couture culinary experience
It was so important to us to keep the guests surprised and entertained throughout the evening. As I mentioned, the bride loves fashion and glamour, so we themed the entertainment to her tastes. We worked with Nu Art Events to design catering that went beyond food and became an experience. For example, juices were served by a giant puppet, while sweets and canapés were served on crystal candelabra by models wearing elaborate gowns and headpieces. The waiting staff were in Époque costumes, with hostesses sporting whimsical floral headpieces that matched the wedding flowers. It was like a scene from Paris Fashion Week runways.
The cake used original moldings found in the château as its inspiration. It was created in five parts and was assembled in front of the guests by a bevy of ballerinas to the music of Swan Lake until it towered in front of the château. Truly breathtaking! We also worked with the head pasty chef at Potel et Chabot to design an elaborate dessert buffet, with sugar sculptures that were lit up in purple and pastel tones to match the décor.
Dancing beneath the stars
Once the cake cutting is complete, the men either leave or move to dine in a separate room. The ladies also have dinner before returning to the wedding aisle for dancing, desserts, and wonderful musical entertainment. Of course, there can be no men visible, so it is important that logistics are managed to ensure there are no unexpected crossing of paths and of course no male staff on-site.
Throughout the event, we transported the guests from place to place in the horse-drawn carriages, creating a fairytale atmosphere. The female guests enjoyed different acts between courses and finished off the night with entertainers flown in from Saudi Arabia, the iconic Ahlem, who sang for them while they danced beneath the stars!
I had such a wonderful time planning this wedding. It was such a pleasure to work with the bride and her family, including her cousins and sisters, who were all so helpful. And, of course, it was great to have an audacious, fashion-forward bride, who was willing to allow me to propose original ideas. Her enthusiasm was contagious!
Wedding Professionals: Wedding Planner: Alejandra Poupel Events, Venue: Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Florist and Event Designer: Daniel Ost, Photography: Ross Harvey, Videography: Zen Film Works, Dress: Alexander McQueen, Cake: Bastien Blanc-Tailleur, Caterer: Potel & Chabot, Cocktails: Cocktail Shows, Furniture Rentals: Options, Deco Flamme, Headliner: Alama Shamsi, Entertainment: Aquatique Show, Nu Art, Light and Sound: BS Technology, Shoes: Jimmy Choo, Hair Artist: Kamal Fayad, Fireworks: Grand Final, Hostesses: Selectively, Carriages: Calèches de Versailles, Transportation: Benzakein