While they may not be for every couple, we think it's safe to say that guests love a themed wedding! There is something so fun about being immersed in another world, especially these days when we could all use a little escape from our day-to-day. The team behind this styled shoot went all out on recreating the Belle Époque from the venue and transportation to the actual vintage fashion, hair and makeup looks, and festivities. They even went so far as to hire a choreographer to teach the guests a dance from the era so everyone could live out their Belle Époque fantasy.
J'Ai Deux Amours planned and designed this over-the-top styled shoot and we love how far they took the inspiration! Even the venue, Château Saint Joseph, was built during the Belle Époque and hosted its share of parties back in the day. The lovely pastel arrangements by Laetitia Clement were perfect for this spring fête. Andreas K. Georgiou took these light-dappled photos that are reminiscent of the impressionist paintings from the time. Keep reading to hear more from Andreas K. Georgiou about all of the fun period-accurate Easter eggs hidden throughout the shoot and make sure to check out the full gallery for even more inspo!
We would like to turn the clock back by two centuries, to the era of impressionism, Art Nouveau, the Eiffel Tower, the rise of Haute Couture, and fêtes en plein air. Welcome to the Beautiful Era, “La Belle Époque”! With this nostalgic glimpse in bygone days, we remind ourselves of how beauty, hope, optimism, prosperity, and charm have a meaningful place in our lives, forming the very foundation of living life to the fullest. Or, as the French call it, “L’ Art de Vivre”!
Château Saint Joseph was the heart and soul of the shoot–a historic residence built at the very peak of the Belle Époque in 1879. Originally created as a vacation country house away from bustling Paris, this has been the setting for festivities for almost two centuries now! The bucolic château, with its lush gardens and private forest, has been the discreet witness of a thousand whispered secrets, delicious loves, and sumptuous parties for the aristocracy looking to escape the burgeoning cities. The fête started with the entrance of our newlyweds in a horse-drawn carriage. The château's owners and their children greeted the couple at the château’s grand entrance.
Then followed the most important time of any French wedding: the feast. The guests gathered around for quality food and drinks, including fruit punches, macaroons, and delicious samples of Occitan cuisine, such as clafoutis (a cherry-based dessert). The al fresco dinner was styled by floral designer Laetitia Clement and wedding designer Aurélie Olarte y Roman of J'ai Deux Amours. A long table was laid with loaves of French bread, cheese platters, wines, and sweets, creating an inviting and unpretentious provincial atmosphere that elicited approachability and exuded elegance. Mix-matched antique chairs, crystalware, delicate porcelains from the château’s cupboards, and candles added the final touches.
After the al fresco dinner, as a reference to painter Louise Abbéma's famous painting, the guests enjoyed a game of croquet. Croquet was au courant in the 19th century, so we wouldn’t miss the opportunity to include it. The fun continued with a game of blindfold, another popular garden party game. Then followed an "elegance competition”. The guests would give a ribbon to their guest of choice based on their sartorial finesse! After all, the Beautiful Era is when High Couture was founded! The party finished in style with a quadrille dance, the “contredanse française”, which was fashionable in 19th-century Europe. The 19th century was the time when ceremonial details of parties became formalized, including the etiquette of asking a partner to dance.
Our bride’s wedding dress was a perfectly preserved original 1879 silk gown (coincidentally the very year the château was built) with a tightly corseted bodice, as was customary at that time. The groom's suit was tailor-made for our shoot by Maison Geraci, and consisted of a double-breasted six-button seersucker jacket–perfect for a warm summer afternoon in Southern France! The fashion in the shoot is very accurate, from dresses to the tiniest of accessories: jaw-dropping dramatic gowns of every imaginable fabric and trim, embellished with original accessories from the Arts and Crafts movement like lace-up boots, wide-brimmed hats bedecked in feathers, brooches, lavalieres, elaborate choker-style necklaces, parasols, and even original chatelaines–an ingenious device that suspended from a lady's waist and had dangling chains holding any accessories a lady might need close at hand. You can imagine women traveling to St. Joseph with several trunks for a single weekend, as they had to change their clothes innumerable times a day! Designers from the top fashion houses in Paris were defining a mood of grace, beauty, and femininity, and the entire 19th century witnessed an ongoing metamorphosis of fashion that enveloped the female figure in ever-changing silhouettes.
Our visual narrative was inspired by impressionism. We wanted to create a sensationalized visual narrative capable of holding the attention of a viewer with images that resemble paintings by Monet, Seurat, Degas, and Renoir. The guests are seemingly caught off guard in various relaxed poses, a part of a larger reality captured as if by chance. Photographer Andreas K. Georgiou, worked hand-in-hand with designer and stylist Aurélie Olarte y Roman and Delphine Roubieu, owner of the château, to bring to life this painterly vision. We intentionally placed the fête under the canopy of the château's park, at just the perfect time so that the sun would travel through the foliage casting dappled light on the guests. This gave the images a distinct pointillistic quality akin to the quick brushstrokes of an impressionist painting. Photographing on medium format film further allowed for this painterly effect!
This might not be for the faint-hearted couple, but it is for those who want to make an event that is truly unique! Be prepared to give your guests an experience that feels as authentic as possible. Giving guidance to guests about the dress code is the first step! A great idea would be to offer them some context, perhaps through your wedding website, about the customs of the period, for a truly immersive experience. As an example, the Belle Époque was a period when haute-couture became a cultural phenomenon. It's also a great idea to select your venue to match the historic context. Our château was built exactly during the Belle Époque and it offered an ideal backdrop for our shoot! When it comes to dancing, it was fascinating to watch our actors learn the quadrille from an instructor. Not only did they pick up the steps quickly, but they also had the time of their life! Hiring a dance instructor to show your guests the basic steps to a particular dance can really add to the fun of the event!