A 3-day elopement adventure in South-West France
When Haleigh and Kyle contacted me a year ago to plan their elopement in France, they were totally open to suggestions for the region. They just knew they wanted something classy and to exchange their vows in a chateau, but I had total freedom to send them options in different parts of France. This is how I ended sending them 6 options scattered all around France. Now some French regions are richer than others in terms of what can be visited around, and Dordogne definitely is one of the richest ones with more than a thousand castles scattered around. As Haleigh and Kyle chose a 3-day adventure elopement, it was the right choice for them to pick this area, as this allowed us to really dive deep into the nature and chateaux around!
So on a beautiful morning, we met near the Bordeaux train station and embarked on our journey. Haleigh and Kyle hopped in my car and we traveled together for 3 wonderful days across the most beautiful spots in south-west France. We first headed to the Dordogne valley to visit the beautiful and medieval Chateau de Beynac et Cazenac. We started our discovery with a delicious meal in a local restaurant, followed by a strenuous climbing up into the streets of the medieval town, all the way up to the castle that overlooks the valley. We had so much fun discovering the little corners of this chateau, offering so many viewpoints on the valley and the Dordogne region in general.
After enjoying the narrow little streets and beautiful panoramas, we headed back to the car for the second stop of the day: the Chateau des Milandes, formerly owned by the famous Joséphine Baker, mother of the rainbow children. Now this chateau forbids photos so we don’t have any memories from it, however we enjoyed strolling into its lavish rooms and the bird of prey spectacle was absolutely gorgeous! After this little stop, we headed to our last stop of the day: the Jardins de Marqueyssac, known for its beautiful topiary garden, its gorgeous walk overlooking the valley, as well as its dark and mysterious forests. We took photos for hours, and once we were totally tired, we headed back to the car and drove to Sarlat la Canéda for a well-deserved dinner and night of sleep. After all, the day after was Haleigh and Kyle’s elopement day!
The morning of their elopement day, we took a delicious breakfast and headed back to the medieval streets of Sarlat for a short photoshoot. We saw the beautiful church, the half-timbered houses, the old manors and the paved streets. The day started to get hot so we didn’t want to spend too much time in the sun. So we headed quickly to the car and drove to yet another beautiful and intimate town, Saint Jean de Côle, for a discovery stroll and a delicious meal in one of the best restaurants in town.
It was time for the elopement! Our last stop of the day was the beautiful private chateau where Haleigh and Kyle decided to say “I do”. We parked on the premises and we were instantly struck in awe. Haleigh and Kyle went up to their room and I managed the florist and decorator to prepare the ceremony location. After an hour, I headed back to Haleigh’s room for some atmospheric getting ready shots with some great music. We laughed and talked the whole time she was getting her hair and makeup done. After a while, I headed back down to photograph Kyle getting ready in another room of the chateau. Then, Haleigh was ready, she put her beautiful dress on, took her bouquet (that she wrapped in an antique bracelet she got from her family) and we headed down the stairs for an emotional first look. After a little mishap falling down the stairs (true story, I’m still not over it), Haleigh exited the chateau and joined Kyle, tapping softly on his shoulder so they could discover each other before the ceremony. It was a very emotional moment!
We then strolled around the chateau for some couple photos while waiting for the officiant to arrive. Since she was early, and the arch was complete, we decided to do the ceremony a little earlier than what was planned initially (the beauty of elopements, you can do whatever you want!) so we headed to the forest for the most magical part of the adventure.
We slowly walked into the beautiful Charmille, surrounded by beautiful trees in a open path, where the arch was waiting for Haleigh and Kyle. A violonist was waiting for us as we walked in, playing one of the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. Debbie, the celebrant, started her ceremony and it was deeply loving and personalized to the couple. Every word was flowing beautifully as Debbie got deeper into the ceremony, then Haleigh and Kyle exchanged their vows in the most beautiful manner, heartfelt words inundated the surrounding trees, then they exchanged vows and at that instant, they got married.
Once the ceremony was over, we headed back to the court of the chateau for some other couple photos, followed by a delicious meal composed with local dishes from the south-west region. The newlyweds absolutely loved all the delicate attentions that the chateau owners and cooks put into their meal, and popped a bottle of champagne to feast on that beautiful day. They ate at the sound of a solo violin, and had a beautiful first dance. They ended up their meal was past sunset, being only lit by the magical stars over their heads.
The day after, I picked them back up at the chateau and we headed to Brantome for a one-of-a-kind experience: a kayak tour in the streets of the Venise of the Perigord. After that fresh expedition, we headed to one of my favorite restaurants for a nice meal, then finished our adventure with one last visit in a beautiful chateau (it was a private visit and the owner was so nice!) followed by a visit of a vineyard in the Bordeaux region.
This 3-day adventure went on so quickly! I’ll always remember the love Haleigh and Kyle shared, the delicate attentions they prepared for one another, and their absolutely wonderful personalities. It was an honor for me to help them plan this beautiful adventure and to immortalize it with my camera!