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Belle Epoque Luxury Met Contemporary Style at This Wedding in the South of France – Brides

7 minutes, 25 seconds Read

After meeting in June 2016 through a mutual friend, Whitney and Michael found they had a lot in common—including an appreciation for all things French. “We have both always had an affinity for France—food, design, architecture, fashion, joie de vivre,” says the couple. The next year, in February, they chose Paris for their first joint vacation; they returned again in August and explored more of the country, including an unplanned visit to Villa et Jardines Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France.

After getting engaged in September 2021, Whitney and Michael turned to the Villa to host their 95-guest wedding. Whitney, an interior designer and the owner of WRW Interiors, took charge of the planning. “We wanted to mix tradition with modernity and create moments for our guests that they would remember forever,” says the couple. The design included a layered color palette of “alabaster, Chantilly cream, celadon, malachite, [and] aubergine,” and many personalized details: a monogram designed by Whitney, custom pillows on the lounge furniture, a pastel sketch of the venue commissioned by the grooms, and a floral arrangement encased in a massive ice sculpture on the escort table.

“The most difficult part was actually settling on ideas!” says the couple. “We would constantly see things we liked and wanted to incorporate. Then, a few weeks later we would find something else. There are so many great ideas out there.” Their fine-tuned vision and personal style allowed them to embrace and incorporate a variety of elements. “Following a classic French dinner, we served mini hot dogs and hamburgers as a late-night snack—a favorite during outings with friends in Washington, D.C.,” they say. “We delight in juxtaposition in life—serving McDonald’s on heirloom silver trays for example—and we wanted our wedding to reflect that.”

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France, charmed the couple from their first visit—four years before they were even engaged—with its long list of unique features: “The imposing Beaux-Arts structure, filled with priceless antiquities—including from the era of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette—and the nine world-class gardens, classified by France’s Ministry of Culture as one of the Remarkable Gardens of France—all set against the backdrop of the ancient riviera pines and the Mediterranean Ocean.”

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Finalizing the paper suite from Jade Social was one of the easiest parts of the planning process, says the couple. “We had such a clear vision of what we wanted, and Liz perfectly captured what we had in mind. It was an immediate reassurance that someone understood,” they say. An ivory card displayed the wedding details in elegant gold script, while Louis F. Gagnon provided an original pastel drawing of the venue.

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Both men wore white tuxedo jackets, black pants, and loafers, but added their own stylistic touches. “[The] theme was ‘Avant-Garde Garden Glamour,’” says the couple. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for guests to be experimental in their black tie attire and provide an occasion to wear something they might not otherwise wear.”

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


Whitney paired his Gucci blazer with a black Tom Ford bow tie and Manolo Blahnik tasseled Tuxido loafers. Along with his  Tiffany and Co. engagement ring and Van Cleef & Arpels wedding band, he wore other accessories passed down from his grandfathers: gold ball cufflinks from his mother’s father and a gold watch from his paternal grandfather. His day-of cologne was a throwback to time he spent in France during high school: Guerlain L’Homme Ideal Palatine Privé.

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


Michael’s fringed Chanel bow tie and one-button Alexander McQueen blazer put a modern twist on classic menswear, while his bloom-tipped Dandyflor loafers from Christian Louboutin x Rossy de Palma added a little bit of petal power. His jewelry included his  DeBeers engagement ring and Boucheron wedding band, Fabergé emerald cufflinks, and heirloom pearls: “Under his tuxedo, Michael wore the same pearl necklace his grandmother wore on her wedding day,” says Whitney. 

Michael kept his grooming routine consistent—St. Tropez self-tanner foam, Le Roche-Posay Vitamin C serum, L’Oreal Paris Elnett Satin hairspray (“the same hairspray my grandmother used, and it works!” he says). “I think you should perfect your skincare routine and what works for you far in advance of the wedding day,” he says. “You don’t want to be trying new products the day before.” His fragrance was a nod to past and future adventures: “Voyage d’Hermès,” he says. “It’s the perfect blend of nostalgic familiarity and modernity for places yet discovered.”

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


Water views from the Villa’s terrace provided a scenic backdrop for the couple’s vows. Kartell Victoria ghost chairs held tasseled fans with the couple’s custom illustration and ceremony program, while white floral arrangements from Wayne Riley Flowers perched atop pewter pedestals. “The wedding was a mix of modern and classic, formality and informality, which reflects who we are,” says the couple.

Photo by Audra Wrisley


As a nontraditional couple, it was fun to choose what traditions we wanted to incorporate and what traditions we wanted to create.

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Whitney and Michael walked toward the aisle together with their mothers to a classical cover of the Chainsmokers’ “Closer.” “As a nontraditional couple, it was fun to choose what traditions we wanted to incorporate and what traditions we wanted to create,” they say. The couple’s close friend Emily Massel worked with both men—and their families—to create personalized vows. “We wanted to keep the ceremony succinct and reserved our heartfelt speeches for our friends, family, and each other during the dinner reception,” they say.

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


Whitney designed the couple’s wedding monogram—a swooping, overlapping W and M—which was displayed on the bars and cocktail napkins. The couple served two signature drinks, a  Rémy Martin espresso martini and a St-Germain vodka elderflower spritz, alongside passed hors d’oeuvres from caterer Helen Traiteur.

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


Whitney also created bespoke pillows for the couple’s lounge areas. “This was a simple but high-impact way to customize rental furniture, which tends to be quite standard and did not conform with our vision,” say the men.

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


The Villa’s famous gardens created a striking backdrop for long, formal dining tables. “The juxtaposition of the villa’s formality straddled by Nice’s rocky beaches made it the perfect place to host family and friends as it represents who we are as a couple,” say Whitney and Michael.

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


A massive ice sculpture enclosing an arrangement of anthurium and calla lilies anchored the couple’s escort card table. Whitney and Michael credit the team at Wayne Riley Flowers with bringing their elaborate vision to life. “Beyond their imaginative floral design, they are simply great people,” say the grooms. “They always came from a place of ‘yes,’ which was important to us when our requests involved 1,000-plus-kilo ice sculptures.”

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


Pale pink roses, Kartell lighting, and embroidered dinner napkins added to the “Christofle and Baccarat-inspired décor” at the couple’s reception. The menu was “classic French,” says the couple: a floral Charlotte with garden herb coulis, veal or branzino filet with stuffed zucchini blossoms, local wine, and Champagne. “We laundered the napkins following the wedding, and now we have scores of them to use at our dinner parties for all eternity!” says the couple.

Photo by Audra Wrisley


During the reception, the grooms shared their first dance to “Fall on Me” by Andrea and Matteo Bocelli; Michael and his mother danced to “Time of Your Life” by Paul Anka, while Whitney and his mother chose Anne Murray’s “Could I Have This Dance.”

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


The newlyweds served two kinds of sweets: a Madagascar chocolate, green tea, and jasmine confection from their caterer, and a croquembouche of coffee, pistachio, and vanilla profiterole built on what they call a “monumental scale.”

Photo by Audra Wrisley


Photo by Audra Wrisley


The moments Whitney and Michael spent together (and with their guests) were the most memorable of the day. “A sweetheart table facing our guests and the villa’s façade gave us an opportunity to take in the moment and reflect on all that we had created,” they say, as they watched their nearly-100 guests celebrating. They recommend pre-ceremony portraits for the same reason. “The day goes by very fast,” they say. “You don’t want to miss a minute of it.”

Wedding Team

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