There are destination weddings and then there are destination weddings, and Justine & Barry’s dreamy South of France outdoor W Day definitely falls into the latter category.
The couple, whose international background (Justine grew up in South Africa, while Barry is originally from Zimbabwe and has lived all over the world) meant they had their pick of stunning destinations, chose the idyllic Villefrenche-sur-Mer, Cà´te d’Azur — a private chateau on the mountains above Nice overlooking the coastline.
This discerning couple put so much careful thought into each and every detail. There is so much to talk about — from the beautiful way Justine describes her connection to the religious ceremony and its traditions to both family’s own respective sentimental customs, including a ring that has been passed down through generations of the family and used in over 100 weddings.
The couple kept their series of events exciting by including a series of surprises, including an epic first dance that the couple still sneakily re-lives to this day and drip-feeding their guests details about the astounding destination. They also showered their lucky guests with lovely and thoughtful gifts, favours and special treats including luxuriously tempting macarons, a drinks trolley with fine liquors, pashminas, flip flops and kippot. It makes us wish that we’d been invited!
We could go on forever about the amazing attention to detail and the heart and soul that the couple poured into planning their big day, but we think that Justine does such a wonderful job of describing the events that it’s time to hand over to her. Take it away, Justine.
Stunning views at Villefrenche-sur-Mer, Cà´te d’Azur
We were married at the Domaine du Montleuze in Villefranche-sur-Mer. It’s a private chateau at the top of mountains above Nice, overlooking the entire coastline.
We got engaged in late March 2016 in the Swiss Alps and wanted to contrast our winter engagement with a summer wedding.
It is worth mentioning at this point that I grew up and lived in South Africa before moving to London five years ago. Barry, originally from Zimbabwe, has lived in multiple countries including South Africa, before moving to London eight years ago.
A summer wedding in South Africa was naturally expected. However, we wanted to be different and have something unique, something wildly romantic and intimate, but also a crazy party. Plus, it had to be easily accessible. Europe it was.
We were so excited to get married and weren’t keen on waiting over a year until the following summer so had our work cut out for us – a foreign wedding in which we speak no foreign languages in little over four months. We love Europe and looked at multiple venues in our favourite places in Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and France. While we were flexible in terms of country, we had certain considerations that we felt were important:
Every guest would need to travel to the wedding, so close proximity to an international airport was key.
We wanted to turn our celebration into a three-day event with a week-long build-up. Therefore, an abundance of accommodation options, nightlife, sightseeing, beaches and shopping was key.
We feel that a wedding and especially a Chuppah is such an intimate and spiritual moment that we wanted our venue to be the same. It needed to contrast our constantly busy lives and feel isolated, yet warm. Somewhere outdoors surrounded by natural beauty. And there also needed to have a magnificent view of the sea.
After a lot of thought, South of France ticked all the boxes. My family have holidayed there for many years and so know the area really well. France was also my late grandmother’s favourite place in the world. She loved the language, the food and the culture and so having a wedding there was very special for her and her family.
Barry then planned a trip to France to visit a few venues that we had researched. He was instantly sold on Domaine du Montleuze and immediately called me.
“I’ve found it. This is where we are getting married. The view is breathtaking. The journey to the venue is spectacular and exciting. The entrance is grand and inviting. The venue is a romantic, pink, Chateau with a huge balcony. Best of all, the Chuppah could be setup on the end of the mountain overlooking the turquoise sea in Cap Farat, and had an expansive walkway that could be used as an amazing aisle. Plus it’s less than 20 minutes’ drive from Nice and only 30 minutes for Cà´te d’Azur airport.”
The decision was made. We loved it and were quite certain we had found a real gem.
A modern, romantic and elegant wedding
We wanted our theme to mimic us as a couple — modern, romantic and elegant.The dress code was black tie and the colour scheme was predominantly white with splashes of gold.
Pinterest became my best friend (and Barry’s worst nightmare) and Wunderlist allowed us to keep on top of everything.
We planned all the details ourselves. Some of our favourites included barrel matches, napkins, sparkler holders and ribbons from For Your Party, all foil stamped with our logo in gold. We also loved our custom white and gold umbrella from Channa Constance on Etsy which had our names embroided on the side. She also made us custom arches in white and gold ribbon.
We provided a basket of white flip-flops in assorted sizes so the woman could alleviate blisters and sore feet. We also provided kippot from Best Kippah for the men and pashminas for the ladies to be used at the Chuppah.
Barry has two left feet cemented to the floor (his words) however he knew how much I would love our first dance to be a spectacle, and so agreed to try a choreographer that had been recommended to us. Renako McDonald was inspiring, talented and so enthusiastic.
We set up a lemonade and cocktail station for when the guests arrived and later in the celebration we had a drinks trolley. Barry ordered the most amazing range of alcohol from Master of Malt and the barman navigated his way through the tables offering each guest the opportunity to sample one (or many) of 12 international vodkas, 10 rare whiskeys or 15 dangerous tequilas.
We knew that the trolley would quickly transform into a drinking station, so had glass jars filled with strawberries, cherries, sweets, macaroons and marshmallows. This helped keep everyone going, and for those non-seasoned drinkers, something to help ease the aftertaste of ice-cold vodka shots.
We purchased individual LED-lit letters to spell out Justine & Barry from Amazon, which we placed at the entrance to the marquee and then used again the following day at our beach venue. We also used the J&B at our flip-flop stand.
Our online invitations
We wanted our invitation to be different and long lasting. We went electronic, sharing our engagement with a short video and also sending out a save-the-date video and building a wedding website through a template from Appycouple, through which our guests could RSVP.
Initially, we kept the venue hidden, describing it as a secret location until the last moment, revealing only titbits at a time. When guests arrived they were truly astonished and awestruck.
Romantic and elegant hair and makeup
A friend recommended a hair salon in Mandelieu called Art Metal and I was so pleased that she did. I started with a trial a few weeks before. I knew exactly what I wanted – a soft, high bun that was romantic and elegant. The hairdresser, Dominique Peron, only spoke French and so I showed her the photo of the style and used Google translate for the rest. She was such a lovely lady and turned out to be a real gem to have by my side on the day. She ended up doing mine as well as my mom’s hair at the venue — both at a very reasonable price. I highly recommend her for her warmth, personality, professionalism and reliable service.
Luckily for me, one of my best friends, Samantha Landesberg, happens to be a professional make-up artist. We did a trial run in London and she was amazing. I went for a very natural look which she perfected. I highly recommend Sam to any brides that want a professional and an absolute sweetheart to be by their side on the big day. She has the most amazing heart and makes everyone around her feel so special.
A custom-made dream dress
I am not someone who has been planning my dress since I was little. I didn’t even know what type of style I wanted. I did however know exactly who I wanted to make it — Howard Green.
Howard is an amazing and gifted designer from South Africa, who has a large international following. I’ve been fortunate enough to have numerous dresses made by him in the past, and could never imagine anyone else dressing me on my big day. I cannot highlight enough how amazing Howard is.
He is articulate, creative, caring and has exceptional attention to detail. He is an absolute perfectionist and has an amazing eye for what suits people and isn’t afraid to speak his opinion.
Working with Howard and finding my perfect dress was one of my favourite experiences in the build-up to the wedding.
I initially called him a few times from London — not being sure if a wanted the dress to be slim fitting or puffy or something else. I did know that I wanted it to be very elegant and romantic, with a low back but not too showy! He asked where the wedding would be as he said this impacted the choice of dress, plus what the other guests would be wearing.
He drew out a few photos and discussed some ideas before sending me off to Browns and Pronovias to sample a few different styles. This was so much fun.
I narrowed it down to two dresses and then left it up to Howard to decide. Most people can’t believe I did this, but such is my absolute faith and trust in Howard. And he chose perfectly – I couldn’t have wished for better.
The dress was waves of tulle for the skirt with a low-back top made of French lace. I bought the lace, plus the fabric for my mum’s dress (which was made by Howard as well) from an amazing store on Edgware Road in London called Joel & Son Fabrics.
I then flew to Johannesburg and spent a week there, having numerous fittings whilst Howard made the dress. He surprised me at the end with a glorious Swarovski belt which was the perfect final touch.
Accessories with emotional significance
Howard made a long light flowy veil made out of tulle with a simple, elegant Swarovski clip. We decided that my hair would need to be up and in a bun. On Howards’ recommendation, I ordered five Swarovski butterfly clips from Tegen Accessories.
I had actually one of the most precious evenings with my father two nights before the wedding. We both got all dressed up and went to have dinner at the Michelin Star restaurant on the top of the Le Meridian hotel in Nice. After dinner my father gave me the most beautiful princess Diana sapphire ring. This was my something blue and was one of the pieces of jewellery I wore on my wedding day.
I also wore a pair of diamond earrings that Barry bought me for our anniversary last year and a diamond bracelet that my mum gave me for my 30th birthday — this was my something new.
I was given an antique brooch that I wore on my garter which was my something old. My something borrowed was a butterfly clip from my best friend.
All the jewellery was extremely significant and sentimental.
Jimmy Choo heels
This was really tricky. I love skyscrapers — L.O.V.E. them. Howard however recommended that I wear kitten heels as I am the same height as Barry and he thought that was best for the photos. I however could not think of anything more tragic than wearing kitten heels in my fabulous dress.
Barry suggested I go with what I love and that height was not an issue for him. I went straight to Harrods for my 10cm Jimmy Choos. I chose a silvery gold pair covered in glitter.
The handsome groom
Barry appreciates exceptional quality and has immaculate taste. He has his go-to brands and loves shopping almost as much as I do. He loved selecting his outfit.
He wore a handmade classic black dinner suit from Gieves & Hawkes, while his patent black shoes were from no other than Louboutin. He got matching shirts, bow ties, cufflinks and pocket squares for all of his groomsmen. He looked so proud, handsome and dapper in his outfit.
Bridesmaids in shades of gold
I chose five of my closest and oldest friends to be by my side. We also had two little flower girls who are precious to us.
I’ve never been a fan of typical bridesmaid dresses. I knew that I would feel amazing in my dress and wanted them to feel the same. I gave them some guidelines and let each decide on a gold, light gold or champagne dress that would best suit their personality, personal style and body shape. Two dresses were handmade with the others bought from ASOS, The Outnet and House of Fraser.
For the flower girls, I found the most adorable outfits on Etsy — a champagne-coloured net skirt with a white top, finished off with white ballet shoes. They wore garlands of baby Arum Lilies on their heads and carried baskets of petals. Both girls felt like princesses and everyone adored them.
Two page boys aged 18 months and five years old accompanied the pole holders, wearing black shorts, white shirts, and a black bow tie and suspenders – they stole everyone’s hearts.
Our meaningful Jewish ceremony
The views around the Chuppah were breathtaking and we didn’t want to detract from this. It was all in white with strict instructions to not be too complicated — simple long-flowing tulle with long displays of white orchids and lilies.
Barry and I went to pre-marriage lessons in the build up to the wedding. We were initially hesitant at the thought, however as we got to spend time with our Rabbi, Yisroel, and his wife, Devorah-Leah we both developed a very close bond with them, gaining a deep spiritual understanding around the significance of the Chuppah, the Badeken, and marriage in general.
For us, the build up made everything that much more meaningful, and looking back now, some of best moments of the day were related to this spiritual connection.
For the Badeken, we went with the Rabbi’s suggestion of keeping it very intimate – no bridesmaids or groomsmen, just immediate family.
For the Chuppah, we also agreed to keep it about us, and chose to rather face the panoramic view and not our guests to avoid any type of distraction. This allowed us to focus and be immersed in the moment.
I think the build-up to the wedding played a tremendous part in getting us into the correct mindset:
I flew into France with my family one week before the wedding, and from this point, Barry and I did not speak or communicate in any way. When the day finally arrived, we were so eager and excited to see and speak to each other.
We both went to the mikvah — I went to the most amazing marble building in Nice whilst Barry went with our Rabbi to a secluded beach in Eze. Barry said that those few moments speaking with the Rabbi and laying teffelin whilst the waves were breaking over their feet was so calming.
The whole ceremony was so special — I think it was mutually our best part of the wedding. We knew exactly what we wanted for a Chuppah and it all came together perfectly.
The aisle itself was about 80m in length and was covered in a white carpet that guided everyone down to an open panoramic view of the coastline below. The walk took a couple of minutes allowing us enough time to absorb the whole emotional experience almost in slow motion — it was magical.
Barry has a long and really amazing tradition in his family. His late grandparents got married in 1911. Each of their seven children were later married using the same ring that their parents used. And every grandchild and great-grandchild since then has been married using this very same ring.
This ring has travelled the world over and has probably been used in close to 100 weddings so far. After each wedding ceremony the ring is safely returned to South Africa where it’s guarded by Barry’s aunt for future generations. It comes with a ribbon that is inscribed with:
“My dearest children, this is the ring that your father and I were married in — keep it safely, cherish it and see that your children, grandchildren and future generations use it to be married in. Love, Mummy”, dated 17th March 1955.
The two Kiddush cups under the Chuppah also had significance. The first was given to Barry by his godparents on the day he was born, and the second by his parents to use on his Bar Mitzvah.
Our rabbi ended the Chuppah with a special touch by blowing the shofar.
Our meaningful music choices
Barry and I wanted to choose very powerful and meaningful songs for the Chuppah. We are both traditional, however wanted slightly different tunes to the typical Jewish songs.
I am completely besotted with Andrea Bocelli, so much so that I chose the tune of Time To Say Goodbye and combined that with the Israeli song Boi Kala. It was sung live with accompanying instrumentals and began as I entered the top of the aisle. It was powerful and strong and emotional. My father got so caught up in the moment that he was singing along.
For Barry’s walk, he chose a specific rendition of Kol Sasson which was just as powerful. It echoed through trees all the way up to where I was waiting, giving me chills.
For circling Barry under the Chuppah, I chose a version of Jerusalem which fitted the scenery and mood perfectly. I then surprised Barry with a song as he broke the glass. I wanted something lively and fun that would get everyone in the mood for the party to follow, and so chose I’m A Believer. It was such fun and everyone loved it.
For cocktail hour on the balcony, there were various food stations, cocktail stands and drinks tables with a live jazz band playing.
We then did something different and joined our guests in the cocktail area — something no-one expected. We played a song called Special Star, from a South African band called Mango Groove as we entered. It was such a change from the live jazz that everyone went crazy with excitement and immediately started dancing with us.
Feel So Close by Calvin Harris started playing as we then made our entrance, running onto the dancefloor through gold and white arches being held by our guests. We danced to this before beginning the madness of the Jewish dancing, which ended with me being thrown in the air on a sheet held by all the men.
A white floral theme
We wanted white orchids for their refined beauty, white St Josephs lilies for their fragrance, white arum lilies for their majesty and lisianthus for their calmness. We had vases filled with gladioli in full bloom lining the aisle.
The bridal bouquet was a fountain of beautiful flowing white orchids. The bridesmaids and flower girls carried bunches of lisianthus. Barry and my father each had an arum lily in their button holes.
Each table setting had orchids resting on top of the serviette. The centerpieces were vases of different heights filled with gel, arum lilies and candles.
As with the Chuppah, everything needed to crisp, clean and white so as to never detract or distract from the view which enveloped the balcony on which the tables were set — it was understated, classic elegance.
We also had a marquee installed, with the ceiling draped in white fairy lights.
Our fabulous photographer and videographer
Our photographer and videographer was Cedric from Imagin Still Motion.
Cedric was vibrant, excitable, fun and so full of enthusiasm — it was refreshing. We wanted everything to be very natural with few posed shots. The idea was to for his team to blend into the surrounding and capture delicate moments and emotions in a totally unscripted format.
We also had a photo-booth or, as they called it, Trombinobox. It was fabulous and everyone loved it. We also duplicated each of the photos and used them to create out guestbook with messages alongside the pictures. We loved this idea so much that we purchased a series of Polaroid cameras which we handed out to everyone at the events following the wedding.
A Croquembouche cake
We decided that because the wedding was in France we wanted something typically French and settled on a Croquembouche, a tower of puff pastries filled with a delicious a vanilla cream custard. Spun sugar circled the cake stack alongside floating iced butterflies. After cutting, each guest was served a puff pastry.
Both the cake and the catering was Dany’s Traiteur. Everything was kosher, tasted amazing with superior quality and presentation.
Our surprise first dance
We had surprise choreography for our first dance. It started off with Moon River and had your expected sweeping flows and graceful dips. The music then snapped to halt and there was a pause where I looked completely shocked and panicked. As no-one knew what was about to happen, everyone thought something had gone terribly wrong.
Alane by Wes then bellowed trough the speakers as Barry and I broke into some serious dance moves. In total we shook and danced to five songs over five minutes, ending with Party Rockers which got every guest joining us on the dancefloor.
Our first dance was also so much fun and was the best dance and entertainment we could have imagined. We love the dance so much that we still secretly practice it late at night.
An amazing party atmosphere
We found a company called G-Star events who were really unbelievable. It’s run by a Jewish man called Greg and can offer anything from bands, DJs, entertainment dancers, fire-breathers, fireworks and even wild animals!
Greg suggested a six-person band along with live instrumentals. The same band played during the chuppah, cocktail area and in the marquee up until midnight. We then moved inside where Greg DJd himself until 4am.
G-Star were truly amazing and a highlight of the evening. They learnt all the songs to our chosen tunes for the Chuppah, plus some other random songs that I asked for (like from a South African band).
They were so interactive and captivating that everyone ended up singing and dancing alongside them. Barry and I even got on stage and performed with them. The atmosphere was amazing.
With the party continuing until 4am, and with the dinner ending just after 10:30 we knew that our guests would need to refuel during the night. So, as we moved indoors to the DJ area, we brought out burgers, chips, popcorn and fruit-platters for everyone. We also had a sweets station which was open the entire night.
Personalised macaron favours
Each guest received a personalised note, itinerary covering the next three days and a box of Ladurà©e Macaron’s. This little French-inspired gift was left in each of their hotel rooms prior to their arrival.
Aside from the welcome gifts, the ladies all walked away with a pair of flip flops and a pashmina, with the men taking their kippot. Guests also got copies of all of their photos from the photobooth in a custom sleeve.
I also put a lot of effort into inviting each of my bridesmaids. They received a beautiful white gift box filled with petals, a personalised note and a Diptyque perfume — they loved it. Each groomsman also received a gift box with the same shirt, cufflinks, bowtie and pocket square that Barry selected for himself.
The love around us as key to our wedding’s success
I made a speech during the cocktail area. I really wanted to say something as everyone in attendance really meant the world to me. I spoke about love.
A really special part was our private Badeken. The only people in the room were our immediate family and my three aunts. It was highly recommended by our Rabbi and it’s a moment in our lives that we wish to relive.
I come from an exceptionally close family and so they were involved every step of the way. I had a first dance with both my dad and my brother which I know was very special to both of them as much as it was to me.
In the very early hours of the morning of the big day I went down to the beach in Nice on my own and read the Amidah. I just sat there on this grey pebble beach watching the waves come in. I felt so calm, so relaxed and so ready and excited for the day to unfold. I highly recommend taking this time out for yourself. And also to be selfish. Don’t worry about treading lightly to appease everyone. It’s your big day — do exactly what you want and feel.
Overall, I think the key to our wedding’s success was the love around us. Every guest had to make to journey to be with us, and so everyone that was there really want to be.
Having the wedding last a number of days just made the bond closer and let the excitement linger on longer. Also, knowing that we had numerous events planned alleviated the pressure of needing to spend large amounts of time with every guest on the night. No pressure allowed us to focus on each other and our new life together.
Justine & Barry’s little white book
Photographer and Videographer – Cedric from Imagin Still Motion
Venue – Domaine du Montleuze
Bride’s dress – Howard Green
Lace for bride’s and mum’s dresses – Joel & Son Fabrics
Bride’s accessories – Tegen Accessories
Bride’s shoes – Jimmy Choo
Groom’s attire – black dinner suit from Gieves & Hawkes, patent black shoes from Louboutin
Bridesmaids’ dresses – ASOS, The Outnet and House of Fraser
Hair – Dominique Peron at Art Metal
Make-Up – Samantha Landesberg
Cake and the catering – Dany’s Traiteur
Entertainment – G-Star
Choreographer – Renako McDonald
Favours – Ladurà©e macaroon and Diptyque perfume
Kippot, Fans and Pashminas – Best Kippah
Drinks trolley – Master of Malt
Wedding shtick – Channa Constance on Etsy
Barrel matches, napkins, sparkler holders and ribbons – For Your Party
LED letters – Amazon
Photo-booth – Trombinobox
Instant photos – Polaroid
Wedding website – Appycouple