There’s SO MUCH to love about today’s stunner of a Jew-ish wedding, but I’m particularly obsessed with how they incorporated one of my all-time favorite patisseries into their day…
New York-based Melissa, who works in luxury marketing, and William, in finance, opted to wed in Paris, where William lived for many years. The city played an important part in the development of their relationship – as did one of its most delicious exports, Laduree.
Known for the tastiest macarons around (seriously, once you try one of theirs you won’t want to bother with any others), as well as exemplary presentations of classic French pastry, Laduree has long been a favorite Parisian haunt of the couple’s. So much so that when William proposed – in the City of Love, naturally – he did so over a bag of Laduree goodies (seriously, we love this guy!).
In a nod to their engagement, the pair opted to forgo cake in favor of something quintessentially French: a croquembouche. But not just any croquembouche. A rose lychee flavored croquembouche from Laduree. I’m positively drooling over here just thinking about it!
Instead of a traditional guest book, Melissa and William asked their guests to sign a Laduree macaron book. Each page featured a different flavor, and guests could choose one to sign. Oh, and the favors? Laduree macarons, in a selection of the bride and groom’s favorite flavors.
Even their venue, the mega-opulent Grand Salon at the Shangri-La Hotel, kind of resembles one of Laduree’s beautiful salons (although unlike my local Laduree, the Shangri-La comes complete with a straight-on view of the Eiffel Tower). The place is just dripping with old-school Parisian glamour.
It was important to Melissa, who is Jewish, and William, raised Catholic, to find a ketubah vendor who offered texts suitable for interfaith couples, and they ended up with a beautiful papercut from Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendor Ketubah.com.
Now I’ll turn you over to Melissa could not have looked more elegant in her showstopper of a gown, custom designed for her by Sharon Wilkes (who we adore, and just happens to her best friend’s mother).
How we met
Melissa, the bride: We originally met in the summer of 2006, while we were both participating in a summer pre-college program at Georgetown University following our junior year of high school. As I was from New York and William was from Paris, seeing each other after the program was quite unlikely, but we were smitten with each other.
We kept in touch on and off for the next 5 years, and resumed speaking after a long hiatus around February 2011 when William, who was working in finance but had retained his teenage passion for writing, had written a short story and asked me for my thoughts.
In May of 2011, I had just graduated early from university and was traveling through Europe, while William was on a summer break from his master’s program in Paris. William asked me to meet him for a spontaneous trip in southern Spain, and I said no at first, nervous about seeing him after all those years.
But in my heart I felt that I should go, and a few weeks later I flew to meet him in Andalusia, where we spent five days traveling together and began to fall in love. After the trip, we decided to give things a real shot and began dating long distance. This lasted for four years, with me in New York and William in Paris and London, before William could finally move to New York in June 2015.
William was born in Paris, and lived there as a baby and again for high school, university, and graduate school. I first went to see him in Paris in October 2011, 4 months into our relationship, and when he moved to London in 2012, we went back to France frequently.
We made many traditions together on our trips to Paris, including a Sunday brunch of pastries and macarons from Laduree at his apartment. We spoke abstractly about getting married in Paris for a year or two before we were actually engaged. On July 3, 2016, he proposed to me over those same sweets, which he slipped out to get while I was asleep.
I had seen photos of weddings in the Grand Salon at the Shangri-La and fell in love with it; it exuded the Parisian glamour and opulence that I was looking for, and the hotel had incredible views of the Eiffel Tower.
Though I would never be a “hotel wedding” person in the US, the Shangri-La is more a historical site, as it was, until relatively recently, the private residence of Roland Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew.
We had the entire historical floor for the wedding day, which included the Grand Salon, where we conducted the ceremony and later the reception dinner, and several other rooms, where we were able to shoot family portraits, and through which guests could roam during cocktail hour.
Finally, around midnight, we all went to the Shangri-La’s more modern ballroom, the Salon Roland Bonaparte, for dancing with the live band, cocktails, our croquembouche presentation, and a late night dessert bar! So our guests experienced multiple “venues” during our one wedding.
Our wedding colors were cream and gold, and the theme was classic Parisian elegance, both to suit the Versaille-esque Grand Salon at the Shangri-La, where the ceremony and reception would take place.
Billy Folchetti of Luxe Paris Events helped to bring my wishes to life, and brought an incredible design eye to the whole process. Having a planner in Paris was essential for not going (totally) insane during the months leading up to the wedding when I was unable to be on the ground doing things myself.
To match the venue, I wanted the invitations to be very classic and rich, so I chose heavy cream paper with gold foil letterpress.
I worked with Typecase Industries, a female-run small business based in Washington, DC, on a referral from my maid of honor (a previous STG bride!). I was able to work with them remotely from New York; they even sent me foil samples by mail!
Typecase designed a simple but elegant MW monogram for us to use across the different elements of our wedding stationery to tie everything together. To finish the suite, I chose a gold floral envelope liner. The large flowers were a nice nod to my bridal gown.
An Exquisite Updo
Sanni Sorma did my hair and makeup. She is such a sweet and positive spirit, and an amazing talent to boot.
Makeup I left to the day of with no specific plan. For hair, I was very conflicted until the very end about putting it up as I almost always have my hair down, and feel more confident that way, but knew an updo would hold better for the long wedding day and night ahead.
I decided to do a trial with Sanni just a few days before the wedding, and after we mutually vetoed the slick, high updo I was trying to sell myself on, we landed on an amazing Marie Antoinette-esque updo with much more wavy softness and teasing at the crown. It felt like I still had the softness and framing of hair around my face, while enjoying a very styled, high fashion look.
A Custom Dress
My dress was a really special part of my wedding experience as it was custom designed by Sharon Wilkes, my best friend’s mother and talented designer. Sharon has always treated me like another daughter, and had promised to design my wedding gown for me years ago, and she delivered!
I knew I wanted a lace gown and sleeves, so we started with that. Part of my desire for a custom gown is that I am quite busty but otherwise petite, so fit was extremely important. I was wary of anything strapless or unstructured.
At the beginning of the process, we went shopping at Mood Designer Fabrics, and found an amazing Marchesa lace that was anything but boring. It had large modern flowers that begged to be beaded, and a very romantic feel.
From there, Sharon sketched based on my initial design preferences. The dress had many iterations; I had frequent fittings along the way, and throughout the process we made edits to the style as needed (the overskirt, neckline, and beading all changed along the way).
Before the gown was stitched together, we sent the lace and tulle to India to be beaded with pearls. I was adamantly against rhinestones, especially given my cream and gold palette, so the pearls added beautiful dimension and texture without the bling.
The dress process ended up taking much longer than we anticipated, but it was so worth the beautiful result. I felt amazing in the dress on my wedding day!
Floral Combs in Gold and Pearl
I had a lot of difficulty deciding on hairpieces, especially since I didn’t decide on my hairstyle until I was already in Paris.
Since the wedding venue had so much gold, and my dress was pearl embellished, I was looking for something incorporating those elements, but almost everything in the market had rhinestones and silver.
Finally, after a lot of frustration, I found an amazing asymmetrical set of combs from Twigs & Honey, with beautiful floral features done in gold and pearl that complimented my dress beautifully.
I did also decide to have my dress seamstress make a simple veil, in ivory cathedral length net with just a few cutouts of the large flowers from my lace appliqued on to the bottom corners. I opted to buck tradition and not have a blusher or anything covering my face.
Charlotte Olympia and Jimmy Choo
I had two pairs of shoes for the wedding day. I was adamant that I didn’t want white or ivory shoes that I would never want to wear otherwise.
Knowing that I would be galavanting around Paris for a two-hour photo shoot post-ceremony, I purchased a pair of metallic Jimmy Choo wedges, which I ended up keeping on for the rest of the evening.
The handsome groom
As the wedding was black tie, we knew Will would wear a tux, but we wanted it to be a bit special and to stand out from the groomsmen and other guests. We made finding Will’s tux a joint project, and set out to find one in midnight blue, ultimately falling in love with a style from Ralph Lauren.
After changes with the Ralph Lauren label several years ago, the style and color we wanted were not readily available in stores, but after much searching online, we purchased a new one from an Ebay seller in Amsterdam… at a third of the price!
Jenny Yoo Bridesmaids
I had seven bridesmaids! As I was working with a range of body types, it was very important to me to find a designer and fabric that would fit and flatter all of the girls. I chose convertible dresses from Jenny Yoo in a French blue tulle.
The tulle felt summery, ethereal, and very Parisian. I typically go for richer tones like burgundy or cobalt, but knew those tones would feel too heavy for a summer wedding. However, I didn’t want a typical pastel.
During a winter walkthrough of the Salon de Famille, where we would ultimately do boudoir and formal portraits during the wedding, I saw that there were beautiful blue grey walls with hand painted moldings and details of gold and pink. This convinced me to go with a Jenny Yoo fabric I had seen just a week or two before.
The dress had a strapless base but included large fabric panels in the front and back that could be manipulated into a variety of necklines, from halter to one shoulder to cap sleeve. Each of the girls chose a different way to wear her dress.
A Chuppah with Multipurpose Florals
I wanted to have a chuppah, but since much more time would be spent in the reception space, I didn’t want to blow the flower budget there. I was also worried about covering up the beauty of the ornate room, especially the antique marble fireplace we would stand in front of.
Billy had done runner-style flower garlands along the length of a table at some of his previous weddings, and I loved that look. We decided on a multi-functional, lush garland that would drape asymmetrically along the top and one side of an otherwise simply draped chuppah. The piece was then to be used across the fireplace we would sit in front of during our reception, so there was no waste. It was my planner and florist’s first chuppah, and I think he did an incredible job!
An Interfaith Ceremony
Our search for an officiant was a very difficult one. We are an interfaith couple; I was raised Reform Jewish and Will was raised Catholic. Though finding a reform rabbi to marry us in New York would not be a problem, there aren’t any rabbis allowed to marry interfaith couples in France. I spoke to a few people in the UK, but those available on the date were only willing to do a marriage blessing, not a full ceremony.
We were feeling quite hopeless, until my parents mentioned that they had run into my childhood cantor a few months prior, and he had offered to marry us, not knowing where the wedding would take place. A lightbulb went off!
Cantor Silverman has known me since age two, when we moved to Connecticut and joined our congregation there. He was the cantor at my bat mitzvah and also presided over my grandmother’s funeral when I was fifteen. He is a wonderfully warm and generous man and has an incredible voice! So I asked him. Cantor Silverman and his wife agreed to travel over to Paris for the occasion, and we feel so lucky to have had them there.
A Papercut Ketubah
We found a beautiful ketubah on Ketubah.com. I originally looked into some options on Etsy, but many were from Israel and offered only Orthodox or Conservative texts. As we are an interfaith couple, we looked for a vendor with texts that would suit us best. Ketubah.com offered four different options for interfaith texts, and one of them was just what we wanted.
I was hoping for a papercut ketubah, and we ultimately chose a design by Enya Keshet, which incorporates ahava in the design and refers to Song of Songs.
Love Me Like You Do
For the ceremony processional and recessional, we had a string quartet, but I knew I didn’t want them to play a traditional wedding march.
I walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of Sky Full of Stars by Coldplay. I had heard an orchestral cover by Vitamin String Quartet featured on a list of unique wedding songs probably two or three years before the wedding, and kept the link to it in an email draft all that time. It gave me goose bumps when I first heard it, and I knew I would use it when William and I finally married!
Our recessional was a string quartet version of Love Me Like You Do by Ellie Goulding. This was a last minute pick a few days before the wedding, but the emotional intensity of the slowed down version just felt right.
Our first dance was to Perfect by Ed Sheeran. This was a last minute decision too; we had gone back and forth between it and something very old school Parisian like La Vie en Rose. Ultimately, we liked the idea of something we might hear again in the States.
We played the original version on the sound system, since the historic room we had our dinner in couldn’t accommodate our band, and I don’t think it would have felt right with another voice behind it anyway. The song was quite new when we chose it, but since the wedding it has gained tremendous popularity, and one out of every two times we get into an Uber together, we hear it play. It’s quite nice to be able to turn to each other and reminisce about the big day.
Flowers in Cream and Ivory
Billy of Luxe Paris Events was my florist as well as my planner. I wanted to keep the flowers cream throughout, and he created the chuppah, centerpieces, and bridesmaid bouquets using a mix of hydrangeas and roses in ivory. We decided to err on the modern side and forgo boutonnières for the men.
I requested peonies for my bouquet to achieve more of a soft, plush look compared to the rest of the arrangements, knowing they were right on the edge of being out of season, and Billy was able to fulfill my wish. My bridal bouquet had a piece of lace from my dress wrapped around the base as a more personalized alternative to ribbon.
Our fabulous Photographer and videographer
I knew I wanted to spend our cocktail hour capturing some amazing portraits around the city, and I was particularly enamored with their past shoots with brides and grooms at iconic Paris locations. Ahead of the wedding, we had a group Skype session to choose locations to shoot at, and settled on Pont Alexandre III, the Louvre, and Bir Hakeim.
Claire and Chris worked wonderfully together, perhaps in part because they are a couple in real life! They met shooting a wedding, of course.
A Laduree Croquembouche
French desserts are near to our hearts and part of the history of our relationship. William and I spent many Sundays in Paris lingering over patisserie from the Laduree on the Champs Elysees, and on July 3, 2016, while I was still sleeping, Will came home with pastries from there and proposed over them.
So, I wanted to be French for this one and have a croquembouche instead of a traditional wedding cake. The choice was simple for who would make it… Laduree. The choux were rose lychee flavored, and absolutely delicious.
Instead of “cutting the cake” during our dinner, we waited until the dance party, during which Shangri-La did a proper presentation with sparklers and champagne. This resulted in one of our favorite moments of the night.
We designed our wedding dinner with Chef Christopher Moret and the team at the Shangri-La. We had a proper French meal with both fish and meat courses. Besides formal French cuisine, the hotel is also famous for dishes with unique Asian flare. We chose a Thai-style crab salad for our starter, a signature of the hotel and a tribute to Koh Lanta, a small Thai island where we traveled four years in a row. It’s our favorite place in the world.
After the croquembouche presentation during the dancing party, we had a dessert bar with incredible seasonal patisserie from Michael Bartocetti, the pastry chef at the Shangri-La. There were six varieties including tarts with cherries and fresh almond, hazelnut Paris-Brest, and coco lime vanilla eclairs. Though there was a plated dessert served at dinner, we hoped that as time passed and champagne flowed, dancing guests might want a snack!
A Great Hora from the Band
I really wanted a band! I later came to learn that this was a rarity in France. French people always have DJs at their weddings, but I was determined. Fortunately, Will’s aunt, who works in events, sent us to Charly’s Angels, who she had seen perform at corporate events in France. They performed everything from Louis Armstrong to John Legend. And they were able to do a great hora for us!
We did macarons from Laduree in honor of our engagement over their creations and as an extension of our cake. Each guest got a gift box with three macarons in our favorite flavors, which corresponded nicely with the wedding colors: salted caramel (gold), orange blossom (cream), and rose (blush pink).
Matching Pajamas for the Maids
Many people do robes for the bridesmaids to get ready in, but I decided I wanted something a bit different. I chose matching menswear-style pajamas from J. Crew, navy with white piping done in a crisp, summery cotton. The girls lounged in them all morning and afternoon while we got ready.
Once I finished shooting boudoir, I put on my contrasting pair, white with navy piping, and we headed to one of the hotel terraces to take some photos together. My last as a single girl!
A Sushi Bar
Besides passed canapés, we added a sushi bar to our cocktail hour. We had extending the run time so that we could take our portraits around Paris and wanted to make sure everyone was well fed and happy. It turned out to be a food highlight for many of our guests; several told us it was the best sushi they had ever had!
A Macaron Guest Book
A few weeks before the wedding I panicked and realized I hadn’t ordered a guest book. I tried to get a custom one from Etsy, but it was too late. I thought something non-traditional could be fun, and decided on a Laduree macaron book. Each page features a different flavor, and guests could choose one and sign. It ended up being so much more personal than any monogrammed book I could have gotten from Etsy, and a lot more fun!
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
Destination brides should definitely use the services of a planner! When you are in town just a few days before your wedding, with guests flying from all over the world, the last thing you will want to do is be running around collecting last minute items and calling foreign vendors.
It is also really important to research the particulars of holding events in the city or town you have chosen, as practices may be very different from the US or UK. For example, in Paris having dancing after a wedding is a challenge, because almost every venue is historic, and so they don’t allow loud music, speakers, etc. So at many events in Paris dancing occurs in the cellar. And at many small destination weddings in Paris, couples don’t have music beyond a few string instruments for this very reason.
We had to get creative in terms of the event flow in order to remedy this problem, but it was a lot easier to take care of once I fully understood the roadblocks at hand.
Melissa & William’s Little White Book
Photography – Claire Morris Photography
Videography – Zen Film Works
Ketubah – Ketubah.com
Wedding planner and flowers – Luxe Paris Events
Venue – Shangri-La Hotel
Bride’s dress – Sharon Wilkes Bridal and Mood Designer Fabrics
Bride’s accessories – Twigs & Honey and BHLDN
Bride’s shoes – Charlotte Olympia and Jimmy Choo
Groom’s attire – Ralph Lauren, Ermenegildo Zegna and Magnnani for Saks Fifth Avenue
Bridesmaids – Jenny Yoo and J. Crew
Hair + Makeup – Sanni Sorma, Ciara Coiffure and Charles Gillman Cosmetics
Band – Charly’s Angels
Cake and favours – Laduree
Rings – Delicate Gem of New York City
Stationery – Typecase Industries and Minted