Weddings by the sea are my absolute favourite, so I’m a little bit obsessed with today’s gorgeous French Riviera Jewish wedding coming to you from the à¼ber-glamorous Cap Ferrat — a quite breathtaking part of the world that I was fortunate enough to visit last summer.
When STG regular, Polly Alexandre revealed the sneak peak to me, I just knew that Renata and Jonathan’s three day wedding extravaganza would be seriously fun to blog. This gorgeous destination wedding has more than a touch of class about it and I thought it would make for the perfect pick-me-up in the first week of January. Thoroughly elegant and sophisticated, the flowers in particular are unbelievably dreamy, with lots of beautiful pink and white peonies, roses and hydrangea. I’m also loving the sweetheart table, the macaroon pyramid, the suite of ‘magnificent garden’ themed stationery (complete with flower seed sachets!), and the jaw-dropping ceremony backdrop.
It’s quite the fashion fest too. I love the classiness of an outdoor black tie wedding, and Jonathan’s Tom Ford tuxedo is an absolute showstopper. Renata chose a Monique Lhuillier gown paired with Manolo Blahnik shoes, and then changed into a bespoke Femmes Fatales dress by Ella Tatarinova for the evening. I told you it was a fashion frenzy!
How we met
In the words of Polly Alexandre, their photographer, Renata and Johnny’s love story involves two jetskis, two cities, one sea urchin, 40 spikes and a hospital.
Polly Alexandre, “This may seem like an unusual story and it’s definitely one of the most original I have heard for sure, but like all good fairytales it has a happy ending. The couple met on a group holiday in Kenya where Johnny persuaded Renata to come out on a jetski ride with him. However Johnny *may or may not* have gone a little bit fast and consequently Renata was thrown from the jetski into the shallow waters. She stepped on the seabed to catch her footing and “ouch!” immediately trod on a sea urchin that immediately shed over 40 spikes into her foot. So it was off to hospital to have them removed.”
“Feeling slightly responsible for her fate, Johnny arranged to take Renata for dinner in London a few weeks later, by way of apology. Except that this was a little more than an apology as rumour has it Johnny actually booked several restaurants for this rather special date…… finally opting for dinner at Daphne’s. The connection was immediate and soon blossomed into a beautiful romance. Despite living in different countries, the couple took it in turns to fly to each other for the weekend so they could be reunited each week.”
A magical villa venue in Cap Ferrat, Cote d’Azur
Renata, the Bride: Jonathan and I dreamed of a summer wedding and whilst we live in Geneva, we visit the South of France quite often, and his mother lives in the region too. We wanted to create a wonderful destination wedding experience for our friends and family who traveled from all over the world to be with us.
Once we decided on the Cote d’Azur, we saw several beautiful venues but we immediately fell in love with Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. Having taken a walk in the gardens, and having seen the musical fountains and the beautiful sea views we were under a spell.
Everything in this place is magical and totally captivating and from then on it was absolutely clear to us where we wanted to get married.
a ‘Magnificent Garden’ theme
We loved the idea of a ‘Magnificent Garden’ theme, and translated it into the design of the stationery. Our colour scheme was a pastel pink and creme. Lavender and Rose Weddings were our chosen wedding planners.
A beautiful suite of stationery bringing together our ‘Magnificent Garden’ theme
To begin with, we asked Louise Richardson, a UK based bespoke wedding stationery designer to work on our Save the Date cards. Once she designed the Save the Dates we had no doubt we wanted her to create our invitations and on the day stationery. The Save The Date was a postcard with a watercolour style illustration of the villa. We wanted to keep our venue a secret from the guests, so the postcard only said Cote d’Azur without revealing the exact location until they received the invitations.
We were holding a three day celebration across different venues in St Jean Cap Ferrat and she created a gorgeous invitation suite that reflected the theme of Magnificent Gardens.
We also added a sachet with flower seeds on the front of the invitation envelope, it was a unique touch, and I’m told that some of our guests grew some beautiful wild flowers out of them!
We also had Louise design us a welcome letter, which we placed with welcome chocolates in the hotel rooms of our guests. We also decided to name the dinner tables after each garden within the Villa Ephrussi and Louise made beautiful table signs using vintage flower illustrations.
Our menus also served as place cards. Each menu was personalised with a guest’s name printed in gold. Many guests took these away with them as a keepsake.
Louise is so very creative and we were thrilled with her work and so were our guests.
Two stunning wedding dresses and Manolo Blahnic heels
I wore the ‘Amaranth’ dress by Monique Lhuillier. There was not much hesitation once I tried it for the first time, it looked right and felt right and I knew that I had to look no further. I matched it with a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, that fitted perfectly with the style of the dress.
For the dance party I changed into a bespoke Femmes Fatales dress by Ella Tatarinova. She is a family friend and kindly gifted this beautiful dress to me for the wedding.
hair + make up
Whilst during wedding planning I had a make up trial with a professional make-up artist, it didn’t feel right. Eventually, I did my own make-up. Having done several make up classes at MAC Selfridges I felt like I could manage.
My hair was done by a Fabrice from Grand Hotel de Cap Ferrat, where my preparations took place. I went for a fairly natural waves and hair down look.
the handsome groom
Jonathan and I went to Paris six months before the wedding and were lucky to find him a beautiful Tom Ford tuxedo there. He wore a tux with a navy blue jacket, a black bow tie and black lacquered shoes, all by Tom Ford. I think initially Jonathan was slightly apprehensive of his bold choice wearing a navy blue tuxedo jacket, but it blended perfectly with the rich colours of the Villa Rothschild gardens.
He also chose to wear Cartier cufflinks that I gave him for his birthday a few years back.
We planned to do first look photos and this was the first time we saw each other. It was a very emotional moment for both of us, we both had tears in our eyes and tried very hard not to cry! I was totally smitten.
bridesmaids dresses and gifts
I had two bridesmaids, or I would rather call them two maids of honour! I didn’t want them to wear matching dresses, I just asked them to choose long gowns from pastel colours of their choice.
Eventually they chose two very different style dresses but of the same colour without trying to match them! It was a beautiful coincidence. One dress was from Jovani in Harrods and the other one was from a store on Kings road.
Mint green dresses went perfectly with the setting and my bridesmaids couldn’t have looked better!
I made a photo album for them with the highlights of our friendship, as well as another gift to them of Tiffany necklaces.
The chuppah ceremony
Having a ceremony outside is the most romantic scenario for a wedding ceremony that we could have envisaged for ourselves and we were extremely lucky that the weather permitted us to hold it outside.
We loved our ceremony, it was a truly touching moment for Jonathan and I. Jonathan’s nephew, Leo, was a ring bearer, he took his role very seriously and absolutely adorable when carrying out out his duties.
We had a wonderful rabbi that made the ceremony very understandable to everyone not familiar with Jewish traditions. People of all faiths could relate to his explanations and blessings. He has a great sense of humour, which was a separate bonus… And I obviously loved the smashing the glass moment!
One little fun detail for the ceremony was having advice cards on the chairs with personalised pencils. These turned out to be really funny to look back at!
I browsed through Pinterest and chose a fairly simple, yet elegant chuppah covered with white chiffon, decorated with some fresh pink and white peonies and roses.
Music for the ceremony
Everything that concerns music, was the domain of Jonathan who spent hours planning and selecting the songs and communicating with the band to make sure his ideas can come to life.
I walked down the aisle with my father to the song She by Elvis Costello, and during certain parts of the ceremony we had a violinist playing beautiful Jewish melodies.
The end of the ceremony was crowned by Barry White’s Love’s Theme. Until today I have tears in my eyes every time I hear it!
Peonies, roses and lots more flowers
My bouquet was made up of beautiful white peonies and roses. This is the advantage of a June wedding where you can have beautiful fresh peonies like that! My bridesmaids bouquets were a smaller version of my bouquet. Jonathan had a white rose buttonhole.
The centrepieces were created from pink peonies, roses and hydrangea and beautiful photophores. Jonathan and I had a sweetheart table, which was simply breathtaking, it was full of flowers and candles.
Roni Fleurs brought our ideas to life beautifully. Villa Rothschild could be thought of to be a difficult venue to decorate considering its already breathtaking beauty, however our florists did a remarkable job!
Our amazing photographer, Polly Alexandre
Photography was important for both of us and I really invested quite some time browsing for the right one that we wanted to capture our day. I came across Polly Alexandre‘s work and the emotion in her images really touched me so I reached out to her before we even chose our venue or a date and asked for her availability for the summer.
When we chose the venue and found the availability it appeared that on the weekend in June we could have the venue, Polly was already booked. I must admit I was quite devastated. Nevertheless, I sent her a note explaining the situation and expressing my disappointment that she couldn’t be our photographer.
From then on, the situation went uphill! Polly got back to me saying that she was shooting a wedding in another location in France that Saturday but since our wedding was on Sunday, she would be able to come to St Jean Cap Ferrat! We were really fortunate and excited once all of this has been confirmed. Since all of this communication took place 11 months before the wedding, we took the opportunity to have an engagement shoot with Polly. We made a trip to Ibiza in late August and had a wonderful time there as well as meeting Polly. We were absolutely thrilled with the images and could not wait to have her photograph our wedding.
She was wonderful throughout the wedding planning timeline and on the wedding day itself, and we absolutely loved our wedding album! It is absolutely gorgeous and so special! We are very thankful to her for so beautifully capturing our wedding day.
a wedding reporter
I came across The Wedding Reporter online, and Jonathan and and I loved the concept and had Emma document our day for us. We are in the process of having it published and will soon have a book style copy of her wonderful report.
a macaroon pyramid instead of a traditional wedding cake
We decided not to got with a traditional wedding cake and had a macaroon pyramid instead, made by our caterer. Jonathan and I symbolically took the first macaroons off the pyramid and then invited our guests to join in. The macaroon pyramid was brought out in the middle of the dance floor once the dancing part had begun and it was a convivial and fun way for those not wanting to leave the dance floor to go to the deserts buffet, to have something sweet.
choosing our own wine from Burgundy
Jonathan is a big wine enthusiast and we love exploring french vineyards, especially in Burgundy. Four months before the wedding we made a trip to Burgundy with a couple of friends and had a fantastic time meeting various producers and attending wine tastings until we chose those special wines to be served at our wedding.
live music entertainment
Our main entertainment was a live band called M’Swing. We had a violinist during the ceremony, saxophone during the cocktail hour and live singers during the dinner as well as a bigger live band for the dance party.
Jonathan worked very closely with the band to make them aware of his preferences and on the day we couldn’t have asked for more! They created a perfect atmosphere at each stage of the day, we loved them and so did all of our guests!
Bespoke candle favours
We had bespoke candles as wedding favours made by Alcante, and used the logo designed by our stationery designer, Louise Richardson, on the packaging. Pink candles in a white frosted glass with our golden logo imprinted in the front and the date of the wedding at the back, all wrapped in transparent paper with a golden ribbon, fit our venue and our colour scheme very well.
We ordered too many and still enjoy our evenings with the wedding candles that smell divine!
advice to other brides
1. Do your research. Blogs, magazines, specialised wedding sites ( like Smashing The Glass!) serve as a useful starting point for planning any type of wedding. Take your time to browse and get a feel of what you would like you wedding day to be.
2. Get organised. Create Pinterest boards to organise your ideas and shortlist your favourites in various categories. In addition, Pinterest can be a faster way to browse for inspiration on specific topics, specially of you are short on time.
3. If you can, start planning early. Good venues and vendors get booked up early. I was surprised how early! Don’t leave anything important to last minute.
4. Try to involve your fiancà© in the planning process. I didn’t even have to involve mine, he was too eager to participate in every aspect himself. Having your other half-to-be participate in planning of at least several aspects is a very bonding experience and it will also make sure that the wedding reflects both of you.
5. Don’t be pressured into anything by anyone during your wedding planning. Whether it is the style of a wedding or a venue, a guest list or a vendor someone is trying to impose on you, stand your ground and do what feels right. There will surely be sensitive topics with families which may be stressful at times, be ready to compromise, but know where you draw the line. Then speak up and voice your opinion. It’s your day and you owe yourself a pleasant and enjoyable wedding planning experience!
6. Role of a wedding planner: I strongly believe that everyone needs a little help, however make sure you are clear with yourself and your planner as to what kind of help you need. If you have time on your hands and are full of creative ideas, be realistic about the fact that using the planner means that certain things will take longer to complete if you have a planner, versus just doing it yourself. Maybe in this case partial planning and on the day co-ordination is a better option than full planning as you might be disappointed. However, if you are extremely busy and have little time, using a full service wedding planner is valuable.
7. Manage your own expectations on the day. No matter how many hours you spent choosing certain aspects with suppliers and your planner supervising everything and making notes, be prepared that on the day certain aspects will not be what you were expecting. Hopefully, you will not notice it. If you do, there is nothing that can be done at that moment and you should do your best to ignore it and move on.
8. Let go and enjoy! It’s time to embrace this special moment with your love, and have the time of your life!
Renata & Jonathan’s LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photography — Polly Alexandre
Wedding Planner — Lavender and Rose Weddings
Videography — Allora Visuals
Venue — Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat, France
Preparation hotel — Grand Hotel de Cap Ferrat
Bride’s dress — Monique Lhuillier
Bride’s veil — Browns Bride
Bride’s shoes — Manolo Blahnik
Bride’s evening dress — Femmes Fatales by Ella Tatarinova
Groom’s attire — Tom Ford
Bridesmaids — Jovani in Harrods
Hair — Fabrice at the Grand Hotel St Jean Cap Ferrat
Flowers — Roni Fleurs
Cake — Potel et Chabot
Live music — M’Swing
Stationery — Louise Richardson
Wedding Story — The Wedding Reporter
Candle favours — Alcante