After deciding on where to have our destination wedding (read about the areas in France we considered), we had to decide on the actual wedding venue.
Searching for wedding venues in a different country is difficult. The best (and least stressful) method of finding a venue is to hire a wedding planner who’s from the country and knows the area.
BUT… if you have time on your hands and you’re Type A (*ahem* like me!) here are the methods I used to search for a wedding venue in a foreign country.
I love Google and how it is so easy to research on the inter webs. When searching for a venue, you can do the obligatory search on Google but I found it was difficult to narrow down options when your search term is “wedding venues in France”. It was then, I found my best search tool to find wedding venues: Google Maps.
I searched all different categories and search terms: wedding, venue, hotel, restaurant, chateau, etc. The great thing about Google is that it translated the categories, so I could search for “venue” in English and it would bring up the different locations even though they were categorized in French.
For example, I would go to Google Maps and search “Loire Valley, France” which would bring up the entire Loire Valley region. From there, I would select “Nearby” and put in “venue” which would populate the different venues on the map. When you move the map around you can select “search this area” to update the results.
There are often photos of the location within Google Maps and sometimes a website or information/hours. Since many of these venues are small, there is not much marketing online and websites are often not updated or non-existent (the same goes with social media accounts). If a venue looked appealing to me, I would do a separate Google search to see if I could find any other information.
I used Instagram by following French wedding vendors – mainly wedding photographers and wedding planners. Posts with real weddings would sometimes have the venue geotagged or mentioned in the caption. This was a great way to find new venues that have already had a wedding take place on the property. Since the wedding industry is still fairly new in France (when compared to the U.S.), there are many possible venues that have never hosted a wedding.
Hashtags are also helpful for my search. I used hashtags like #frenchweddingphotographer #frenchdestinationwedding #loirevalleywedding and similar terms to search Instagram.
One thing I learned was that if I couldn’t find a venue’s website online or if it hadn’t been updated in ages, I searched for them on Facebook. Lots of businesses upload more photos on their Facebook page rather than on their website since it’s easier to post. This was actually how I found the winery for our day-after lunch (more on this in a later blog post).
Mariages.net is France’s equivalent to The Knot in the U.S. They feature real weddings and have venue and vendor lists. It was a little more difficult to use this because everything is in French, but that’s where Google Translate came in handy.
The best French destination wedding blog is French Wedding Style. This site is geared mainly towards a UK audience (the Brits are a huge market for destination weddings in France) and has a ton of information and… it’s in English! The real weddings featured on the blog would credit the wedding venue as well as vendors, which helped with my search.
I also used popular American wedding blogs like Style Me Pretty, JuneBug Weddings, Once Wed, Green Wedding Shoes, etc. which often feature real destination weddings; as well as French wedding blogs like La Mariée Aux Pieds Nus and Un Beau Jour.
Deciding on our Wedding Venue
Soooo… you can only imagine how much time I spent scrolling through the above sources and all the rabbit holes I fell into. But once we had decided on a region in France, it became a lot easier to make a decision since we limited the search area.
It came down to two locations in the Loire Valley that we had our hearts set on.
Our first option was a former abbey with tons of history and a 4-star hotel with on-site restaurant and catering. Our second option was a restored chateau with luxury accommodations for 30 people that had a pool, and beautiful outdoor areas.
Pros and Cons of Each Venue
Abbey – Pros
- A magnificent venue, classified national monument, full of history
- Practical – An on-site 4 star hotel and gastronomic restaurant (which also catered) meant less planning
Abbey – Cons
- Could be perceived as aesthetically cold
- Since it is a national monument it’s open to the general public during the daytime
Chateau – Pros
- Luxury accommodations with an intimate setting (including a pool which could have served as our day-after lunch option)
- We would have the entire chateau and grounds for ourselves
Chateau – Cons
- Wouldn’t be able to accommodate all of our guests and the nearest hotel was a 20 minute drive away
- We would have to bring everything in (caterer, table/chair rentals, etc.)
Both were really amazing wedding venue options. I mean… look at them!
We were torn — the Frenchman loved the grandeur of the abbey and I loved the intimacy of the chateau. Luckily, we had family in France to help us make our decision, and the Frenchman’s sister and her partner visited both sites and gave us a virtual tour of each space and provided us with their personal opinions. Unluckily for us, her partner loved the abbey and she loved the chateau… so we were back to square one.
In the end, we wanted to consider our guests and the abbey provided the best option for their experience and ease for travel. The abbey had enough rooms to accommodate everyone (and there was also another nice hotel across the street as another second housing option). Even after the wedding, I realize that one of the best features of our wedding location was that we were all at the same place for the entire weekend, which meant we could spend more time with our loved ones.
In the next wedding post, I highlighted our wedding venue and our favorite details of the abbey.