As it turns out, Fontevraud Abbey was one of the first wedding venues we contacted. It was recommended to us by our friend, François, who lives in the Loire Valley, and while we liked Fontevraud’s proposal, it was hard (at least for me) to choose the first option. So after some crazy online searching and contacting 500 bajillion venues later, we finally decided on Fontevraud and never looked back!
The Historic Site
One of the major draws of the Abbey was that it was a beautiful historic site and pretty awe-inspiring. Although I had originally wanted a chateau wedding (when in France…), the Abbey did take my breath away. During our first (and only!) visit before the wedding, I had to pinch myself and kept thinking, “I can’t believe we’re getting married here!”
Not only is it a historic site, it’s a renovated historic site, which means you get awe-inspiring grandeur with the comforts of modernity. The monastery was founded in 1101 and is currently one of the largest surviving monastic cities from the Middle Ages. It is listed as a historical monument and is located in the Loire Valley (a UNESCO World Heritage site).
In the 19th century, Napoleon turned the Abbey into one of the toughest prisons in France. During this time, several religious structures were destroyed; however, Fontevraud was spared and remained standing because of its use as a prison.
Because of the rich history, we arranged for a private tour of the Abbey during our wedding weekend so that our guests could appreciate Abbey as much as we did.
One of the best features of the site is the 4 star hotel. Since it is a historic monument, there were strict regulations on the renovations of the site. For example, the designers (Jouin Manku) weren’t permitted to touch the limestone ceilings and walls of the site. Yet with these limitations, they did any amazing job creating the minimalist yet warm design that celebrates past heritage while embracing the present needs and requirements of higher-end hospitality.
Fontevraud L’Hôtel has the most comfortable beds I’ve slept in. It’s even more comfortable than my bed at home, and I love my bed! We found out that the mattresses are custom made for the hotel from Nantes-based company, Biosense. Our venue coordinator also shared with us that she loved them so much, she had ordered a mattress for herself.
Photo credit: Fontevraud Abbey
The Restaurant & Bar
Le Restaurant at Fontevraud is headed by Chef Thibaut Ruggeri who earned his first Michelin star in early 2017. The restaurant has an amazing (and reasonably priced) tasting menu which uses local produce from the region and herbs and vegetables from the onsite gardens. During our visit prior to the wedding, we were able to enjoy the restaurant with our wedding menu tasting (more on our tasting in another post). Lucky for us (and our guests), several of the items on our wedding dinner menu were also courses on the restaurant menu.
There is also a bar at the hotel, called the iBar, located just outside of the restaurant. It isn’t staffed at all times but we were always assisted by the front desk attendants.
The iBar was formerly the priory chapel, but now has been transformed with seating booths that have touchscreen tabletops where you can read about the Abbey’s history and play different games. I thought the bar was the best example of mixing the old with the new. You could really still feel the sense of the chapel and architecture.
The entire site is gorgeous and well maintained. There are benches and bistro tables set in various locations around the Abbey for you to relax and enjoy the peaceful ambiance. The Abbey has vegetable and flower gardens and a bee farm from which they use the honey for their bath products.
The Wedding Spaces
With everything on the same site, Fontevraud Abbey made for a great wedding location.
There are a few ceremony options. The outdoor options included the Noviciat and the Colline Robert d’Arbrissel. I was drawn towards the outdoor spaces and had always imagined an outdoor ceremony. But with the possibility of rain (weather in the Loire can be a bit unpredictable), it was safer to stay indoors and dry.
Photo credit: Fontevraud Abbey
The indoor options included the Église Abbatiale and the Chapelle Saint Benoît, with the latter being perfect for our guest count of 120.
The Frenchman was raised Catholic but is not religious, nevertheless he had always imagined that he would get married in a church. So when we had our non-denominational ceremony in the former chapel, it really felt like it was meant to be.
We had our Vin d’Honneur (Cocktail Hour) in Le Cloître (The Cloister) and this was (hands down) my favorite space. I’ve always been drawn to serenity of cloisters, especially ones with beautiful archways.
The cocktail hour has always been my favorite part of a wedding – the champagne and hors d’œuvres and mingling with other guests. When I look back on our wedding day, I think this was one of my top 3 moments — enjoying a glass of champagne in the cloister and seeing all my friends and family bathed in the light of the setting sun.
There are also quite a few reception and dinner spaces. Our two options were Le Bas Dortoir and Le Grand Réfectoire. I loved the Grand Réfectoire in all the photos; however, it was just too big for our guest count, so we reserved the Bas Dortoir.
When we finally visited the space, we were happy with the warmth and intimacy of the Bas Dortoir. The one downside were the many columns, which make it difficult for sight lines, yet were beautiful architecturally.
With the room filled with tables and with the architectural features and the warm uplighting, the room made a great impact.
Photo credit: Alexis Courraud
Just outside the gates of the Abbey is the small village of Fontevraud, with everything you need: cafés and small restaurants, a small grocery story, ATM, and a few small hotels and B&Bs. It was nice for guests to be able to walk outside the Abbey to grab un croissant et un café as well as have a few different dining options available right there within the village.
Fontevraud, just like the region surrounding it, has so much to offer. We have wonderful memories of our (too short a) time spent at the Abbey and look forward to returning for our anniversary to discover more of its wonders.
Unless otherwise credited, all photos are by LesSoufflet.com
Beautiful! And such thorough information- I want to have my wedding here now!
Thanks Jen! Please have your wedding there… I can plan it 😉
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