Today I’d like to share with you the first wedding of our 2014 season. This wedding stands out for me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Michelle and Augustin were so wonderful to work with. They were both exuberantly excited and level-headed at the same time. They approached the many challenges of planning a wedding for almost 300 people, coming from very different cultures and traditions, with the same poise and creativity that they bring to their professional lives. By the way, if you are travelling anytime soon check out Michelle’s site Untapped Cities to uncover places that you’d never find in a guidebook.
It was the biggest wedding we’ve ever hosted, with a guest list of 275, it spread from the main house to a tent site next to the Stables. This model allowed Michelle and Augustin and their guests to experience the classic architecture of The Mount and then transition to a more personalized space.
The final thing that made a lasting impression on me was how much fun everyone had! It was a celebration bursting with culture, class and color. I don’t want to spoil any more details though, because Michelle has given us a beautiful account of the day. So read on to hear Michelle’s point of view and take in some dynamic shots by Jane Hu and Steven Wu. And if that’s not enough for you, check out their adorable wedding video from Will Ellis.
“Augustin and I met by chance while backpacking in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in 2009. I’m Taiwanese-American from New York and he’s French from Paris, so we really wanted a wedding that celebrated the multiculturalism and diversity of our friends and family, with guests coming from over 10 countries. Equally important was that the wedding be a real celebration–we believed it was possible to meld French and American wedding traditions together, and for formal and fun to co-exist.”
“My wedding dress was custom made in Paris, but not because I was trying to be fancy. I used to work as a fashion merchandiser for brands like Calvin Klein and J. Crew, and I’m pretty well-versed in fabrics and production. It’s an incredible experience to be able to be a part of the evolution of a wedding dress. I worked with the fabulous Laurent Kapelski, a wedding dress designer in Paris, over the course of nine months every time I was in Paris for work, weddings or family.
Custom design isn’t for the faint of heart or for those that want to know exactly what they’re going to get, though. In each meeting, we would push the design forward, changing fabrics, construction and details. After each meeting, there would be piles of tulle, feathers, silk and organza all over his atelier. But it was truly an artistic process, starting from the seedlings of an idea I had–that I wanted the dress to be architectural–and becoming the dress that completely represented me. My one criteria was that I wanted a dress that I couldn’t have imagined myself and Laurent took my ideas and created a work of art. The best part of the dress was that it converted into a fun, short version that I wore for the dancing part of the reception and I’ll definitely wear again.”
“We also wanted our day to be as personal as could be, despite the fact that there were 270 guests. To that end, we used many vendors that were already a part of our personal creative network. When Augustin and I met, we were holding the same SLR camera, and we’ve continued to travel and photograph places in the same spirit as the first day.
Our videographer, Will Ellis, is actually a photographer and videographer of abandoned places in New York City and runs the website Abandoned NYC. One of our photographers, Jane Hu, shoots mostly architecture and events like Burning Man and now, weddings. Steven Wu is a wedding photographer who takes striking street scenes of everyday life around the world.”
“It had always been a dream of mine to have my wedding at The Mount, the home of Edith Wharton. I studied architecture and urban design, and though Wharton is most famous as a novelist, her first book was on architecture. The estate she built was the culmination of her architectural principles and is a beautiful, Gilded Age home situated amidst the dense Berkshire forests. We also loved that Wharton had a strong connection to France. She lived in Paris and Provence the last four decades of her life and was awarded the Legion of Honor from France for her work during World War I. My family and I have visited the Berkshires in all seasons since I was four years old and I performed cello at Tanglewood when I was older. This is the place Augustin and I go to when we need to get away from urban life.”
“After a church ceremony at the landmarked Church on the Hill in Lenox, we moved guests by school buses (because yellow school buses are a big myth for the French!) to the main house at The Mount where we had the cocktail. Guests could walk through the house, lounge in the sitting rooms, take a tour with a docent, and explore the formal gardens and forests.
I love rain and the romance it creates in beautiful forests, but we knew that most people do not! The weather could not have been timed better and while we had a romantic drive in the 1937 Rolls Royce in the light drizzle, the sun came out during the cocktail so that guests could fully enjoy the property.”
“The dinner and dancing took place in a sailcloth tent in front of the house stables. The tent was fully floored with barnwood, so we wanted something slightly rustic to strike a contrast with the formality of the house. Julie Seitel did a subtle tree-patterned lighting on the ceiling that referenced the trees installed inside the tent. ”
“Crocus Hale Flowers did our flowers and table settings and immediately got that we wanted: something to complement the gorgeous location and house, not compete with it.”
“All the tables for dinner were named after places Augustin & I have traveled to together, and we had long tables to encourage more people to meet each other. I think my favorite moment of the entire wedding was the French style entrance we had. It’s not formal, in the American way, with introductions. The music blasts, guests get on their chairs and wave their napkins, and the bride and groom literally run around the tent holding hands. This moment really sets the tone for the rest of the reception.”
“Most importantly, it’s so important for the bride and groom to take moments for themselves throughout the wedding day and weekend. It all goes by so quickly and there is a flurry of activity around you at all times. Following great advice from previously married friends, Augustin and I decided in advance to sneak away throughout the festivities and have some time to take in the scene, rather than always be in the middle of it. I’ll always remember the magic of standing at a distance from our tent, with the patterned lights glowing through the tent into the dark Berkshire night, and seeing everyone jump inside to the music. All these people, united for one night.”
“We were so lucky to work with Mezze Catering from Williamstown, who understood the process of working with both cultures (plus the Taiwanese side!). With their farm-to-table mission and hands on approach, Mezze provided not only amazing food but also a great wedding planning team. Our “cheese cake” was made by Rubiners Cheesemongers in Great Barrington, MA based on inspiration photos we found on Pinterest.”
“The cultural differences between French and American weddings are surprisingly striking, and we used humor to prep our guests in advance. There’s no wedding cake in France? We had a cake made of cheese rounds. French weddings go all night? We told everyone it was a competition to the finish, and guests rallied until the sun rose. There’s no maid of honor or best man in France? The bridesmaids all have to make a group speech, as do the groomsmen? Égalité is part of the French national motto, we explained.
In contrast, the French couldn’t believe the concept of a rehearsal and were beyond excited to see bridesmaids wear matching dresses for the first time. And in case there were any missteps as the different cultures met, we let everyone know that Americans love superlatives (amazing, awesome) and that the French say pas mal (not bad) when they mean, Great!
We got married, but in the end, this was about bringing so many disparate groups of people together, showing them this place we love so much and having many cultures learning from each other“
And to that I say: not bad, Michelle and Augustin, not bad at all.