An Intimate Destination Wedding Weekend in France

Timing is everything. Just ask Ashley Deshields and Jeff Zhang, who met in the summer of 2013 while they were both working on pop-ups at Chelsea Market—Jeff for his menswear label Spectre & Co. and Ashley for a jewelry brand. They had plenty of chemistry, but it took “forever” for Jeff to ask out his future bride. Finally, after New York City's first blizzard of 2014, they had their first date and spent all night talking. And during another blizzard, in 2016, Jeff proposed in their apartment with a vintage engagement ring they’d chosen together. The ring may not have been a surprise, but the next day, the Parisian vacation he swept her away on sure was!

Paying homage to that post-engagement trip, Ashley and Jeff decided they wanted a destination wedding in France. They found Chateau de la Bourdaisiere in Montlouis-sur-Loire during a scouting trip and booked the venue for their September 1, 2017, nuptials. The bride, who owns Ashley Zhang Jewelry, instantly knew the spot was perfect, since it had a reception room, large gardens, and exactly the right number of guest rooms for their 50 friends and family. “We wanted our wedding to be more than just a celebration and party, we wanted it to be an experience,” she says. In fact, they planned a boat trip down the Seine, a trip to Versailles, large dinners in Paris, and a rehearsal dinner at another chateau for their guests, who came from California, New York, the Middle East, and China.

Keep reading to see how Wanderlust Weddings pulled this epic weekend together, and how Forged in the North captured it all!

“Many of our loved ones are spread around the world so we wanted to make the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to bring everyone together, and decided to have a destination wedding,” says the bride of their choice to marry in France. Chateau de la Bourdaisiere had everything they wanted.

Ashley chose a Naeem Khan gown that was hand-embroidered with ribbon to fit her exact measurements. It also featured layers of fabric she custom chose to create the perfect off-white hue that would make the embroidery pop. “I was so nervous about the color because the runway sample was unlined and had a different fabric combination from what I chose, but it ended up being exactly what I had envisioned,” she says.

Ashley bought her Valentino shoes on the Paris trip she and Jeff took before the wedding. “I wanted heels that were simple and classic that I would love to keep wearing afterward," she says.

Shortly after the Naeem Khan runway show, the bride tried on the dress and it fit her like a glove. “I immediately knew it was the one," she says.

As a jewelry designer, Ashley made her own pieces for the wedding day. To contrast with her dress’s floral embroidered details, she opted for diamond spike earrings.

The couple wrote their vows, which a calligrapher designed for them to frame after the wedding.

The neutral palette for the wedding was white and grays, and bridesmaids wore shades of gray, while the groomsmen wore tuxedos from the Black Tux with Spectre & Co. shirts and limited-edition Comme des Garcons heart lapel pins.

Ashley admits that she took a long time doing her own hair and makeup for the wedding because she was nervous and wanted to look like "herself." Jeff looked quite dapper himself in a bespoke Michael Andrews tuxedo with a shawl collar in a midnight-blue hue. He accessorized with a Spectre & Co. tuxedo shirt, wool bowtie, and custom cufflinks from his bride.

The design team created a half-circle of flowers for the ceremony, adding greenery around the guests’ chairs as well.

The ceremony program was printed on bags filled with rose petals (for the couple's grand exit!).

The bride’s father walked her from the chateau to the lawn as an acoustic guitarist and vocalist performed “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” by Mel Carter. She carried an all-white bouquet of garden roses and ranunculus.

Ashley and Jeff exchanged vows and hand-carved gold bands, which were engraved with French phrases on the inside.

Right after the couple’s first official kiss, the original song by Mel Carter started playing over the speakers as guests showered the newlyweds with rose petals. They call this one of their favorite moments of the day.

Cocktail hour featured hors d’oeuvres and multiple tables featuring local French cheeses, fruits, and bread. General Deer, who performed during the ceremony, also played while guests mingled.

“Our only ‘American’ request was that we have fries at the cocktail hour,” says Ashley of the one outlier in all the amazing menu of French food and wine.

Whiskey cocktails and a spritzes were served with flower petals frozen into the ice cubes.

The reception featured one long table for dinner, which was set with white flowers, vintage silver and brass trays, candlesticks, and various fruits. Place settings also included hand-calligraphed cards, which guests removed from fabric hanging on a nearby wall.

Chandeliers and pillars in the chateau were decorated with greens, and white flowers were placed in key spots.

First dances had an oldies theme, and Ashley’s good friend DJ’ed. “Maya and I first bonded over our love of R&B and rap music, so I knew she would be the perfect DJ for the night," she says.

Speeches during the night included one by Ashley and Jeff. The bride surprised the guests by learning a small portion of the speech in Chinese as a nod to her groom's heritage.

It’s French tradition to put sparklers on wedding cakes, so the couple adhered! They also had a macaron pyramid and croquembouche, another classic French wedding dessert.

After lots of dancing and champagne, the newlyweds and guests changed into comfortable clothes and lit a big fire in the main room of the chateau, where they drank and shared laughs late into the night!

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