The Ruins of a French Château Served as the Breathtaking Backdrop for This Two-Day Wedding

Sometimes, all it takes to find love is a little spontaneity. In 2006, Salil Pandit and a friend were planning to drive from Washington state to California the week before Thanksgiving. The girl who lived across the hall, a friend of Salil’s, asked if she could tag along. “I love to travel but at that point hadn’t had many opportunities,” explains Jennifer Federico. Though she and Salil were already friends, it was that road trip that turned their friendship into something more.

The couple dated for eight years before getting engaged, but even after all that time, the proposal was still a complete surprise—and Jennifer’s spontaneity again played a big part. “Salil had planned to propose during a hot-air-balloon ride in San Diego after Thanksgiving with my family, but at the last minute I decided I’d rather head to Santa Barbara on our way home to Palo Alto,” Jennifer explains. Thankfully, the groom rolled with it, swapping the big event for an intimate proposal in front of the fireplace in their hotel room. “I was getting ready for dinner for our eighth anniversary, and Salil told me he had one more piece of jewelry for me to wear,” Jennifer remembers. When she turned around, he was holding a yellow-diamond engagement ring!

Salil is Hindu and Jennifer is Catholic, so they knew they’d host a two-day celebration, complete with two ceremonies. But with guests traveling from around the world, the question became "Where do we host the wedding?" "Salil’s family is in India, and mine is in the U.S., so we decided to meet in the middle!” says the bride. They planned an intimate and indulgent weekend—September 22 and 23, 2015—in a gorgeous château in the south of France, focusing on incredible food, local wines, and as much love as they could squeeze in. “We fell in love with Château de Grimaldi, near Aix-en-Provence, immediately. The house and gardens are immaculate, and Salil loved the ruins and rich history. It was the perfect blend of our styles,” explains Jennifer. Even more impressive? They planned the whole thing from California in just six months! O’Malley Photographers made the trip from Seattle to France to photograph this jaw-dropping wedding, combining Provence’s natural beauty, a comfortable and homey feel, and the bride and groom’s culture immaculately.

Colorful flowers graced the invitation suite, along with an illustration of the château that gave guests a peek of what was to come. Says Jennifer, “Not only did we plan the wedding, but we helped serve as travel agents for many of our guests too! We loved recommending places to visit before and after our wedding, and it was so exciting to hear about the adventures they went on together!”

Salil designed Jennifer’s engagement ring, a combination of white diamonds on either side of a princess-cut yellow diamond, which was made by his family’s jeweler in India.

To welcome guests to Aix-en-Provence, the couple filled welcome bags with local items, including locally made soap, fresh lavender, caramels, and calissons (a French sweet made of candied fruit and ground almonds, topped with royal icing).

Jennifer’s lehenga combined traditional styling with more contemporary colors. The blouse was adorned with white pearls and gold beads in a diamond pattern, which continued onto the high-waisted raw-silk skirt and the matching silk-chiffon dupatta. She paired her attire with rose-gold pumps, a traditional headpiece called a maang tikka, and pearl bangles.

Salil’s ivory sherwani was accented in similar pastel colors, with peach, blue, and gold embroidery in a floral pattern. The neutral hues were the perfect complement for the château’s lush green gardens.

The Hindu ceremony took place in front of the château’s ruins, lending a feeling of rich history to the moment. “Our families spent the day before the wedding hand-stringing the garlands,” says Jennifer. Traditional marigold blooms weren’t in season, so they swapped in carnations, dahlias, and local roses. Salil’s maternal aunt presided over the ceremony, which included scripture in both Hindi and English and the traditional seven steps—a promise to protect each other. The blue embroidered shawl draped over Jennifer’s shoulders during the ceremony was handed down by Salil’s mother, who had received it from her own mother.

The walls of the ruins, the site of the original château, provided a gorgeous backdrop. “We wanted to keep all of the decor very natural so guests could take in the beauty of the ancient structures,” says the bride.

After the ceremony, guests headed to the front terrace of the château, where they sipped local wines hand selected by a sommelier to pair with vegetable samosas, papdi chaat, and kebabs. Cocktail tables were draped in neutral cloth, then topped with glass bowls full of colorful flowers and floating votive candles.

The next day, Jennifer prepared for the Catholic ceremony in the château’s master suite, while Salil got ready across the hall. “The best man made sure to provide champagne and local French cheeses!” she says. Local white astilbes were tucked into the bride's curls, and she wore nude Salvatore Ferragamo pumps beneath her gown. Her earrings were a gift from her late grandmother, and the diamond necklace was borrowed from the groom’s mother, who had received it from her husband.

Jennifer’s dress was an airy, lightweight design by Leanne Marshall, and she topped it with a three-quarter-sleeved lace top. “Once we chose the south of France as our location, I knew I wanted a dress that would tie in beautifully,” Jennifer remembers. “But finding a dress was a journey!” She was drawn to the silk-chiffon skirt and lace topper, a classic and understated combination that fit both her aesthetic and the setting.

Salil wore a blue Hugo Boss suit made of virgin wool, a lightweight and effortless choice.

“I knew I didn’t want a traditional white bouquet,” says Jennifer. Instead, she chose antique and white hydrangeas, peach and pink garden roses, lisianthus, dahlias, and astilbes, finished with flowing greenery. The collection of blooms was tied with a hand-dyed peach silk ribbon. Salil’s natural boutonniere combined hypericum berries, white spray roses, and eucalyptus leaves.

The couple kept their wedding party small, opting for only a maid of honor and a best man. Jennifer’s maid of honor wore a blush chiffon Jenny Yoo gown, topped with metallic lace to match the bride. The best man donned a black suit to contrast with the groom.

With a Catholic ceremony in mind, Jennifer was thrilled to discover that the château had a 16th-century chapel on site. “We highlighted the beauty by lining the aisle with lanterns and fresh greenery and decorated the altar simply with draped fabric, greenery, hypericum berries, and lots of candles,” Jennifer describes.

Guests sipped champagne by the pool, with the ruins in the background. They nibbled on freshly carved Spanish raw ham and tempura zucchini flowers, then sought out their seating assignments, which were hand-calligraphed on antique windowpanes.

The reception took place beneath a tent on the lawn, which overlooked the château. Two long tables, each set for 40 people, were lined with dusty-blue hand-dyed runners and topped with organic arrangements of hydrangeas and roses.

Each guest’s seat was marked with a personalized menu. Instead of icons to indicate meal selections, sprigs of thyme, rosemary, or olive branches, all tied with silk ribbons, marked each place setting. The bride's and groom’s chairs were finished with clusters of roses, astilbes, hydrangeas, and eucalyptus leaves.

For dinner, guests were served local cheeses and one of three menus, which included filet of beef in morel sauce, roasted shell scallops with truffles, or vegetable risotto.

The two-tiered vanilla wedding cake had raspberry filling and was covered in ruffled buttercream. A bevy of French pastries satisfied every sweet tooth!

After dinner, a band took to the stage, playing alternative pop rock (and even accompanying the mother of the bride as she sang “Walking on Sunshine!”).

Dancing continued until 1:30 a.m., when the remaining guests gathered beneath the ruin walls to sip local wine and nibble on cheeses, meats, and more desserts.

“As you’re planning, make sure to do your research,” says Jennifer. “Browse magazines and Pinterest and collect things you like, but once you’ve made a decision, stick to it and stop looking!” She also recommends researching and paying attention as you attend other weddings. “We had several friends get married while we were engaged, which gave us the opportunity to feel out what we thought would fit our wedding best,” Jennifer explains. Seeing the details in action can be very different than on paper!

Wedding Team

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