The rustic chic French wedding of Conor Irwin and Stephanie O'Brien
07 OCTOBER 2013
For HELLO! Online readers Conor and Stephanie, their union was truly meant to be.
"Conor saw me on stage in a play in Dublin when I was just 16 years old, and though we had never met before, he always remembered my face," said Stephanie. A decade later, both had moved to London and within hours of meeting on a grey day in the capital, Conor realised that he recognised his future bride from the show ten years earlier.
CLICK ON PHOTO FOR WEDDING GALLERY
The pair soon started dating, and for Conor's birthday, Stephanie took her partner to Paris where she had lived.
"I brought him to 'my' bridge at the Canal St. Martin," said the bride. "Everyone who comes and falls in love with Paris traditionally chooses a bridge to which they always return with each subsequent visit. A few years later, we returned to Paris and visited 'my' bridge."
The lovebirds enjoyed champagne and as they watched the sun setting, Conor picked his time to propose. "The moment was precious, joyful and genuine," said Stephanie. "And though I had been uncertain for some time if this would ever happen, when it finally did, I couldn't have been more calm, more happy or more certain it was right."
Conor and Stephanie hosted a three-day celebration in France, held at the bride's family's country house in the Charente region.
For the private service at the town hall, the day before the big wedding, Stephanie chose a 50s style glam dress. She wore a champagne tulle sleeveless gown, which she had tailored to knee length, along with a Vera Wang style birdcage veil.
For the main day, Stephanie played the beautiful bride in a silk and ivory-coloured Donna Lee gown. The bride tailored the form-fitting dress into a halter neck, looked exquisite in the pearl and lace detail and corseted bust that spread into a beautifully embroidered bodice of tulle and lace.
Stephanie wore her hair in a tight bun, which showed off her drop pearl earrings and silver leaf hair piece.
As the chosen colour for the wedding was lavender, the bridesmaids wore mauve chiffon, Grecian style gowns which looked elegant. Stephanie gave each girl gold art deco earrings as gifts on the day, and prepared their bouquets with roses from her mother's garden.
Stephanie and Conor held the civil wedding the day before the church nuptials, with their immediate families in attendance.
"The most memorable moment from the first day wasn't the civil ceremony, but the surprise from our Irish priest, who has known Conor since he was 13," said the bride. "He arranged, in secret, to have our four parents renew their vows during our rehearsal at the Abbey of St Maur. With a combined marriage duration between them of 90 years, it was an amazing moment and so heartfelt — it left Conor and I a lot to live up to."
The following day, Stephanie and Conor were married in their church wedding. The 11th century abbey was the perfect setting for the rustic themed wedding. Candles lined the entrance and wooden white hearts hung from the pews.
The blushing bride arrived with her father in a vintage Citroen car to the sound of a violinist playing romantic and personal music.
"My father whispered to me, 'Just relax and enjoy it, darling, take your time,' as we walked down the aisle," said Stephanie. Given her bilingual upbringing, the ceremony was conducted in French and English with the traditional Irish order of service.
Guests were given biodegradable confetti which they showered the newlyweds with as they left the abbey. After the service, the 75 guests joined Stephanie and Conor for stunning photos among the ruins of the basilica.
As the couple's family and friends made their way back to Stephanie's family's home, they beeped car horns around the town announcing the joyous wedding, in true French tradition.
Stephanie and Conor chose a rustic French chic and romantic theme for their wedding, and had the courtyard and marquee decorated days in advance.
"I chose a lot of rustic white cotton bunting, as well as a lot of white silk roses to hang and drape everywhere," said the bride. The venue was covered in endearing bows and ribbons, and candles and paper lantern bags hanging from the trees.
"We picked lavender as our colour because we both love purple and lavender is a relaxing, calming flower," said Stephanie. "The tables were done quite simply in white with purple table buckets filled with the local flower."
Guests enjoyed the Vin D'Honneur before the main meal, a traditional French cocktail party, where they were served champagne cocktails, oysters and a selection of sumptuous hors d'oeuvres.
For the main six-course meal, the wedding party enjoyed sea bass in a caramelised champagne and mushroom sauce, chicken stuffed with foie gras and truffle, and local cheese from all across the region. Instead of a wedding cake, Stephanie chose a delicious French Piece Montée.
"We were especially proud of our wedding favours," she said. "We gave rustic recycled paper envelopes stamped with the date and our thanks, and inside a sachet of bee friendly seeds and instructions for each guest to plant at home. We are big supporters of saving the bees."
Speeches were headed by Stephanie's older brother Charles. "He did a fantastic job of keeping everyone laughing and entertained between speeches and did some great translating on the day," said the bride.
The couple's first dance was to Sweet Thing by Van Morrison. "I remember the music playing and holding Conor tight and thinking it was the happiest day of my life," said Stephanie. "It was all made possible by the love and support of not just this man in my arms, but all those who were a part of the day and who have shown such love to us over the years."
Soon the guests joined in with the dancing and the wedding party was treated to surprise entertainment by their French neighbours. "They dressed up entirely in 18th century Charente costumes to make a speech about our family joining their community," said the bride. "They then offered the entire wedding party a toast of Pinot, the local brandy. I don't think anyone realised the alcohol content of the 'grape juice' being passed around!"
At midnight, the party moved out of the tent into the field where they sang and danced under the candle lit trees. The following morning, Stephanie and Conor hosted a barbeque for their guests to recover and reminisce on the weekend's events as a guitarist played in the background.
"Memories among family are made of such precious moments as this," said Stephanie. "I can't wait to tell our own kids all about it someday."