29 Jul A Summer Wedding in Loire Valley, France
The original motivation of our current trip to Europe was my cousin’s wedding. My Uncle and his French wife raised their two boys in their hometown of Paris. Growing up, they visited the rest of our family in the States almost once a year, so our families are about as close as you can get for living so far apart. When I studied in Paris for six months, I was able to spend even more time with my cousin – the groom, who happens to be only two weeks younger than me – and his friends. Being able to attend his wedding was a huge blessing.
In addition to the wedding, we had a bit of a family reunion since about half of my Dad’s (rather large) family was able to make the trip. Of course, rather than just stay for a long weekend, we wanted to make the most of our flight to Europe (which we booked using United and Alaska miles), so we extended our trip to a full month. You’ll hear more about Belgium, Netherlands, and Denmark later…
Domaine de Roiffé – Loire Valley, France
The wedding festivities centered around a small, country resort and lasted the entire weekend.
Although there is a golf course, the term “resort” probably brings to mind someplace more modern and pristine than the Domaine de Roiffé. It is a beautiful, rural area with a simple, French country feel. Apparently, the property was once a sort of correctional boarding school for misbehaved students. Now, rustic, stone buildings have been transformed into hotel rooms and rental apartments; old farmyards have become event spaces; tennis and basketball courts have been added, as well as a pool and putt-putt course; and the stylish reception building offers a nice restaurant for golfers and hotel guests.
My immediate family (parents, brothers and their significant others), arrived in Tours by train on Thursday and drove two rental cars down to the resort for the weekend. The eight of us booked a total of two hotel rooms and one 2-bedroom apartment for four nights. We had our breakfasts together in the apartment with items we picked up from the supermarket near Chinon, and we played games together in the evenings while familiarizing ourselves with the fruits of the region (red wine). Most of the other guests – a few more relatives, a lot of Parisians, and some friends from other countries – just stayed for the night of the wedding.
We had a special buffet dinner there with the other “early arrivals” on Friday night and an outdoor brunch on Sunday with all of the wedding guests, the day after the wedding.
Other than the slow internet, which made it difficult to keep up with our online work, the place was amazing and the staff was fantastic.
The Wedding Day
Saturday started out with a civil ceremony at the courthouse in a small, neighboring town with immediate family and close friends. In the afternoon, the church ceremony took place in Roiffé, similar to a North American wedding that would take place in a church.
Jedd and I joining the impromptu celebration outside the church after the ceremony
Following the church ceremony, everyone drove the 15 minutes back to Domaine de Roiffé for a beautiful outdoor cocktail party. There were hors d’oeuvres and drinks available out on the lawn with a live band entertaining until dinner.
At 8pm, the party moved into a large reception hall. A delicious four course dinner was served over the next few hours, punctuated by speeches by both fathers and the best man and maid of honor. Their friends organized an entertaining skit, putting them on trial to determine if they truly were a perfect couple. The prosecution and defense laid out their arguments with video messages and pictures on the big screen as evidence. Dessert was macarons and a croque en bouche that was brought dramatically into the room with sparklers and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” pounding on the sound system.
At midnight, a DJ kicked off the dancing. Guests trickled back to their rooms on the property, with the option to hitch a ride on a golf cart, all the way until the party was shut down at 5am.
Surrounding Area: Châteaux, Chinon, and Wineries
When we first arrived, we made a stop at one of my favorite places in the world: the gardens of Chateau Villandry. It was even more expansive than I remembered, with peaceful pathways through the woods, a labyrinth, large pond with swans swimming, a playground, and multiple landscaped gardens.
The largest nearby city is Chinon, which has supermarkets, bakery, meat shop, etc. We went out to dinner one night at l’Ardoise, where we ordered three-course meals off of the chalkboard menu and admired the fine presentation of each dish.
The Loire Valley is known for its châteaux. Not too far away you’ll also find Brézé, known for its large underground corridors, and Azay-le-Rideau, a Unesco World Heritage site (currently being restored). We were also a little more than an hour’s drive to Château Chenonceau and Château du Clos Lucé with the Leonardo da Vinci museum.
The Valley also boasts a large number of wineries. While not as well-known as regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy, the wineries in the Loire are still top-notch. What’s more, you don’t have to spend more than $10 for a really great bottle of wine. My uncle called ahead to one of his favorite, Rousse Wilfrid, to schedule a tasting for our family one afternoon.
If you’ve been to the Loire Valley, let us know what activities and sights you most enjoyed in the comments below.
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