Wedding Venues in Normandy and The Loire Valley

Spoiler alert: We chose Les Jardins du Paye d’Auge for our wedding. Cambremer, France. July 25, 2018.

Spoiler alert: We chose Les Jardins du Paye d’Auge for our wedding. Cambremer, France. July 25, 2018.

On our wedding-planning reconnaissance trip, we spent three days driving hither and yon across Normandy and The Loire Valley in France, scoping out venues that our wedding planner had earmarked as possibilities (and one that Arnaud’s aunt suggested).

For anyone considering a wedding in France who wants a head start, I’ll share our takes on the venues we visited:

Wedding Venues in Normandy

Though most Americans can’t think of Normandy past the D-Day beaches of World War II, I promise that the Normandy region of France deserves wider consideration for tourism—and for weddings.

In addition to its large swath of coastline along the English Channel (though when in France, call it La Manche), Normandy has stunning agricultural vistas, unique architecture, and even its own gastronomy. If you have an interest in a wedding in small-town France, replete with cow-dotted rolling hills covered with greenery and flowers among picturesque villages, you should take a look at wedding venue options in Normandy.

Manoir de Sens

An active horse farm, the Manoir de Sens has a small, yet picturesque farmhouse and a separate barn-like two-floor function hall space in which you can have a wedding ceremony or reception. If you want to gamble on the weather, you can have the ceremony or reception in the square grass courtyard in front of the house, bordered by crushed gravel pathways.

  • Upsides: The interior square in front of the house would give any wedding or reception a beautiful backdrop of horses and visually stunning house exterior. The farmhouse has a few rooms, if you’d like to have a place for some people to stay the night on site.

  • Downsides: Manoir de Sens runs an active horse operation, so it smells like a horse farm. Your photos don’t show smells, and you acclimate to the odor after a bit, yet you and your guests will notice it the moment you arrive. Also, the interior of the house and the barn-like function hall could use some decorative freshening up.

Château de Canon

One of the few châteaux in Normandy that provides an option for weddings and events, the Château de Canon offers a few event-sized interior rooms and several options across its extensive exterior grounds for weddings and receptions. During World War II, this chateau served as an infirmary for German soldiers; after the war, it required extensive repairs.

  • Upsides: If you want Normandy and you want a château, you have a fantastic option in the Château de Canon. The grounds and interior lend a lot of flexibility to wedding planners—nothing you’ll find here has so much “character” that you can’t shape it to suit your style.

  • Downsides: The château and the grounds felt a little more down-at-the-heel than other options we visited. If you want to have your wedding here, you’ll need more budget for decorations and sets to shape the space into your vision.

Moulin de Bully

The Moulin de Bully, a renovated former mill, has a water wheel on a flowing stream and an interior event space that features historic grain-processing equipment. It has a small dorm-like structure on the grounds that parties can use to house guests.

  • Upsides: One of the green, alcove-like outdoor spaces along the swift adjacent river, with cows strolling along the opposite bank, would provide a gorgeous backdrop for a ceremony or a cocktail reception before dinner.

  • Downsides: Though historic, the space doesn’t have a lot of charm, and the renovations haven’t added all the conveniences of a thoroughly modernized place. The stream rushing through the water wheel makes a lot of noise. If you want to host part of the wedding outside, you’ll want to avoid music. The rooms for overnight stays, which feature multiple twin beds, feel more hostel-like than hotel-like.

Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge

Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge doesn’t get a lot of press or guidebook attention, so it will surprise you when you visit. A French couple bought the acreage and developed it into a lush, rolling garden as a retirement project. Our wedding planner didn’t have it on her list of possibilities; we wouldn’t have known to visit Les Jardins if Arnaud’s aunt hadn’t mentioned them.

  • Upsides: Lush, beautiful gardens spilling flowers and foliage from every corner, dotted with sculptures and art to delight the eyes and senses—you won’t need much decoration if you have a wedding here. Further, the grounds have more options for wedding and reception possibilities than we could count. You can create an entire set of wedding experiences that everyone can explore on foot, never seeing the same place in the gardens twice.

  • Downsides: If it rains—and in Normandy, it rains a lot—you will need to move the wedding and reception into the one building on the property that can house both, with the wedding taking place in the upstairs loft and the reception taking place in the event space below. As the gardens make the place, having to take this option would disappoint.

Wedding Venues in The Loire Valley

People know France’s Loire Valley for its châteaux; some people travel there just to road trip between castles, staying overnight in the ones that have open guest rooms. (We stayed overnight in a château on this trip and highly recommend the experience.)

If your vision for a French wedding involves a castle, look no further than the Loire Valley. You’ll find castles elsewhere in France, yet nowhere else will you find quite as many well-preserved châteaux that open their buildings and grounds to the public and allow for weddings and events.

Château de Montmirail

Château de Montmirail, high on a hill in a tiny town, has existed for centuries. The Roman-era version lives on in its basement level, which the owner has renovated and dramatically lighted. Subsequent eras live on in other rooms of the house, including the historic art on its walls and the well-preserved ballroom. Famous figures tied to the château include several kings of France and their children, a king of England, and an archbishop of England.

  • Upsides: If you want a real French château that has a full pedigree, Château Montmirail is your spot. Further, history aside, the château absolutely stuns people when they see it, from its placement at the top of a steep hill above a small French town, to its majestic façade, to its elegant and tasteful interiors. Even better, a few guests can stay in the château’s beautiful bedrooms with en suite baths.

  • Downsides: Given that the château truly perches on a hill, the Château Montmirail has minimal grounds to offer for outdoor wedding venues—and it has only its small ballroom for an indoor venue. Wedding parties need to have small headcounts to make this spot work, unless they want to risk planning an outdoor event with no indoor option for rain other than the Roman basement (which has precarious stairs and no windows).

Domaine des Evis

A fortified farm surrounded by a small moat, the family that owns the Domaine des Evis has lovingly restored the home, grounds, and outbuildings, giving it a gentleman-farmer feel with all modern amenities.

  • Upsides: The entire property, inside and out, provides a beautiful setting for a wedding and reception. The property has multiple options indoors and outdoors for wedding and reception spaces that can suit parties of many sizes. Also, the house has several well-appointed, modernized, clean rooms available for wedding guests.

  • Downsides: The property has a very rural setting, and the rooms available will only house a small number of guests. If you plan on hosting a small group, this place will work. If you would like to have a larger wedding party, your guests will have to book rooms at a considerable distance. Further, the nearest towns with accommodations don’t have much for guests to do.

Château du Grand Lucé

A company purchased the Château du Grand Lucé in 2017 or 2018 and turned it into a vacation and event destination. Based on the nature of the renovations and our conversations with the on-site team putting on the finishing touches of the renovation, the company wanted to create a space catering to Americans who want to experience their stereotypical visions of French château living.

  • Upsides: The castle has several well-appointed, freshly renovated rooms to house guests overnight, in addition to providing multiple options for indoor and outdoor wedding ceremonies and receptions. If you imagine your wedding in a French castle and you want the venue to match what you think a castle should be (accuracy aside), you’ll love this venue. Without question, my American mother liked this option the best.

  • Downsides: The renovations to the castle, including the furnishings, make it feel very much like what I imagine that most Americans imagine French chateaux are like: Gilt everything, mirrors everywhere, heads of dead animals on the walls (although a castle isn’t a hunting lodge—think about it a second), and Pepto Bismol pink walls. Of course, per the new owners, they intended to give Americans exactly this impression; therefore, it succeeds in its vision. To me, it felt silly.

What Wedding Venue Should You Choose?

Any of these settings will make for a gorgeous wedding with the right wedding planner bringing the right setup to stage the scene. Ultimately, the best option best suits your vision and feels right the moment you walk into it.

For Arnaud and me, Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge felt like our place the moment we walked onto its grounds. For someone else, a French château (classical or faux) or a picturesque rural horse farm will better suit their vision. If you want a French wedding beyond the destination locales of Paris and the south of France, Normandy and the Loire Valley give you two great places to look.

(And if you want more guidance on planning a wedding in France, read my lessons-learned article.)