Entertainment journalist Ashlan Gorse had absolutely no expectation that attending a talk about the BP Oil Spill would result in her meeting her future husband. "In fact," she says, "I really didn't want to go! I'm such an animal lover, and I was worried they'd be showing pictures of animals covered in crude oil." But her friend insisted, so Ashlan agreed.
A few minutes into the event, just as Ashlan was formulating an exit plan, Philippe Cousteau, explorer, environmental advocate, and grandson of Jacques, walked in. "He had this amazing presence," says Ashlan. "I was immediately intrigued." After a little small talk—and some serious eye contact across the room—Philippe got on stage to speak. Before the event ended, Ashlan and her friend left to get dinner, and Philippe came to find them. "We ended up shutting down the bar," she remembers.
In November of 2012, on the roof of the Four Seasons Hotel Georges V in Paris, Philippe surprised Ashlan with rose petals, champagne, and an incredibly romantic proposal. The pair immediately started planning their nuptials, settling on the historic Chateau D'Esclimont as the setting, and tapping One and Only Paris Photography to photograph every fairytale detail.
"We fell in love with the Chateau the first time we walked down the driveway," says Ashlan. The couple wanted to have their guests stay together for the weekend, so they took over the 52-room hotel and filled it with their 60 guests.
Ashlan is no stranger to red carpets, and knew she wanted something more "bridal" than "award show" for her trip down the aisle. Her custom gown was designed by Lazaro, and featured a fitted bodice, French lace, and a sweeping skirt make of cascading silk. She wore her sister's veil and carried a simple bouquet of white Calla lilies and Lily of the Valley. And the practical bride knew exactly which shoes to choose: a pair of Benjamin Adams sandals she already had in her closet!
Philippe donned a Paul Smith tuxedo, which he paired with a vintage pocket watch Ashlan had given him for his birthday.
The couple chose one of the Chateau's bridges as the site for their ceremony, exchanging vows in front of a sculpture of the castle's original owner.
The bride's niece served as one of the flower girls, carrying a basket Ashlan had made when she was the girl's age. "She started to walk around the rows of chairs instead of down the aisle," says the bride. "But once she started going the right way, she did a fantastic job."
Ashlan walked down the aisle with her father, bucking tradition by choosing a jazz rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" for her processional.
The couple took writing their own vows to the next level: They didn't write them down! "We improvised on the spot," says Ashlan. "I was so nervous, but it was so special." At the end of the ceremony, the couple sliced open a bottle of bubbly with a ceremonial sabre.
"We really lucked out with the weather," says Ashlan. "It rained in the morning, stopped for the ceremony, and started to drizzle again immediately after our first kiss."
Inside the chateau, tables were set for dinner in the trophy room. "We let our floral designer, Jeff Leatham, go to town," says Ashlan. "He used 10,000 purple roses, orchids, and hydrangeas to completely transform the room."
Two long tables were divided into sections to help guests find their seats. Low arrangements overflowed with orchids, hydrangeas, and roses in a mix of plum and lavender hues. The delectable French meal featured foie gras, guinea fowl with fingerling potatoes, and a cheese course.
Even more special than the food was the wine. During cocktails, guests sipped champagne. The wine served at dinner was a special treat. "We served Bordeaux from Philippe's cousin's vineyard," says the bride.
For dessert, the couple served a traditional French croquembouche, a tower of cream puffs drizzled with caramelized sugar. After they ate, a DJ spun and guests danced until 2 a.m. "We started with '70s dance music, then worked our way toward the present," explains Ashlan. "We didn't have slow songs all night, and everyone loved it!" After the last song, everyone headed out to the pool—and some of the guests took a dip in their formalwear!
The Monday after the wedding, the couple took off for five low-key, relaxing days in Saint Tropez. "The weekend was amazing," Ashlan says. "We invested in the fundamentals—good food, good wine, and good entertainment—and it paid off. Everyone had an incredible time!"
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Chateau D'Esclimont
Bride's Wedding Dress: Lazaro
Shoes: Benjamin Adams
Jewelry: Borrowed from Adeler Jewelers
Makeup: Celine of MAC
Groom's Attire: Paul Smith
Wedding Bands: Adeler Jewelers
Florist: Jeff Leatham
Catering & Cake: Chateau D'Esclimont
Entertainment: Scarlett Entertainment
Photography: One and Only Paris Photography