Escape to the South of France for This 12th-Century Abbey Wedding With a Lively Dance Party
How often do blind dates truly work out? For Camilla Opperman and Rob Morse, it only took one. “Rob’s youngest sister set us up!” reveals Camilla. “I had gone to college with her, and in late 2018, I received a random text from her asking if I’d be interested in going on a date with her brother.” Though skeptical, Camilla agreed and met Rob at a restaurant in Lower Manhattan. “We talked for hours, danced to an incredible eight-piece brass band, and ended the night by walking together in the rain. It was truly the perfect first date! The next morning, I called my parents and told them I’d found the one.” Two years later, Rob proposed outside the same restaurant—an easy “yes” for Camilla.
Their choice of venue, though not exactly nearby, was an easy one. “When I was still in college, my parents bought an old farmhouse in the south of France. They took me to see the 12th-century Abbaye de Valmagne nearby when I visited. We were all alone in this most amazing space, which is now deconsecrated but still maintains its grandeur and history, and I said to my parents that, one day, I would get married in the abbey,” Camilla explains. Years later, the couple took a trip back to the abbey, and Rob was equally as enchanted with the space.
The lovebirds designed an epic, four-day event for their 180 guests: a luxurious getaway surrounding their nuptials. Amidst a fun weekend in the Franco countryside, Camilla and Rob officially tied the knot in the abbey itself. “The building is architecturally stunning but has challenges because it is so enormous. We wanted our decor to enhance the abbey’s beautiful features without leaving our loved ones feeling lost in the cavernous spaces,” the bride explains. “To guide guests to our ceremony, we brought in large Lucques olive trees, placed them in French wooden planter boxes and underplanted them with white hydrangeas.” Once attendees arrived at the breathtaking Gothic abbey, they found seats on either side of the box-flower-lined aisle leading to the lush arch at the altar.
As Camilla floated down the aisle, friends and family admired her graceful wedding gown. “My ceremony dress was a custom Tony Ward Couture. I wanted an elegant, romantic and demure gown, which would fit with the venue,” she illustrates. After the two were officially joined as husband and wife, the group adjourned to the adjoining courtyard for cocktail hour as the newlyweds quietly slipped away. “We took our getaway vehicle for a spin around the French countryside and reveled in the day’s excitement.”
Meanwhile, guests sipped and savored while basking in the evening glow. Camilla says, “We set up lounge areas and cocktail tables so guests could wander around under the enormous, ancient sycamore trees or sit in groups and chat.” Once the new Mr. and Mrs. rejoined their loved ones, the party wandered to the property’s cloisters for dinner. “We had so much fun planning the decor for that area! My mom found a heavy jacquard woven fabric in off-white and taupe that we used to drape the tables, which looked beautiful with the romantic dinnerware. My parents collected antique gilt-bronze candlesticks at local antique markets to line the tables, and together with hundreds of tapers, votive candles and an abundance of flowers, the effect was magical.”
After dinner, the bride changed into a second look—a simple and sleek dress that enabled her to move and dance effortlessly. “At dinner, a roaming jazz band wandered through the cloisters and around our tables. They played energizing music that had people dancing in their seats well before the dance party even started. After dinner, when we returned to the abbey, the ten-piece band, Salut Band, made sure to amp up the energy and got the crowd up and dancing.” With one final outfit change into a sequined jumpsuit, the bride and her groom partied well into the wee hours of the following day. “Had the abbey’s floor not been made of sturdy stone withstood almost a thousand years of use, I’m sure we would have ripped up the dance floor!” Camilla laughs.
Upon reflection, the newlyweds identify one moment in particular as their favorite from the day. “Around 4 am, once all guests had left, Rob and I stood alone in the abbey and soaked in the joy of the evening and the beauty of the space. Our wedding day had so much energy, so these intimate moments genuinely stand out.”