Why You Should Elope to the Languedoc, France
****This blog post was guest written, and photos provided by Claire Garner check her out on IG at @onplanetclaire Thank you Claire for sharing your wisdom and helping someones dream elopement come true! These guides are designed to help couples find their dream locations and activities for their elopement date. Without guest writers we wouldn't be able to achieve our goal of growing our educational resources.
How to Elope in Languedoc, France:
Are you looking to celebrate your big day somewhere authentically French but with a laidback Mediterranean vibe and almost guaranteed good weather?
The south of France's Languedoc-Roussillon area is bound by the Cévenne s mountain range to the north and the mighty Rhôn e River to the east. It embraces the curve of the Mediterranean coast as it turns south, to kiss the Pyrénées mountains and the border of Spain. The landscape is strewn with evidence of 2,000 years of civilization and the acres and acres of vineyards that contribute to it being geographically the largest vineyard area and wine-producing area in the world, with 23 appellations (AOCs).
That laid-back Mediterranean vibe
Don't come here looking for a fast pace and high energy. The charm of this part of the South of France is that no one is in a hurry. Even in the larger cities of Toulousee, Montpellier, and Perpignann, the atmosphere is less hectic than their northern counterparts and more friendly and authentic (and cheaper) than the Côte d'Azur. This makes for a perfect, low-stress wedding setting.
Natural beauty in all seasons
Agriculture is the primary industry in the region, specifically viticulture. This means acres of vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see and thousands of traditional wine-making villages, where life has barely changed in the past 100 years. Vineyards, olive groves, and the iconic Languedoc platanes' Plane trees' dominate the landscape. These scenes change every passing week as the season progresses, and you will be sure to find the perfect romantic setting for capturing memories of your big day.
In April, you'll see leaves starting to bud on the vines. In May, there'll be meadows full of poppies. June offers endless sunshine-yellow broom dotting the hillsides, and July boasts its fields of sunflowers (and lavender fields in a handful of places). In August, things start to change up a gear as harvest season approaches, and the grapes are big and juicy on the vines. By the end of the month, the grape pickers start to appear in the fields. In September, it's full steam ahead for the harvesting of green olives, and the grapes are beginning to ferment in the wineries, giving off a distinctive aroma. By the end of October, all the grapes will have been picked and the leaves on the vines turn to a full spectrum of wine-colors. If you visit during winter, you'll find the plains are brown and bare, but this is when the Pyrénées are snowy, and the golden beaches are empty, but the weather is generally mild.
Mediterranean produce and cuisine
Naturally, as the landscape changes with the seasons, so does the fresh produce in the local markets, including the award-winning Le s Hallesin Narbonne. The crop rotates through asparagus, cherries, melons, and stone fruits through the summer months, on to the region's distinctive, bright-orange potimarron pumpkins and a variety of tasty mushroom varieties.
The cuisine of the Languedoc is strongly Mediterranean, so based around olives (fresh, preserved, olive oil and tapenades), garlic, onions and fresh herbs from the 'garrigue' (Languedoc scrubland), including rosemary and thyme, plus of course, the famous oysters of Bouzigues and other seafood from the Etan g de Thau. Not forgetting the local cheeses (this is France!), particularly Cathare and Pélardon goats cheeses, Roquefort blue sheep's cheese, and Tomme des Pyrénées from cows milk. All the perfect ingredients for a romantic picnic can be found locally, including the wine!
Quality of Light
So many artists have relocated to the south of France because of the exceptional quality of light. Picass o, Derai n and Matiss e and others were inspired by Collioure's colorful medieval streets, with the latter famously stating, "No sky in all France is more blue than that of Collioure." Among the most famous painters of the south's scenery is Van Gogh, who painted at least 2,000 works while living in Arles (which is not strictly in the Languedoc but just next door). If you and your lover are artists or photographers, then you should incorporate some time to indulge your passion, or at the very least, capture some romantic moments here.
The Languedoc landscape is littered with chateaux in various states of repair (420 at the last count). Some are in absolutely stunning locations and will add that fairytale magic to your wedding photos, especially if you take the time to absorb the history of the Cathars (a particular sect of Christians who were persecuted during Medieval times and pursued to these mountain-top fortresses).
Of course, the creme-de-la-creme of them all is Château Comtal, within the famous UNESCO World Heritage-listed, the citadel of Carcassonne' La Cité, with its cobbled streets and ramparts. In this 2000-year old settlement, every stone is part of history, and there are many excellent photo vantage points, including the Pyrénées on a clear day. You could even rent costumes in the city to add a touch of medieval romance to those photos and even stay within the city walls at the sumptuous, 5-star Hotel de La Cité.
Les Plus Beaux Villages de France
You'll find a version of the classic golden stone/terracotta roof/blue shutters combination in almost every Languedoc village. However, if it's a whole village of potential backdrops you are looking for, you should check out the list of 'Le s Plus Beaux Villages de France', the most beautiful villages of France. There are 14 in the Languedoc-Roussillon area, including Lagrass, Minerve, Eus, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Lautrec Olargues, where you'll find photogenic scenes around every corner. Indeed, even the journeys to these villages are full of spectacular views.
Canal du Midi
It would be remiss to wax lyrical about the Languedoc without mentioning Pierre-Paul Riquet's famous, UNESCO-listed, 240km long Canal du Midi 1681, the oldest canal of its type in France. In the extreme west of the Languedoc to Marseillan, the canal joins Toulouse on the Etang de Thau, France's largest salt lake, in the region's outer east. The pace of life on the channel is even more tranquil than in the surrounding area, which is certainly saying something. If you are fans of boating, you could hire or charter a canal boat for a day or a week afloat, as a couple or a few nearest and dearest. The options range from self-catering narrowboat s to 5-star, fully catered luxury hotel barges.
Chateaux and Domaines
Of course, with so many vineyards, the Languedoc is home to numerous wineries, including some outstanding chateaux and domains that provide accommodation within the estate. Often these are available for exclusive hire, so you and your guests can celebrate and enjoy the facilities together in luxury and privacy.
Whether it's a beach ceremony you desire, or you'd like to relax after the big day, the 220km Languedoc coast is almost entirely lined with golden sandy beaches, the calm, blue Mediterranean, and just about every type of accommodation imaginable. From self-catering campsites and charming gîtes to 5-star hotels and even a naturist resort, if that's your thing!
If you are eloping, you will need to complete your marriage license in your home country, with your 'wedding' in France being only a religious or spiritual ceremony.
That being said, non-French couples are permitted to marry in France. However, to have the legally binding civil ceremony, they must have proof of being resident for a minimum of 30 days and have all the right paperwork (the French love of bureaucracy is legendary). This includes a copy of your birth certificate issued within the last three months, translated and 'apostilled' or legally certified, plus various certificates and legal statements. Seriously, unless you are planning to move to France, it's best to complete all the paperwork out of the way in advance, so you can relax and celebrate during your elopement!