Nine months after stylist and creative consultant Laura Smith first met Mark Sawyier, CEO and co-founder of Bonfyre, at a rooftop bar in Manhattan, she was packing up her apartment in the Upper East Side and moving in with him in St. Louis, where he was busy launching his business. “We became engaged a year and a half after our first date,” Laura explains. “Mark proposed on a rooftop in St. Louis, as a nod to our first encounter.”
Initially, the couple was planning to have a big wedding in St. Louis, but one night, Laura changed her mind and decided to throw it all out the window. “I recommended Mark’s cousin’s home in the South of France and shocked him with the idea of changing venues to another continent,” she says. “Mark called his cousin asking him what he thought of this insane idea that I threw into the mix, and he responded with warmth and grace: ‘The house is happiest when full.’ That was the pivotal moment for us.”
In order to plan the four-day destination wedding, Laura collaborated with Sabine Bahry-Lembo of Avalon Events Organization, a wedding planning company based in Monaco. Back in the U.S., Laura enlisted photographers Liz Sloan and Meredith Marquardt of L Photographie, and Cheree Berry Paper to do the custom monogram and invitation suite, which was inspired by the rich history of their wedding location, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. In fact, the couple drew most of their aesthetic influences from the the seaside French village and the groom’s family’s home. “All we had to do was simply embrace the beauty we’d soon be immersed in and let it speak for the entire weekend,” explains Laura.
As luck would have it, it was during her first bridal shopping outing in St. Louis that Laura found her wedding dress. “I saw the modern lines peeking out amongst the lace gowns and immediate knew it was mine to be worn,” she says. The dress was one of the last produced by designer Judd Waddell, a Midwesterner who helped launch Carolina Herrera bridal, before he announced his retirement. She paired her dress with royal blue sueded Prada heels, a set of diamond estate earrings won at an auction in St. Louis, and a variety of stacked sapphire and diamond channel rings.
Meanwhile Mark wore a custom midnight blue jacquard tuxedo with a blue satin shawl collar made by his clothier, Bill Witney of Billy Grey. “He looked dashing,” Laura says of her groom.
On a picture perfect September afternoon, friends and family gathered in the South of France for a short and sweet wedding ceremony joining Laura and Mark in matrimony. Guests stood in a boxwood-lined garden, while a mutual friend officiated their ceremony and loved ones participated by performing some readings. Once the ceremony was over, guests were treated to a glass of champagne and a five-minute stroll through the village, which ended at the Hôtel Les Deux Frères for cocktail hour overlooking the Mediterranean.
An open air dinner at the hotel’s terrace followed. The newlyweds and their guests sat at tables decorated with white scabiosa, lisianthus, hydrangea, astilbe, and jasmine vine. A traditional French menu, including lobster, duck, and steak, was served, and later the couple cut into an American-style, three-tiered wedding cake, decorated with sprigs of lavender and olive branches. “Roquebrune is home to one of the oldest known olive trees in France, which is believed to be over 2000 years old,” Laura explains. “I couldn’t resist incorporating olive branches throughout the wedding.”
After sunset, both sets of parents delivered their heartfelt speeches to the couple, and later Mark and Laura took to the dance floor to Van Morrison’s “Caravan” for their first dance as husband and wife. “My dad and I planned to transition the evening from dinner to party with a surprise dance to “Sweet Home Alabama,” she adds. “My family is from Alabama and it only seemed appropriate to blare Lynyrd Skynyrd in the South of France.”
A sparkler send off and more dancing continued on well into the night, until only the bride, groom, and the bride’s best friend and bridesmaid were left standing. Once they walked back to the house barefoot through the slumbering village, they realized they were locked out. “Everyone was asleep. A few loud knocks followed with no answer!” Laura recalls. Mark later scaled the lower garden level wall into the house grounds and was able to unlock the front door—but not before making a pit stop first. “He grabbed the box of croissants set out for everyone to nibble on earlier in the day and swung open the door to greet us with a tray of buttered carb deliciousness,” she says. “It was glorious!”