Meet the woman behind “Le Secret d’Audrey”, a brand that now rhymes with international wedding photography, coming all the way from Paris.
Audrey is a wedding photographer with an unmistakable French touch who’s photographed couples from across the world. She truly gets inspired by anything and is always thinking of new ways to capture everlasting moments. Working with brides and grooms from all over the world, she has immortalized some exquisite events that combined both jaw-dropping places, life-altering wedding dresses and eye-tearing emotions. More than at ease perched on her high heels behind her cameras, Audrey puts at the service of her couples her expertise but also her unique sensitivity and her iconic sense of style which will ultimately result in photographs newlyweds will keep for a lifetime. While 2020 will remain a year to be forgotten in the bridal universe, the French businesswoman remains optimistic about the future and the beautiful moments to come. Vogue sat down with Audrey to discuss all things weddings, the main differences between French vs American ceremonies and overall experiences, and we even got to chat about Netflix… World, please meet Audrey.
Hi Audrey! Can you please quickly introduce yourself and tell us more about your work?
Sure thing! To put it in a nutshell, I have been a photographer and artistic director for over 10 years. For private events like weddings or the production of visuals for brand campaigns, I put my expertise at the service of my clients to create images that will translate their history.
My work as a photographer has taken me to capture weddings all around the world, from NYC to Bali, obviously passing through Paris, a destination dear to the eyes (and close to the hearts!) of my foreign couples.
My approach is to capture all the elegance of a wedding, adding an inimitable French touch; which is one of the reasons why I am rather popular internationally. My ambition? Capturing images that will transcend time and trends; I want my couples to keep these photographs as the foundation of their story; and my use of film actively contributes to this.
My creative approach during a wedding shoot is similar to an editorial, documentary-style approach: I pay attention to all the dimensions of the event through shots that capture all the spontaneity and emotions of this very intimate celebration.
How did you become the “Parisian photographer for American couples”?
100% of my clientele is international, most of my couples being American. I built this sort of intimacy with American couples naturally: I have lived in the United States, I myself was married to an American and above all I have an artistic approach that resonates with this clientele which is very demanding when it comes to their image.
I started over 10 years ago, when American clients didn’t recognize themselves in the traditional French photography aesthetic: very sober and restrained, mostly shot in black and white, and not really paying much attention to the staging.
With my bright, feminine style and my extreme attention to detail, I immediately became “the” Parisian photographer for American couples.
How would you describe an American wedding? How about a French wedding?
Based on my experience, I can say that there’s a major difference between American and French weddings. In fact, for an American wedding, I find that the top priority is related to photography and videography. My American couples see their wedding as the bedrock of their communication as a couple. In a way, they design their event like an agency would design a global campaign launch for their key brand. That’s where my fashion background helps capture that dimension.
My American couples want their event to be unique, and one that reflects their values. Working mainly on “high-end” weddings, it is common for my couples to offer their guests more than just a ceremony, but rather a whole experience that will include surprises over several days, specific themes as well as very careful attention to visuals. Every detail is thought through, thought out, and of course, coordinated.
My French customers are much more spontaneous and focused on conviviality. Obviously less impressed by the French history and architecture in which they have always been immersed, my French couples first want a moment of celebration. Although this has changed in the recent years, I have noticed that the priority for my French couples is to properly host all guests through exceptional gastronomy and a very warm atmosphere.
What do you think are the main differences between these two types of clienteles?
For me, the difference is the cursor between “appearance” and “experience”.
My American clientele wants the “picture perfect” wedding (immaculately beautiful) while my French couples will want to have fun first. Obviously, you can have both but that requires a lot of work upstream with your planner!
What are the differences that you observed between the two in terms of wedding planning, bridal fashion, decoration? How about the overall “ambiances” and moods and obviously, what about wedding pictures?
From an organizational standpoint, American couples hire a planner very early on. This is not something in which they hesitate to invest because wedding planners have become quickly essential ages ago. French newlyweds usually do not delegate everything to a planner, even when they happen to hire one.
Fashion-wise, my American clientele evolves around luxury on a daily basis and it is naturally that they will turn to fashion designers for their outfits. I have rarely worked with brides whose dress came from a bridal shop. When they particularly appreciate a brand, they will want to continue this story up until their wedding day. Also, it is more and more common to have several dresses for that day, especially if the celebrations happen over several days.
In France, the bride is looking for THE dress, the one that combines both beauty and comfort, and that she can wear all day.
When it comes to decorations, my American clientele will be demanding on every detail, and in particular regarding the flowers. Their wedding is a real production and they do not hesitate to transform spaces in order to match their vision. Coming from a country where you never say no to clients, their imagination is limitless when it comes to their event!
In France, customers tend to adapt more to the place they have booked and usually do not want to transform the spirit of the venue.
In terms of atmosphere, I would say that French weddings are more instinctive and impulsive, oriented towards conviviality from beginning to end. American weddings are more coordinated throughout the day and seem more military. But entertainment for Americans is also a huge expense: live bands for the dancing part of the event are the norm and they are asked to provide a real show. The end of that special day is just as incredible as the rest: Americans, being born orators, often turn their speeches into actual performances; and once the band goes live, the guests go absolutely wild and invade the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning.
As I explained earlier, when it comes to photography, my American couples make it a real priority. They include me in the wedding organization right from the start, because they want to be sure that everything they’ve been planning for over a year is captured. They want spontaneity of course, but they will be attentive throughout the day to opportunities for taking pictures, leaving time and allowing for logistical access. These couples are not shy once in front of the lens because in the US every stage of life is photographed; so they don’t feel insecure to ask for a picture.
The funny thing is that French couples dream of the same photos but don’t want to strike a pose and therefore the opportunities are more complicated. Out of shyness, they do not want to stage themselves in front of the camera, especially if their guests are nearby. I’ll then adopt a more “documentary-style” approach to capture stolen moments with more emotions.
What are the positive aspects for you to work with both American and French couples?
Gosh, there’s so many! With American clients, my work is more like an editorial shoot. While there is always the dimension of a private event with its fair share of surprises, the couples are in demand for true artistic director work. They want to be led and guided in order to get the best photos possible. This makes my work really stimulating with a real signature and added value.
As for the French couples who often prefer a more natural and liberated approach, this allows them to let themselves be carried away by the energy of the day and let me do a real job of observation. The couple will be all the more in awe of their photos, discovering everything that has been photographed, almost without realizing it!
What are the bridal trends that you observe and appreciate in Americans vs. French women?
Knowing that American weddings tend to take place over several days with a dinner the day before, the wedding and the party, the brunch the next day and even another additional activity, couples and especially brides dedicate a specific and different outfit for each of these happenings. This obviously allows them to play with fashion a lot. Without going to the extreme with crazy costumes, Americans nonetheless follow themes very seriously and will pay special attention to their looks. Often, a stylist will accompany couples in their search for the perfect and appropriate look at each stage of their adventure.
If Americans have fun with different outfits, French have recently freed themselves from fairly strict dresscodes and thanks to new designers and more niche bridal shops, they are turning to materials that are more fluid than tulle, or they are turning to more “fashion runway” silhouettes they can accessorize (not with a tiara!) with modern jewellery they will end up wearing over and over again. The influence of family is clearly less present on the choice of dresses nowadays.
Can you share with us the brands and artists who you think rock the world of US and French bridal worlds?
Where do I begin?! From a fashion point of view, for “casual” looks for dinner the day before the wedding as well as for any other gatherings post wedding, I love Zimmermann. Ralph and Russo design gorgeous bespoke dresses (fun fact, the dress comes with its own dresser who will take care of dressing the bride on her big day). I am totally in awe of new Australian designers such as Elly Sofocli, I also recently totally I fell in love with some delightfully beautiful and unique French pieces at Blanc Crème thanks to a former bride of mine called Anne (OK, maybe I am not very objective!).
To stay in this USA / France comparison, what did you think of the Netflix phenomenon “Emily in Paris”?
I loved it! I loved the series first and foremost because it was the exact distraction I needed in these rather gloomy times. Obviously, I like the fact that it put France and especially Paris under the spotlight. They went full on with the clichés but I found them all very funny … And sometimes true!
As for Emily’s wardrobe, it made me think of the “total look” approach most of my Americans clients adopt when first coming to Paris. It makes me love Paris even more, if that’s even possible.
Audrey, the French wedding scene is something you take pride in, and something you wish would radiate more brightly internationally. Can you tell us how you perceive it today and what changes you can foresee?
There are so many reasons to be proud about. We obviously like to brag about our fine cuisine, which you could say is cliché, but it’s coming from a place of truth: I’ve seen more and more couples in the US serve French gastronomy to their guests! I don’t think people know that exclusive venues do not necessarily rhyme with top-notch cuisine … I’ll spare you the ghastly stories of of buffets in very beautiful places! French “Art de la Table” (a French way of decorating tables, serving food…) will only sublime a wedding, and it inspires many foreign couples who want to share this experience with their guests.
COVID-19 seems to have naturally put Destination Weddings on hold, but it is also obvious that wanting to get married abroad and to make a wedding a real experience for guests remains a very strong trend. It’s no longer about booking the same venue that was booked for acquaintances, copying and pasting whatever looked trendy on social media; couples wish to take their guests with them to a place that is dear to them. Often enough, Europe, and France in particular, ends up being the dream destination thanks to our history, the architecture and the art of living…
I feel that American couples, who for a long time did not book French vendors, now understand that there are incredibly talented people in France to cater to their needs. From design, flowers, to hair and make-up, lovely and very reliable French brands are emerging on the market.
Any advice for the bride and groom right now?
With uncertainties like the ones we are experiencing, I was worried that my 2020 couples would be completely upset and ready to throw in the towel. On the contrary, this one-year reprieve offers a little more time to prepare for their wedding so they can plan something even more ambitious! That’s what I call revenge!
My advice will therefore be: refocus on the essentials, on what you really want to do (not what your parents or your group of friends want to do, but you as a couple) and bring this great project to fruition. Hopefully, I’ll get to be there every step of the way!
See the Vogue post HERE