Claire Mathy and Michael O’Donnell

Claire Mathy and Michael O’Donnell

Married on Sept. 6, 2013, in Bourron-Marlotte, France

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French Connection

From an underwater marriage proposal in Australia to a ceremony at a French chateau that featured Irish traditions, the wedding of Claire Mathy and Michael O’Donnell was an international affair to remember.

The couple

Claire Mathy, whose mother, Maire McArdle, is the Bethesda Magazine design director, moved from Florida to Gaithersburg in eighth grade and attended Ridgeview Middle School. She graduated from Quince Orchard High School and Georgetown University. Michael O’Donnell grew up in Dublin. The couple lives in Nice, France.

The wedding

Sept. 6, 2013, at Château de Bourron in Bourron-Marlotte, France

How they met

The couple met while chatting with mutual friends in a British bar in Paris.

First date

Claire and Michael spent a rainy Sunday sightseeing in Paris.

The proposal

Michael proposed while the couple was scuba diving in Australia during a trip to attend a friend’s wedding. Claire was performing exercises required to receive her dive certification when Michael handed her an underwater writing slate bearing the words “Will U Marry Me?” Claire nodded “yes,” and the couple hugged and briefly removed their air regulators to kiss. Then Michael took the ring out of his pocket, which he had tied to a string attached to a loop on his swim trunks. “But the ring actually came off the string and started to fall. Luckily, we caught it pretty quickly,” Claire says. “Later, Michael said he almost had a heart attack.”

Wedding theme

French château-and-floral theme with shades of purple and gold

Number of guests


What made the event so special

“We’re an American-Irish couple living in France. Our wedding was an encounter of many different cultures, which enriched our special day,” Claire says. “We had a traditional Irish ribbon-tying ceremony with Irish music, contrasting with the French setting, food and wine.”

Favorite moment

The couple chose a pyramid of macarons, a French tradition, instead of a wedding cake. Their favorite moment occurred when the pyramid was presented to them lit with sparklers. Instead of serving each other the traditional bite of cake, Michael and Claire popped a macaron into each other’s mouth.

Favorite details

Claire says the floral bouquets were a highlight. “I was in the middle of getting dressed and doing makeup when my florist arrived with the bouquets for me and my bridesmaids. Her compositions far exceeded my expectations, and I was blown away by their beauty,” she says. “It was a moment of pleasure amid the stress of getting ready.”

Tips for cutting costs

Use the skills of friends and family. “My mother designed our wedding invitations, menu and table cards. My brother-in-law made our dinner music mix. A friend of my husband’s played the fiddle for our ceremony. And my husband’s aunt was our ceremony officiant,” Claire says.

Something to laugh about

“We had our wedding ceremony outdoors and had arranged for our DJ to provide a microphone and speakers,” Claire says. “On the big day, our DJ was late. As the ceremony began and our fiddler started playing the processional music, up came running our DJ with his arms full of equipment. Michael had to wave him away. It took a good few waves before he got the hint.”


“Galilée” by Cymbeline, a lacy, vintage-style dress


Yolanda Villagran

The honeymoon

A two-week trip to the French and Italian Rivieras

The details

Flowers were by Mélanie Miguel; invitations and programs, by Maire McArdle; hair and makeup, by Place 26 Hair Salon in Fontainebleau; catering, by Abeille Royale; music, by Gypsy Cooker and DJ Toma Changeur; transportation, by Transports des Sablons.

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