Victoria de Lambilly remembers the exact day in September 2017 when she and Oscar de Poncins met at her London home – it was also the same day as her family’s new puppy, a three-month Border Terrier named Brexit, had arrived.
Mr. Poncins was there to start tutoring Gabrielle de Lambilly, one of Madame de Lambilly’s five sisters and an eighth-grade student at a French high school in London. (She mostly needed math help.) Her mother, Mathilde de Lambilly, had found a message posted by Mr. de Poncins in a closed Facebook group offering to help with homework for a French family, for a fee.
At the time, Mr. de Poncins was studying for a master’s degree in corporate finance at the Skema Business School in Lille, France. But he had recently traveled to London for an internship as a business development associate at Christie’s auction house. He said he felt “a little nostalgic”.
“I wanted to get closer to the French community,” said Mr. de Poncins, now 26 and a financial partner at Murphy and Partners, an international art consultancy based in London.
Mme de Lambilly was in the same room as her mother when she called Mr de Poncins on the loudspeaker for the first time. “It was the voice that did it all,” said Ms. de Lambilly, now 23 and deputy director of the Gagosian Gallery, an art concession in London. “I found him attractive. “
M. de Poncins was slightly surprised when Mme de Lambilly answered the door for his first lesson. She was wearing red jeans and a multicolored pom pom shirt. “Victoria had a real bob cut at the time,” he said. However, for a moment, he forgot that short hair was not his style. ” Who is this girl? He remembered thinking. “She looks really charming. “
Mrs. de Lambilly was studying art history and Russian at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She would not go back to school until later in the fall. This gave her many opportunities to chat happily with her sister’s tutor three times a week.
The two realized that art was a shared passion. They held Finnish architects Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen in high esteem. The French artistic duo Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne was also a source of common inspiration for the two.
Mr. de Poncins learned that Mrs. de Lambilly, whose parents came from France, had been expatriated all her life. His father, Hubert de Lambilly, has worked for a French company abroad since 1994. Her mother, Mathilde de Lambilly, was a stay-at-home mother. Madame de Lambilly was born in London, but her family moved to New York before they could speak. She was 3 years old when they moved back to England and had never lived in France. All but one of her sisters were born abroad, in England or the United States.
Mr. de Poncins’ mother, Catharina de Poncins, a reflexologist, is Finnish. Her father, who asked not to be named, is responsible for the risks, insurance and security of a global distributor. The oldest of three children, Mr. de Poncins grew up learning French and Swedish, which are spoken by a minority of Finns. In summer, his family would leave Fontainebleau, a provincial town southeast of Paris where they had lived, for a month of swimming and saunas in Pappila, the residence of his grandparents in the south of Finland.
When Ms. de Lambilly returned from Saint Andrews for a mid-term break at the end of October 2017, she and Mr. de Poncins planned their first meeting. On a windy but sunny Sunday, they got together for mass at Saint Francis of Assisi, a Roman Catholic parish in Notting Hill, then had brunch at Snaps and Rye, a nearby Danish restaurant.
Mr. de Poncins was so focused on keeping the conversation going that he didn’t look at the menu. When a waiter came to take his order, he would choose an item at random. He ended up with smoked herring, “a horrible thing” to have at 11 am, said de Poncins.
Later, a walk along the canals of the Little Venice district gradually turned into a hike. “I have rarely walked so much in such a short time,” said de Lambilly. She and M. de Poncins held hands as they crossed a busy artery. They didn’t let go once on the other side.
Mrs. de Lambilly, who professes a deep knowledge of the topography of South Kensington, knew that they would soon be home. His companion still had to make a romantic gesture. So she offered to accompany him to his bus stop at her house to save him time.
When his bus stopped at the stop, he finally kissed her. “Your bus is gone,” she remarked after a moment. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “This man next to us is looking at us,” she said, nodding to an older man near the bus stop. “It doesn’t matter,” he replied, kissing her again.
In November 2017, it was clear to them that they were in an exclusive relationship. Ms. de Lambilly graduated from her program, was hired as a business support administrator at Christie’s and returned to London in the summer of 2018. Mr. de Poncins officially applied in December of the same year.
The couple celebrated their engagement in Pappila, Finland in the summer of 2019, with their respective families. One morning, Mr. de Poncins suggested that they go for a swim in the lake that adjoins the family home. He arranged for his brother, Axel de Poncins, to drop the engagement ring on a pontoon as they walked away. They returned to shore to find it sparkling in its jewelry box.
“I had both feet in the water and she was sitting on the pontoon,” said de Poncins. “It was then that I put the ring on her finger. “
The couple are planning a civil wedding on March 21, followed by a religious ceremony in June, both in France – all in the context of Britain’s divorce from the European Union. The irony was not lost for them. Yet the biggest challenge they would face would not come from Brexit, but from the Byzantine ways that the coronavirus pandemic would completely ignore them.
M. de Poncins and Mme de Lambilly were married Tuesday morning March 17, barely 40 minutes before the start of the measurements, at the town hall of Digny, 70 miles south-west of Paris. Christelle Lorin, mayor of Digny, was the officiant.
The couple were joined by the mother of the bride and two of her sisters, Emily and Félicie de Lambilly, as well as by the grandparents on the side of her mother, Claire and Jean-François Gautier. Charlotte and Axel de Poncins, the groom’s sister and brother, were also present.
They arranged for missing family members and friends to connect via a live Instagram broadcast, including the groom’s mother from Finland and the bride’s father and sisters from New York and Paris.
Just before the ceremony, Mrs. de Lambilly and Mr. de Poncins removed the surgical masks and gloves that they had put on as a precaution. “We come from London, Paris, everywhere. We wanted to show that we were cooperative, ”said de Poncins.
Mrs. Lorin seemed to recognize him. “Exceptional circumstances today,” she said before the brief ceremony that started at 11:00 am. “In the name of the law, I declare you united in marriage,” she said moments later.
The mother of the bride stuffed a bottle of champagne and a plate of petit four into the arms of the newlyweds and brought them back to Paris, in time to catch 1:30 pm Eurostar train to London. The couple were quickly upgraded to first class seats by an enthusiastic flight attendant. They opened the bottle on board and celebrated, as did the whole train when a special announcement was broadcast on the public address system.
On June 22, the bride and groom plan to participate in a religious ceremony, also in Digny, in front of 350 family members and friends. The bride’s uncle, the Reverend Julien Gautier, a Catholic priest, will lead the ceremony during a religious celebration at Saint-Germain Church.
If the global pandemic derails the ceremony, Mrs. de Lambilly has an emergency plan. “We are going to get married on the run in England with two better random people on the street and a priest,” she said jokingly.
When March 17, 2020
Or Digny town hall, France
Dressed as new The father of the bride, Hubert de Lambilly, and one of her five sisters, Gabrielle de Lambilly, followed the ceremony remotely from their Manhattan living room. M. de Lambilly insisted that they dress. He wore a suit and his daughter a “pretty dress”.
Best bidder Mr. de Poncins bought his engagement ring from his fiancée at auction in London. It is shaped like a basket in white gold and set with a brilliant-cut baguette and tapered baguette diamonds. “Even I fell in love with it,” he said.