After the biggest victory of your life, why not have a wedding?
Five months after he won the Indianapolis 500, Simon Pagenaud wed Hailey McDermott on Friday in an outdoor ceremony in Napa, California, PEOPLE can exclusively reveal.
“I dreamt about winning Indy. I didn’t know when it was going to happen or if it was going to happen — I certainly never imagined it would happen the same year I was getting married,” Pagenaud, 35, told PEOPLE days before the nuptials, before some five dozen close family and friends at the Auberge du Soleil resort.
“I’ve accomplished all my dreams,” he says.
“What I tell Simon is, ‘This is the easiest decision I’ve ever made, so I don’t feel that stress and anxiety of, Oh I’m getting married,’ ” says McDermott, 29, who has been with Pagenaud for seven years after they met through mutual connections in Indianapolis. “It’s just more like we’re finally creating our version of our family together.”
The bride and groom had been planning the wedding for months before Pagenaud’s Indy 500 victory. He proposed right after New Year’s Day in Paris — McDermott’s favorite city — with a clever ruse: She arrived thinking they were going to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
McDermott, afraid of heights (and having long said she didn’t want such an obvious kind of proposal), hadn’t even considered Pagenaud would ask her to marry him there.
“I’d always told him to never do it at the Eiffel Tower because it was so cliché, and then he did and now I could never imagine a better place for it,” she says.
The wedding itself, planned with Emily Coyne Events, came together in less than a year. Pagenaud and McDermott both knew they wanted it to be in California: It would be romantic, they decided, and intimate, with lots of wine. They would be surrounded by only those who knew them best.
“We just really wanted it to be about us and our love and joining our families together and just celebrating with the people who are nearest and dearest to our heart,” McDermott says.
For the ceremony, she wore a lace gown — the first wedding dress she tried on — by Winnie Couture with a corset-style top, sheer sleeves, a long veil (“the longest one they had”) and a short train.
Pagenaud wore a custom burgundy suit by Ravazzolo, accessorized with a RM67-01 Richard Mille watch. In keeping with Pagenaud’s roots in France, the ceremony was half and half in both French and English. As a surprise, McDermott made sure they served the French dessert croquembouche as well as a shipment of macaroons from his hometown, known for the treats.
The couple’s Jack Russell Terrier, Norman, served as ring-bearer — in a tux to match Pagenaud’s.
They wed on a terrace at the resort, in front of a floral circle by This Humble Abode, a nod to the “winner’s circle” from Pagenaud’s racing career, with Napa Valley rolling out behind them.
Afterward, the wedding party moved indoors for the dinner and reception, with the doors kept open to an outdoor lounge and bar. The whole thing glowed from twinkling lights and candles.
For their first dance as husband and wife, Pagenaud and McDermott chose Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.”
“I’m going to be very proud to call Hailey my wife when I introduce her,” Pagenaud said ahead of the big day. “I can’t wait to see her walk down the aisle, that’s certainly a moment for me — seeing her in her wedding is very special,” he said. “I can tell how much she’s going to be smiling already.”
After their years together, and the natural ups and downs of a relationship that long, “the commitment is the most exciting,” says McDermott.
“Even if we went to a town hall or him and I just went to Vegas, it means the same,” she says.
Says Pagenaud, who can recall the exact moment in Las Vegas last year he knew he would marry McDermott: “There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her love.”