As you might imagine, weddings in France are a bit different than those in the U.S. Well, to be fair, I’ve only experienced weddings in the Pacific Northwest and in France. For all I know, Pacific Northwest weddings could be totally different than those in North Carolina, for example. But you get my point: cultural differences and traditions make for a different wedding than you might find in the U.S.
Different, though, not worse. This wedding was awesome.
at the Chateau
Good looking boys! (the one who doesn’t belong to me is Philemon, with whom we stayed. Well, we stayed with his family, not just him.)
The bride and groom live in England, the bride is French, the groom English. There were people from France, England, the U.S., Germany, and even Zambia there to celebrate (probably some other countries, too). We enjoyed a superb four course meal, drank delicious wine and beer, danced, laughed, and generally enjoyed ourselves in, yes, a chateau. Some of the things I especially loved:
1. The bride and groom hired three babysitters, all of whom spoke English, to help out with the kids. This was especially important because French weddings tend to last LOOOOONG into the night. In fact, Solène (the bride), remarked to me that while she expected the British in the group to be ready to leave around 11:30 pm, since the pubs all used to close at 11 in England, the French would probably be disappointed if the party didn’t last until dawn. We left around 1 am, but I understand the dancing lasted until around 3. We had small children who needed their beds by 1, but until then, they totally enjoyed having babysitters to look after them, and I loved being (mostly) free to enjoy myself.
2. The bride and groom sent up hot air balloons at nightfall. No, really! They were these adorable paper balloons and they lit the bottom of them and they rose in the sky as they filled with hot air. It was beautiful.
Photo from Chris’s brother-in-law
3. The traditional brioche at midnight. This is more of a tradition on the Brittany Coast than elsewhere in France, but it is wonderful all the same. Just when you’ve hit that wall, long after dinner has ended but well before the night is over, out comes another delicious treat to push you through.
4. There was a Champagne tower, a pyramid really, and the bride and groom poured Champagne in the top glass and it flowed to the next and the next and the next and it looked really cool.
This photo also from Chris’s brother-in-law
5. Sparklers on the cake. Future brides, take note, because that was fantastic.
From what I understand, there were only two hiccoughs in the entire day. The first was that the groom’s parents got a bit lost on the way to City Hall for the wedding, and it was a good thing that the wedding was on French time, otherwise they would have missed it. As it was, they arrived shortly after we did, which was about three minutes before the whole group was ushered into the room where the ceremony was to take place.
The other hiccough was mine.
I brought one dress with me. And matching heels. Because why in the world would I have brought more than one dress halfway across the world when packing space was so limited? I wouldn’t have, and I didn’t. I actually packed super light for this trip, and for that I am proud of myself. BUT.
The zipper on my dress broke.
Not because the dress was too tight. Because the zipper was just crap.
Of course, I didn’t figure this out until 20 minutes before we were supposed to leave the house because I got everyone else dressed first. Mom never goes first, or mom is liable to be smeared with something gross and indelible before we even leave. So. Catastrophe, with zero time to spare.
After determining that the zipper could not be fixed (not even with swearing and tears, can you believe it?) and that I would not fit into any of Soizic’s dresses, Tony and I hatched a plan: we would drive to downtown Nantes where he and the boys would drop me in front of the shops. I would race in, find a dress, and buy it.
So I did. I can only imagine what the poor shop assistant at Zara thought of me as I pulled her aside, explained that I had broken my dress and had to be at a wedding in ten minutes, that my shoes were yellow, and I needed something to wear. She was a peach, though, and even though she had to guess my size (I have no idea what size I am in European clothing), she grabbed five dresses for me to try. I chose the first one, paid for it, and wore it out of the store.
We made it to the wedding with minutes to spare. From my way of thinking, I took all of the bad wedding juju on myself. It was, seemingly, the worst thing to happen that day, and that’s saying a lot. After all, it didn’t end up too badly.
And I made it in time to fulfill my role as the “mom who hands out sweets to all the loud children.” The bride and groom’s son was none too happy with the whole affair until we got there with Charles, and then he, Charles, and all the other little boys (so many boys!) stuffed their faces with gummy frogs throughout the entire ceremony. Win.
New French dress
I feel just so blessed to have been a part of this wedding. Ten years ago, I had the enormous good fortune of landing in a host family that became like another family to me and made me another daughter in their family. How many people get to choose their family? I got to choose mine, and I am so flattered that they chose me, too.
Me with Alain and Jeanne-Marie (after the yellow shoes came off) and their two other “daughters” (among the thirty or so exchange students they’ve hosted over the years), Dana and Emily