Saturday, June 01, 2013

MadamElla

This was my first French wedding, and I was interested to observe some of the differences to other weddings I’ve been to (not that many, actually). As you may know, all French weddings are secular, in accordance with the strict separation of Church and State (you’d think this would be enough to stop people protesting against gay marriage, but sadly no). You are free to have a religious ceremony if you like, but that won’t be recognized by the State. If you want to be legally married, you have to do it at the town hall with an official.

In this case, the official was the groom’s father, so obviously the ceremony was a bit different than your run-of-the-mill affair. But after the touching and funny speech, it was time for the legal elements. Unlike any Anglo wedding I’ve been to, the French ceremony includes a reading of the legal texts defining marriage and the spouses’ responsibilities. There was a lot of emphasis on Republican values – as in the values of secularism, liberté, égalité and fraternité of the French Republic, not as in promising to honour God and guns. A lot about having and bringing up children as well, although I suspect at least some of that was snuck in by the potential future grandpapa. The reading out of the full names, occupations and addresses of the spouses and witnesses was also more legalistic than I’m used to – although this provided some more comedy as Aurélien’s poor sister (who did a stellar job of providing the English translation of the speech, I must point out) had to struggle through some unfamiliar American street names. 

Legalities done (although not quite, since as I only discovered on Ella’s blog, the bride and groom were held up inside due to a paperwork snafu), it was back to the reception on foot in the rain. (I never actually made it into my heels until we got back to the garden party, thankfully enough as it turned out, since the little town hall was crammed with well-wishers and I had to stand for the marriage ceremony. Then I promptly sunk into the wet grass, but bravely kept my heels on for the vast majority of the evening nonetheless.) 

I was having too much fun catching up with the Lancelots and Mary Kay and family under a tree (for reasons of rainyness) to even notice that apparently beverages were not being consumed, but once I found the cocktail and snack tent, I didn’t stray too far from the yummy themed cocktails while chatting to blogfriends and many of Ella’s lovely friends from America and Aurélien’s French (and non-French) mates. (Surprisingly, my favourite was a cosmopolitan – I would have gone with the mojito if you’d told me I could only have one.)

Enjoying a cosmo with some of Ella's friends
This got me into a bit of trouble, however. As the afternoon wore on and the cocktails kept rolling, we were having a lovely discussion about poetry and other literary matters with a couple of Ella’s friends (genuine poets!) and a few of Aurélien’s friends. At some point, it was remarked upon that the punch bowls were getting a bit empty and we set ourselves the challenge of finishing the cocktails before moving on. Now, I did realize that things had emptied out a bit in the garden, but if there was a formal announcement that dinner was served, we missed it and, well, you just don’t issue a drinking challenge to a Kiwi chick. In my much younger days, I was known for such party tricks as “opening my throat” and pouring a specified amount of booze down in one. I once bested a 6-foot-something man built like a brick sh!thouse at a challenge which involved drinking half a bottle of peach schnapps (ugh) each in the shortest amount of time possible. Then I probably demonstrated how I can fit my whole fist (well, up to the knuckles) in my mouth. Because that’s how classy Gwan rolls. Or rolled, I don’t tend to engage in competitive drinking anymore, but you can probably still persuade me to put my fist in my mouth after a few beverages, if no-one has a camera handy.

Some of the cocktails in question
Long story short (actually, the above was more a case of making a short story long, and unnecessarily filled with embarrassing drinking stories from my youth), before too long the handful of others had also drifted away and only myself and one of Aurélien’s friends were left finishing up our cocktails in the tent.
I only realized that quite a bit of time had passed when I got a call from Ella’s phone asking where I was. I should have figured something was up when my jokey reply to "Where were you?" (I answered, "We were in the bushes", obvs) was met with an excited squeal and a "Who's 'we'?!?". But I really wasn’t expecting to walk into the dining tent a) to find that everyone was not only seated, but had *finished the first course* and b) to a round of applause from the assembled guests. Hugely awkward, especially since I didn’t even know where I was sitting so couldn’t flee to my seat as quickly as I’d have liked! The rest of the evening, I had people coming up and saying (hopefully at least half-jokingly) that they’d heard I’d been “otherwise engaged” in the bushes while they were tucking into their entrées. Cringe! The end result was that the young gentleman and myself kept well away from each other and any suspicious bushes for the rest of the evening…

This post is getting long already, so I’ll just say that the rest of the evening was fab. I’ve never seen a bride and groom actually boogie on down in their first dance instead of doing a sedate shuffle, and I did plenty of my own moving and shaking as well. (Seriously, I dread to think of the millions of photos probably floating around of me with what was uber-fluffy hair and probably more cleavage than anyone was comfortable with.) As well as being my first French wedding, this was also my first New York wedding, so I even got to participate in a Jewish chair dance (sorry, I’m sure there’s a proper name for that). I was right next to the bride and groom when the call went out, so ended up being the only girl to take a leg of the chair. Turns out that holding up a chair with a fully-grown man (even a slim one) is hard, so I drafted in a replacement man about halfway through and joined the circle of dancers instead.

It really was a fun evening, and I loved getting to chat with some awesome people (including meeting the lovely Grenobloise for the first time). All in all, it was a great party and félicitations to the happy couple! 


Balloons of good fortune (or something). Grenobloise and I were a tad concerned these might end up setting one of the tents on fire
Ella didn't specify, but I suspect this shot of yours truly is courtesy of Camille Collin
Does the hovering wizard claw of death shooting out of my chest remind you more of the Holy Spirit in Piero della Francesca's Baptism of Christ, or one of the chicken feet from Baba Yaga's hut? Discuss...
Either way, don't worry, I can tell from this photo I'm not trying to put a curse on anyone, this is a classic Gwan "here I am being funny" expression/gesture captured from the ages. The wizard claw is merely shooting out (attempted) witty rays. PS, talking of "witticisms", I have been dying to use this post title and secretly hoping the bride wouldn't get there first (selfishly!) It's not even that great!

9 comments:

  1. That is a lovely photo of you!

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    1. Thanks, obviously a professional jobbie!

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  2. I just love hearing about weddings...

    Is this normal??? LOL!

    Love Denise

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    1. Better than being bitter like me haha ;)

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  3. I love your description of the wedding! I'm hoping to make a wedding post myself (I am low of photos though!). The way you broke down the difference between French and Anglo weddings is brilliant.. and I (someone not new to French weddings) even learned a few things!

    Cocktail hour was really a blast, and, with those yummy cocktails, convo sur was flowing! I'm still craving another ella cosmo. I can see how you didn't realize that dinner was commencing.. Your in-the bushes text reply is hilarious! I didn't even realize that you entered with a guy until you told me (I was focusing on the familiar face only I suppose; as I've seen your pics online). You were suposed to sit next to me chica! We (Paris Unraveled, her hubby and I) ended up moving the chairs b/c I didn't recognize your real name and b/c it was harder to converse over an empty space.

    As a NYer who's been to NY weddings (and a former wedding caterer), it was my first witness of the Jewish chair dance (don't know the name either) as well! My bf still has a bruise on his shoulder from lifting Ella's hubby-- I don't know how you lasted that long holding him up!

    The bride and groom's boogie was amazing! Mad dancing skills right there!

    Ah yes, the concern over the balloons, ha.
    Oh, and I am wondering about those crazy, drunken dance floor pics of myself as well!
    You look wonderful in these photos. I'm unfortunately no so photogenic!

    Again, it's wonderful to relive this beautiful, unique and fun (which is an understatement) day through your story! It was fantastic to finally meet you, and I hope we (you, ella et moi) can somehow magically go out again altogether sometime in the near future! (I should take advantage of my reduced price -25 TGV pass before my Fall bday!). Let me know if you plan on being in Paris (or you know, the center of the world aka Grenoble!).

    -Grenobloise

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    1. What a great comment, thanks! It was a lot of fun and I'm really glad we got to chat a lot later even if I missed my proper seat in the confusion (I don't think I met Paris Unraveled unfortunately). I'm definitely not photogenic, I just get to pick which photos make it to the blog haha! I'm sure the dance floor ones will not be pretty! I would love to meet up one day, fingers crossed! Lyon maybe??? Of course, you're always welcome in Tours!

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  4. So THAT'S what you two were doing! I actually knew there was a reasonable explanation. Laurent isn't that lucky to get a sexy gal within an hour of a wedding! It was so sweet though, everyone was really concerned that you had wandered off.

    The Jewish dance is Hava Nagila. We were only supposed to be up there for 30 seconds and then come down and dance in the circle with you all. We feel bad that you all had to carry us for so long!

    I really love this photo Camille took of you. It's so fresh and in the moment. All of the candids she took of you all are so well done. We don't have many dance floor photos, Camille was off duty by 10. We did that on purpose to let everyone let loose without full documentation. I looked like a sloppy pig by the end! Now I know why most brides spring for hair and make-up to be on standby for touch-ups during the entire wedding!

    I was concerned about the hot air balloons as well because some of them with their ball of fire, kept floating down. In some photos, you can see me gripping my niece and with the reflection of the flames off of our faces, it's a little Sophie's Choice.

    I loved this recap! Thank you for giving the wedding two posts! I feel honored!

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    1. Not to mention I usually don't actually make out in the bushes at weddings!

      I hoped you enjoyed your time up on the chair at least! I suppos there's not an easy way of saying you want to get down once you're going! Ah good thinking on the photographer, I did notice some dance floor shots being taken, but tried to ignore and keep on dancing, ah well doesn't really matter if there's some shockers out there.

      Yep, grenobloise and I were seriously standing there going, "this has '10 killed in wedding tragedy' written all over it", but fortunately not! They were pretty though.

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  5. Not wanting the cocktails to go to waste sounds like a perfectly good reason to stay in the bushes to me!
    P.S. that photo of you is fab... even with your cursing claw hand :)

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