Sunday, February 29, 2004

Ahhhh, l'amour...

Let's hear it for Luuvvvvvv...

Just got back from the weekend wedding in Chalon sur Saone. Or, more specifically,the village of Lux. How cool are French weddings???

I took off Friday afternoon, and the trip was basically uneventful. When I arrived at the gare in Chalon, I had a momentary moment of panic when I realized the wedding wasn't exactly in the city.

Fortunately it was only a short cab ride to Lux, which I quickly realized was a tiny out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere village. After the cab driver let me out at the church (which was also where I was staying), I set about trying to find out which room was mine. I was met by the nicest people who walked all around the church grounds with me trying to find the guy in charge. Unfortunately, however, he didn't have the rooming list either, so I decided to hang out in the activity hall until someone came along.

While I was waiting, a car pulled up and started taking out wedding type things with Anthony and Blandine's name on them. So I took it upon myself to make an introduction, and it turned out to be Anthony's parents!

They took me out to the reception hall and I got to see Anthony and meet his fiancee (now wife) Blandine...as well as other friends in their church and family. I was soon put to work cutting out cardboard for posters, then switched over to learn the art of crepe paper flower making from Blandine's mother.

While my creative juices were flowing (or trying to anyway), I met the cutest kid named Timothy who loves the USA and Americans, so we played 20 questions while twisting yellow and orange crepe into daffodils.

Everyone took a short break and someone brought in sandwiches...ham, and huge chunks of brie. MMMmmmm....brie with French bread.

We got back to work for a bit then called it a night. Anthony brought me back to the church and I finally found my room, which turned out to be a gigantic dormitory style room with 10 beds. Kind of like camp. Except I was the only one there.

I fantasized for awhile about pushing all the beds up together to make one big huge one, but refrained. I had a good night's sleep except for waking up around 4 am thinking I heard a ghost. Fortunately it turned out to be some man humming to himself in the hallway bathroom. Phew.

Saturday I woke up and wondered what I was going to do to amuse myself until 3 pm (time of the wedding). So I began to explore the village of Lux, which took all of 5 minutes. As I passed a farm full of roosters and chickens, some people from the church choir, including my new little friend Timothy, drove past and offered me a ride into the city. I happily accepted. Unfortunately, we drove about 10 meters when they realized they still had someone else to pick up and there was no room in the car. So Court got out again to do some more wandering.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon a bus stop, and after careful calculation, decided I could get into Chalon and back in plenty of time. So that's just what I did.

After returning to the church, things were starting to pick up, so I quickly got ready and headed down to where the ceremony was taking place.

In France, marriage is considered a civil act, so there are essentially two ceremonies. First, the couple goes to the Mairie (city hall) and has a little paper and official document signing party. Then (if they want) they can have the religious ceremony.

I was kind of bummed I didn't see the Mairie ceremony (I remember watching one at SMC in the language lab) but was quite pleased to get to everything else.

I got there a little early to find a seat, and then silly me remembered that this is France and no one arrives early. So I listened to the choir practice for awhile, and then one of the people I had met the night before came and asked to sit by me. I can't remember his name, but I know he likes race cars, because he carries a picture of himself next to one in his fanny pack (yes fanny pack) and talked about nothing else for 30 minutes.

The wedding finally started, and it was beautiful. So here are a few key differences between French and American weddings:

There are no bridesmaids/groomsmen. Officially there's a best man and maid of honor, but their job is only to go to the Mairie and be witnesses. There's no standing up or walking down the aisle, or anything like that.

Both the bride and the groom walked down the aisle. First came Anthony with his mom. Then came Blandine with both her parents. I don't know if that's the norm, but that's what happened.

Unlike American protestant weddings, this lasted for more than 15 minutes. For real. I'm not a big practicing Catholic, but I've always thought that if I ever get married it will be in the Catholic church, because I'll be damned if I'm going to spend all that money on a dress and flowers and not get to enjoy the moment--I'm gonna drag out that puppy as long as it takes. So it was nice to see a protestant wedding that was just long enough.

There was also no "Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife...." stuff. Maybe that happened at the Mairie. I dunno. There was also no "I now pronounce you man and wife you may kiss the bride." Bummer.

After la ceremonie, everyone headed out the church and grabbed a handful of cut out paper hearts and confetti, and as the happy couple exited the church they were bombarded as fireworks went off.

Then we had the first reception.

Yes, there are 2 receptions at French weddings. The first is always immediately after (in this case at the church hall). I spent my time wandering around not knowing anyone, then ran into my friend Timothy who introduced me to his parents, who also love Americans. So we chatted the entire evening and I met a few other people, including a girl from South Korea who is studying at the music conservatory in Chalon.

Around 8 pm they announced it was time to go to the 2nd reception. This one took place at a town reception hall and included a 4 course meal. By chance, I happened to be seated at the same table as the Korean girl so I was grateful to know someone.

Seated on my right was Bruno, a hair stylist who complimented my new "meshes" and entertained me all evening with useless yet interesting facts about everything from the origin of potatoes to all the Francophone accents in the world, complete with example demonstrations.

To my left was Guillaume, who provided quite stimulating conversation about the States, Ireland, Africa, and French music.

Throughout the evening they had various entertainment and games which was unique and kind of fun.

The meal (of course) was delicious, complete with the after dinner cheese which turned out to be fromage blanc! Then around midnight they made a big ceremony of bringing out the wedding cake and other desserts.

The traditional French wedding cake is also different. It consists of cream puffs put together in ornate fashion. Too cool. They put a bunch of sparklers in it and paraded it around the room for all to see. It was quite cool. I'll get a picture of it up soon.

Around 1 a.m. (yes 1 a.m.) the dancing started. They began with a waltz, and I happily accompanied Bruno to the floor even though I only know the Cajun waltz which is quite different. But we managed.

Unfortunately that was the only groove I was able to get on, because they next played a series of songs for the couple and family and by the time they started playing the "real" stuff I was deeply into yet another conversation.

Around 3 a.m. the party was still going strong but I was getting tired. I asked my good friend Bruno for a ride back to the church and he and Guillaume (who also asked for a ride) and I took off, getting lost once but finding our way back eventually. From what they told me, we were leaving the party quite early...French wedding receptions are known to go on till sometimes 6 or 7 a.m. (yikes!)

I slept well, although I didn't have the dorm to myself this time. I also didn't hear any ghosts in the middle of the night, which was a good thing. I didn't hear much of anything.

Upon waking up I got my stuff together, went downstairs for some nice powerful coffee, then caught a cab to the station. And now I'm back.

All in all, an eventful weekend and another addition to my "year in France" experience. I have to say I was hit by a big dose of gratitude for being able to be here. It is so interesting to see how people in other cultures live. Not to mention I made a bunch of new friends. Hooray!

And there's still one more week of vacation to go!

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