Have you ever been to 2 weddings in the same day. If you’re a wedding crasher then probably…If you live in France then more than likely—yes!
This weekend the Chef and I made our way to the extremely historic northern city of Boulogne sur Mer for the weddings (No that isn’t a typo, “weddings” –plural form is correct) of our dear French friends Jean-Luc and Elyse (now residents of Texas). Boulogne has a history that’s right up my alley—it’s not only a medieval city with a fortified rempart in the middle of town complete with drawbridges and motes, but it’s also the city which my dearest Napoleon amassed his La Grande Armée in 1805 to invade England and somehow he left his hat! This historically rich beachside city is also the childhood home to my dear friend Elyse and thus became the backdrop to an enchanting weekend.
Why “weddings” —Since 1792 (French Revolution years) the act of marriage has had nothing to do with religion —secularized. It was stated by the National Convention in 1793 that “Marriage is an agreement by which man and woman commit themselves under the authority of the law, to live together, to feed and raise children are born of their union.” Now, some may find city hall to be their choice place for a wedding, others however, like my devote Catholic friends wanted both…the civil service and the Church service. It also seems that the town hall is only open for wedding services on Saturday, which means there’s an assembly line of sorts when it comes to weddings. As the Chef and I made our way up to the city hall we saw dozens of cars decorated with wedding regalia. At first we thought my goodness all these people are here for their wedding—wow! No, not the case. There were at least 5-10 weddings planned for that day. Bride after bride and her entourage of guests would make their way one after the other into the building and then exit. Our wedding service was at 2:30 and we arrived a little early so we got a good show of wedding festivities. Rather interesting when you’re not used to it!
Once my beautiful friend Elyse arrived with her beau, wedding 1 began—we all filed into a really formal room lined with paintings of French historical figures with their piercing glorified stares. Their immediate family took their places in these rather impressive chairs that were situated around a grand desk. The mayor (who wasn’t present when we arrived) got the only chair that was placed behind the huge desk. Once he arrived decked out in a suit and the French tricolor sash the ceremony began—lasted only 30 minutes and then it was on to wedding 2.
Getting to the church—this part of the story is the most comical. Since we don’t drive in France we had to hitch a ride with someone (we sat in the back and took in the experience). That someone was the priest (Father Ted) and his French friend Jeanne Marie—both live in Texas and were incredibly fun to be with. Armed with a French speaking GPS we made our way beyond the fortified Boulogne and out into the rest of the city with only the name of the church—no address, they left that up to the French GPS. Poor Father had never seen the church he was about to perform the wedding in! After a few circles around a circular turn-around—(those are super crazy, thank goodness we don’t have them in the US—The French are used to them though) Father Ted jumped out of the car chased down 2 elderly women who were walking through a cemetery to ask for directions, which only led us to a dead end road, so he asked another passerby. Poor Father Ted…we really wanted to help but didn’t know how. Finally, we arrived to the quaint church with time to spare…God was watching over his faithful servant.
After the traditional Catholic wedding, complete with mass and communion we made our way once again with Father Ted and Jeanne Marie to the reception area. This time there was no need for the GPS, as they were staying in a hotel directly across from where the reception was being held. We even had enough time for them to show us the cute resort town nearby!
A little while later we arrived in time for aperitifs (champagne, wine and tasty finger foods) in the garden of the hotel. However, that was just the beginning— we were in for a 5 course meal once inside! After 3 flutes of champagne I completely lost track of time. We had the best seats—right next to the bride and groom of course! It became a blur after the foie gras, because in between a few courses there was dancing, wine and more dancing–lots of it. I have to admit—being 5,000 miles away from home and hit with tunes like Rascal Flats, Lady Antebellum and Kenny Chesney (that’s their favorite music) the ole heart began to ache for Texas. Then I remembered it’s 100+ degrees there and the foie gras I just ate would have melted through the fork before it hit my tongue! Snap out of it Elissa!
Once the cheese plate came I was beyond full, but tried with all my might to eat some. My main goal was to leave enough room for the 2 wedding cakes (yes another thing that came in 2, no grooms cake here) I had been hearing about it since January! I think about 1am they finally came out. I didn’t have room, but ate it anyway. You only live once in France, right? I’ve never seen a wedding cake with firework sparklers (except on the Marie Antoinette movie) it was fantastic! Jean-Luc and Elyse chose the traditional French wedding cake call a croquembouche or “piece montee.” The best way to describe it in American terms—they are like little round cream filled doughnuts ( but more bread like than doughnuts) drizzled with caramel and piled up like a pyramid. More dancing followed the cake and then—just when I thought the food was done—my favorite little deserts of all time came out—MACARONS along with fruit jellied candies that were ridiculously cute! At this point I was beyond full and couldn’t even force it…I thought about dumping the entire plate in my purse but figured it was really tacky and after the million or so calories I had just ingested it was best not to. I think we finally made it back to the hotel—via a good friend of Elyse who didn’t need a GPS—about 3:30 am.
The entire wedding party, family and friends–everyone made us “Americans” feel so very welcome—even though the language got in the way it didn’t matter. It was truly an unforgettable wedding and weekend. Seeing the Cliffs of Dover, Napoleon’s real military hat, the medieval city, getting a present from one of Boulogne’s resident seagulls (think about it…not a nice present either) and being immersed in the culture that fascinates the both of us was, truly a once in a lifetime experience. Thank you Jean-Luc and Elyse…we are very thankful to have been included in your deux weddings*!