Tag Archives: french wedding

Disputing rabbis, flying meat platters, and an egregiously late bride – in honour of my ninth wedding anniversary….

12 Jul

Nine years ago, on Midsummer’s Day in June 2008, I got married to a lanky Anglo-Frenchman in a pretty garden just outside Paris.  After this extended recovery period, I’m finally ready emotionally to recount the surreal confusion of our wedding day.

Bear with me, this is a therapeutic exercise…feel free to skip wedding preps section and scroll straight down to Wedding Day itself.

I was clearly never meant to be my own wedding planner. Barely able to roll out of bed in the morning, the idea of organising a sophisticated multi-faceted event for some 150 guests was, and remains, frankly terrifying. But due to an accident of geography – me working in Paris, Le Groom based in London, wedding venue fixed in Yerres, a small town just out of Paris where Les In-Laws lived – it was down to La Incompetent Bride (me) to get things sorted.

Pre-wedding chaos:

As wedding date looms, becomes abundantly clear that I’m simply going to run out of time. To-do lists are getting longer, but time is ticking on relentlessly. Just a small snapshot of some of myriad issues that are getting me knickers in a twist in run-up to big day:

-Total absence of wedding dress until eleventh hour when panicky flat-mate drags me across Paris to boutique and says firmly: You’re not leaving until you’ve bought a dress;

-Difficult boss who gets positively scary every time I have to take time off before wedding;

-Marquee people complaining about there being “more mud than expected” on site; wacking hefty supplementary fee not budgeted for;

-Various mishaps where family members’ accommodation falls through, and last-minute changes required;

-Mad dash to buy Le Groom’s wedding band in scorching central Paris much too late on Friday afternoon before wedding;

-Mobile phone ringing off-the-hook with people asking complicated logistical questions which I don’t have head to answer;

-Brother’s car towed away somewhere in Paris.

-Sister and family of seven break down somewhere on way to Dover on morning of wedding. Panicked journey back to London and then crazy last-minute dash on Eurostar to get there on time for wedding. (In spirit of great kindness, this piece of panic-inducing information hidden from La Half-Crazed Bride until much later on when they’ve arrived safely.)

Backdrop:  Intense balmy heat of Paris on a Midsummer’s weekend, with sound of music wafting up from every street corner (Midsummer’s Night being traditionally Fête de la Musique, a music festival across France, where bands set up anywhere and everywhere).

It should all have been very romantic and blissful. Except…

Sunday 22nd June 2008 – The Big Day – “Le Jour J” (as the locals call it).

Unceremoniously awoken by a summer bride’s worst weather nightmare – hefty clap of thunder at 4 am. Thereafter unable to go back to sleep due to rising panic. Rest of day thus over-tired blur, making La Bride operate in fog of slow-motion sleepiness.

Turns out to be a beautifully hot day. Too hot? Well better than rain…

Coach organised to ferry guests staying in Paris to Yerres where wedding venue is in grounds of what we romantically call “Le Château” (but is really a crumbling old pile in process of being converted into a boys’ school). Knowing friends’ unpunctual ways – but not factoring in La Bride’s own abominable time-keeping – have instilled fear and trembling into them about need to be at meeting place on time.

Finally ensconced in hotel near venue for hair and make-up, start falling apart at seams, feeling painfully over-tired and slow-moving. Time of wedding ceremony comes and goes and just cannot get moving. Have over-dramatic tantrum at foundation plastered on usually-make-up-free face, and instruct kind friend who is doing make-up to start all over again.

Some time later, Grandmother says gently but very firmly: Rebecca, I really do think it’s time to get going.

First sight on arrival some two hours late at Le Château: hordes of very hot-looking people who have evidently lost will to live some time much earlier in afternoon. La Bride cleverly instructed caterer not to serve refreshments before Chuppah (traditional Jewish wedding ceremony under so-called canopy), on assumption that everything will run on time and not accounting for heatwaves.

Also vaguely spot handsome, lanky but somewhat spaced-out man in dashing suit pruning flowers on chuppah canopy. Surely that’s not Le Groom himself putting finishing touches to chuppah?

Need to get guests something to drink, they’re all wilting.

Someone murmurs something about officiating rabbi’s (“Le Rabbin”) flight from Nice being delayed. At least that gets me off hook for being so late, but should we worry that he’s not here?

Le Rabbin finally turns up, Fathers walk Le Groom to La Bride for Bedeken, pre-ceremony ceremony, bearing intimidatingly huge candles with hot wax flying everywhere. Looks like they inexplicably got confused with those outdoor flares bought for garden for when night falls, instead of size-appropriate candles bought for occasion.

Finally walk/stagger down garden to chuppah with beautiful klezmer band playing enchanting music. But hang on a minute, why is Le Rabbin simultaneously singing beautiful but entirely different Sephardi tune?

Walk around Le Groom seven times, but lose count instantly, may be five, may be ten, may be fifteen times, no-one knows.

Confusion reigns under Chuppah, case of too many rabbis with too many opinions in too enclosed a space.  Dad, Ashkenazi rabbi from London, Dad-in-law, strong-minded American Lubavitcher rabbi, not forgetting Le Rabbin actually officiating, Rav Zemour, charming but no-nonsense Moroccan Sephardi rabbi.

After protracted rabbinical wranglings, ceremony gets underway. Come pivotal moment when La Bride and Le Groom partake of holy wine. Oh dear, holy wine nowhere to be found. (It transpires later that a pack of desperate dehydrated guests pillaged wine some time back during heat-frenzied hunt for some, any kind of liquid.) Somewhere somehow another bottle is produced. We’re back in the room.

Out of corner of eye, see weird commotion in back of crowd of guests where post-Chuppah reception set up on rickety tables. Something strange flies in air, some friends seem to be falling over, but…no time to get sidetracked, I’m getting married, pay attention to Le Rabbin. (Later on discover it was actually a huge platter of cold meats mysteriously flying up in air and descending to earth in slow-motion rainbow arc. Friends falling over due to extreme laughter attack. No-one can explain phenomenon.)

Traditional glass smashed – we’re married! Klezmer band play celebratory ditty, Le Rabbin sings along a different tune. Head off to “Le Château” with Le New Hubby to have moment of peace before evening festivities set in. Settle down in grubby classroom and take deep breath.

Desperate for toilet, realise – somewhat too late – there are no normal toilets to be found. Le Château being crumbling pile that it is, somehow have forgotten to check there are presentable facilities for 150 guests to use. Manage to locate single dusty but miraculously fully functioning toilet down disused corridor. Thereafter all guests directed to said location. Cue long queues.

All guests safely sat, fed and watered in marquee, can finally breathe sigh of relief. Dancing and jollity ensue.

Comical aside: Look-alike friend wearing black dress sits at La Bride’s place at table and chats to Le Groom while La Bride wanders off to mingle. Dad comes up to friend and pats her on shoulder asking why she’s changed out of wedding dress. Confused Dad does big double take when realises it’s not actually his daughter.

Later on, as darkness sets in, dancing madly to klezmer band’s beats on women’s side of mechitzah (separation barrier on dance floor put up between two sexes for ‘modesty reasons’ which Orthodox-Rabbi-Dads x2 have demanded – and as said dads footing bill for wedding, La Bride obliges) when mad rustling and menacing howling heard in bushes adjoining marquee.

What could it be? Wild boar come to join in dancing? Mysterious Yeti turns out to be Outraged Neighbour Kept Awake By Loud Music He Has Not Been Warned About, who, notwithstanding his evident embarrassment at appearing in mismatched ensemble of billowing mackintosh over stripey pyjamas in front of 30 or so finely dressed women frozen mid-dance staring him down, launches into loud tutting angry disapproving rant in French about loud music. Many apologies given and Yeti skulks back home back through bushes.

Wedding eventually draws to happy close.

La Bride and Le Groom still happily (99.9% of the time) married nine years later.

A big thank you to everyone who came and made it such a magical day and apologies again to all those who had to wait so long and to all those who suffered extreme thirst in the process.

Final note: Seems only fitting that this was meant to be posted on 22nd June 2017 to coincide with anniversary but is actually only being posted on 12th July, nearly three weeks late.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: