My in-laws had been fearing rain for weeks. In anticipation of the inescapable event of a shower, they’d built tents and platforms and even ordered a show stopping pyramid of praline covered choux pastry puffs to ensure that when the skies inevitably opened up our wedding would still be a success.
The weather turned out to be beautiful. Blue skies, sunshine, puffy white clouds… and swelteringly hot and humid.
The guests were pleasantly groggy from the festivities of the night before… even those who’d tried to sleep couldn’t because the music festival meant the entire city was filled with music and merry makers into the wee hours of the morning. (In hindsight, having a wedding the day after the national Music festival might not have been the best plan. But it seemed brilliant at the time.) Nevertheless, our guests were all excited about the wedding and there was electricity in the air.
The wedding was perfect down to every last minute detail…
The service in the town hall (which I had feared would be a private event with Francis and I signing papers inside a tiny room while our guests who’d flown from around the world milled about in the streets) turned out to be an event after all. The room was large enough to hold twice as many people as we’d invited. The village mayor, who presided over the wedding, made the most of this unusually international gathering by starting out the service with a long, seemingly endless ode glorifying the natural and historic wonders of the region for our foreign guests who couldn’t understand a word he was saying. It was in French. So the only guests who got to hear how great the region is were already living in the region.
I had my dream bouquet made a huge bloom of rustic wild roses and it dripped.
After the first forty minute ceremony my new husband and I walked down the aisle followed by our guests, out the door and up the street in a wedding procession past the outdoor cafe and to the church. For yet another long ceremony. The one that I had gone to such elaborate lengths to arrange to make sure there was something worth while to see for my friends and family who were flying from so far at such a great expense.
The priest called us by the wrong names but since so many of our guests didn’t speak French it went unnoticed. I think.
The priest passed the collection baskets. Everyone noticed.
The priest started improving part way into the ceremony and suddenly, out of no where and with no warning cued me to lead “The Lord’s Prayer” in French. English was all I could offer and that was when I discovered that there is a big chunk that I don’t know… Usually you start the thing off and then there is a whole chorus of people chanting it along with you and your voice gets swallowed up by the crowd. Not so when you are saying it in a language that most of the people don’t speak and only a couple of the ones that do speak your language are Catholics. Let’s just say we got about as far as the bread and then had to cut to “Amen” after a paltry attempt at forgiving trespasses and forgetting the bit about the kingdom and glory. (I was flushed red. My new husband had a twinkle in eye which clearly reminded me that this had been my idea.)
Back outside, my new husband and I walked through the cobblestone streets of the village followed by our guests through the charming stone buildings.
We ducked through a door and the tunnel-like entrance under the family home into the riverside garden. The cocktail hour was laid-back and elegant in a home-made french countryside way. The setting was charming: the stone-built, ivy covered three-story family home hugged our little group of party goers on three sides while the fourth side opened up into the vast space of the river and a view over an old stone bridge. Our hosts were warm, hospitable, and endearing. The champagne flowed freely. Of course, what everyone remembers best is that my husband’s octogenarian grandfather lost his balance and broke his fall with the nearest thing which happened to be the bassinet of a cousin’s newly born baby who rolled out onto the cobblestones.
When all the excitement was over and bubbly had been drunk. My husband and I ducked back out into the street and lead our merry group down the main street of the village to the family’s riverside tollbooth garden where the wild roses were blooming along the stone wall and the tents were set up for dinner with our star course coq-au-vin-jaune.
Some of our guests went by canoe and rowboat up to meet us.
The evening was balmy even after dark and the roses looked gorgeous as the sun gradually set over the river and the glow of our candles replaced the sunlight.
It was rowdy and a bit ruckus as the evening when on. With a bought of heavy drinking when cheers was being said in every language anyone could think of… “Cheers! .. Santé! … Sláinte! …Kampai! …Cin cin! …L’chaim! …Prost! …Skål”. I don’t remember how many forms of cheers were said but it was a lot and I’m sure my grandmother threw in her favorite toast “Salud, amor, dinero y el tiempo para gozarlo” (which means “to health, love, money and the time to enjoy them”). One Australian got thrown in the river with his suit on… then a French fellow got thrown in. My grandmother pushed her chair back a little too far on the platform and fell of backwards hitting her head on a prune tree.
Canoe-ers and rowboaters took my little floating vietnamese paper lotus lanterns up river and put them in the water so they floated, glowing, past the garden… it was just as I had dreamed. I loved watching the little colorful lights floating past, reflected on the still surface of the lazy river.
It was time for the big reveal of the piece de resistance… the tower of choux, the famous and much anticipated croquembouche. The cake that would make even a rainy wedding-day perfect. The climax of the entire event….
And it didn’t appear.
I’ll never forget this moment because it was one of the most moving moments of the day… I went off in search of the legendary pastry and found my father-in-law hunched over it in the little make-shift kitchen of the tollbooth. The croquembouche had collapsed. Where there should have been a Matterhorn-like point there was more of a Mount-Vesuvius-like creator. And my father-in-law was trying his best to secretly rebuild the structure with the only thing he had on hand: matchsticks.
We danced until late into the night.
Our guest sang their way through the streets back to the guesthouse we’d rented for them behind the town hall.
My husband and I strolled over the old rock bridge pausing to savor the moment and watch the water flow past the stone houses with their shutters closed up tight for the night before moseying over to our hotel.
At the hotel, we discovered it had been locked up for the night. There was no one at the front desk, no night watch man and we had no key.
The wedding was the most beautiful event of my life.