We did! (part deux)
Now where were we? (if you missed part one click here!)
Well as I said previously, we didn’t have that much to organise for our actual wedding ceremony. We had a little bit of organisation to do for the children as we had planned a much-needed honeymoon weekend. We can probably count on one hand the amount of times we’ve gone away just the two of us!
I was feeling pretty relaxed and calm about the whole marriage business.
The weekend before our big day, we had been away at mon homme’s cousin’s wedding. A beautiful weekend. I came back home with Granmère and la petite on the Monday. Mon homme was staying on with la grande an extra night, to help with the cleaning up. I literally fell into bed that Monday night!
On the Tuesday morning I was heading off to town for the shopping when my (fantastic, kind and generally wonderful) neighbour came careering out of her house at breakneck speed waving a tea-towel! She was clearly trying to grab my attention, so I stopped the car and went over. She was grinning very excitedly. Breathless, she explained that she had signed for a parcel for us on the previous Friday. I wasn’t expecting anything (and neither was mon homme) as far as I knew.
Now it wasn’t just any old parcel – it was a big heavy box. Addressed to both of us (damn!).
We have a rule. If something seemingly joyful arrives by post and it’s addressed to both of us, we wait to open it together. If a bill arrives addressed to both of us – well I go ahead and open it as there is generally no big suspense factor involved! Like taking off a plaster – it’s best dealt with quickly!
So … I had to wait. It nearly killed me!
I walked past that box I don’t know how many times, trying to rationalize that seeing as the sender was my oldest friend, then that justified the opening thereof! But I couldn’t do it – marriage is about sharing right?
So I waited!
Mon homme and la grande arrived home that evening. As it was Bastille day, there was a party on in the village hall. We were due to go straight away upon their arrival home. Mon homme suggested waiting to open the box until after the village festivities. I suspect the glare I gave was a pretty clear response to that suggestion.
So we opened it! And nothing could have prepared us for it!
There were presents galore, a veritable wedding trousseau! But above all else there were words. Words of encouragement and congratulations. Words of advice and best wishes. Cards and letters from not just one friend, but a gang of them!
We were floored! Tears and smiles all around. The state of us going down to the village hall. Emotional and very very happy!
We were met by quite a few of our neighbours who were all excited about the box, and they were dying to know what was in it! Good news travels fast! The village raised a glass of bubbly together that evening to celebrate Bastille day. A perfect ending!
Could the week get any better?
The night before the wedding, I had a meeting to attend for the residents’ association in the village hall. I arrived home and mentally went through a list of “things to do”. My friend Emilie’s Grandmother and cousin called by with a beautiful orchid to wish us luck. As I walked them out, I noticed I still had some laundry on the clothesline. Ever the multi-tasker I decided to ring Emilie and fold the laundry in the garden at the same time.
Charlie, our dog started barking.
I heard someone say Bonjour!
I turned my head to see my brother and sister smiling at me … in my garden … in France … not in Ireland … where I thought they were!
Most of the time I have alot to say but blow me down was I rendered completely speechless!
Of course I had forgotten I was on the phone to Emilie. I could hear her calling to me over the line, wondering was there anybody there and was I ok?
I tried to reply and explain the whopper of a surprise I had just gotten. Through the tears and hysterical laughter I think it sounded like this “musha wusha brotha sista here whoosh whoop call ya back.”
And then I promptly hung up!
We were just getting to the hows and whens and wheres when Charlie started barking again!
Enter second elder brother! At this stage I am a mess. He came carrying a case of wine.
Then more barking – third elder brother, carrying beer. Good job I had hung up the phone or Emilie would have been calling the emergency services at this stage!
And finally, the last bout of barking. Fourth elder brother, carrying myrrh (kidding!) – the family complete and all standing in my garden … in France … not in Ireland … where I thought they were! Scarily good liars the lot of them!
I was in such a state that I couldn’t even figure out if mon homme had been in on the surprise. He hadn’t, nobody had, except my mother, who was afraid to phone me until they had all arrived for fear of blowing the surprise! I phoned her to let her know the deed was done and she could now relax!
Anything that was on the “to do” list was promptly forgotten. A champagne cork popped and the craic began (craic = Irish word for fun and shenannigans, not to be confused with the other “crack” which relates to an entirely different kind of shenannigans!). An early night was not had by all!
I had booked a hair appointment for the next morning at 9am. I didn’t really have any big idea for the hair. Anyone who knows me well, knows that my hair could definitely not be called my crowning glory (think Jackson five type frizz without the cool afro!). So I was hoping that the coiffeuse would just try her best to keep it all pinned tidily to my head.
She was pinning and wrapping away when she asked if I was going out that night- “why the do?”
When I told her I was getting married at 11 o’clock there was a double-take and she promptly backed away from me. You would think I had told her I had some kind of mad contagious disease!
She fixed her eyes on me in the mirror and then got herself whipped up into an almighty cafuffle! She started to panic BIG TIME!
“But we usually have a trial for a bride, how are your bridesmaids wearing their hair, what style is your dress ………………….. and she kept going!
It was clear I was going to have to talk her down. I interjected with “I’m not wearing a dress”. This was met with an incredulous “what!!!” not just from her but also from her colleague and the lady that she was shearing.
I assured them all that it was a low-key wedding, we knew what we were doing, I wasn’t wearing a dress but something nice nonetheless and that she was doing a great job on my hair and to keep doing what she was doing as time was ticking!
She did an amazing job! I was very happy with her minor miracle. There was waving and smiling and a chorus of good lucks as I left the hairdressers. Just as I stepped out the door I heard the other coiffeuse laugh and say to her client “Well every time Francoise! Every time you’re here something crazy happens!” I’m guessing the something crazy that day was me!
Off home to collect the troops with half an hour to go! La grande was ready and looked beautiful in her red dress. La petite was trying to convince my sister that she needed to wear all of the hair slides in her possesion (she won!). My brother was putting together our bouquets of wildflowers (he is now affectionately known as the don of flower-arranging). Mon homme and son were getting ready to pick up Granmère.
Then all of a sudden it was just me, my girls, my sister and elder brother. We were ready and piled into the car for the short drive down to La Mairie. It’s only a few minutes walk but I had a cool box of champagne in the car, so I wasn’t planning on lugging it down the road in my heels!
I had been speaking with the secretary a few days before and she asked me who would be there for the wedding. I told her just us the children and Granmère. They were quite surprised to see the Irish contingent arriving blaring Irish music from a little speaker! It was perfect!
The ceremony itself only took about fifteen minutes in all. In a French civil ceremony you don’t take vows as such. The mayor reads the obligations and agreements of a couple to the legal contract of marriage. So you both literally say “OUI”, once each, and that’s it! Basta! Married!
There were a few tears shed. As I said we’ve been on a long road together. We’ve come through a lot together. We’ve had our adventures, our misadventures, our troubles and joys. Our children have been at the centre of our relationship since we’ve been together, so this day was about us. A couple standing before each other and declaring that we were family. It’s as simple as that really when it all boils down to it.
And with such a declaration came the signing of the papers. Lots of papers! We were at it for another good fifteen minutes! In France you need to sign all of the documents you present to La Mairie to authenticate everything. Being a foreigner I of course had more to sign than most.
I have to say I felt quite emotional when our witnesses signed on the dotted line. Mon homme‘s son did the honours for him, and Granmère signed for me.
Granmère was chuffed. She’s 88 years of age and had never been a witness at a wedding before. She loves ticking stuff off the proverbial list and it’s wonderful that at her stage of life she’s still ticking things off!
We always knew that should we ever get married mon homme’s son would be best man. I think he was surprised that we had managed to get around to it! He said himself that he wasn’t expecting to be a best man at such a young age. So there you go! We had one end of the scale with youth represented and the other end of the banner held up by that youth’s great-grandmother!
After all of the official paraphernalia was signed, sealed and delivered to my hand in a little brown envelope, elder brother made a speech. He also read a letter written to us from my mother. I wasn’t expecting either so it was another lovely surprise and tears again! He finished it off with an Irish Blessing which La Grande read out in French.
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
We popped the Champagne and raised our glasses to our health and everybody elses. As we left La Mairie and stepped out into the sunshine, we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. Pleased that we had done something just for us and pleased with the fact that our decision pleased our nearest and dearest too!
It was a whirlwind of a day that went so fast! We had a wonderful meal together and just about had time to take a few photographs when it was time to swoop off to the station to catch our train to Marseille! We were determined to make the most of our weekend away.
Arriving into Gare de Marseille-St Charles that night we were so excited! Directions in hand to negotiate the labyrinthine side-streets to find our Air BnB apartment, the warm mediterranean night made us feel that we were in another world.
We had one last flight of 87 steps to climb to reach the apartment. Still in our wedding garb i might add (yes- including heels!). At a twist in the stairs our attention was drawn to this piece of graffitti! And it aptly described exactly how we were feeling!