Monday, October 15, 2018

Our French Wedding

I don’t know if I believe in forever or happily ever after. Too many of life’s lessons learned by loved ones, friends and strangers alike have me cautious. I do, however, believe in: love, perseverance, courage, hard work, and dreaming, dreaming BIG. That’s why, one month ago today, Jorris and I took the greatest leaps of our lives by saying “oui” in the tiny mayor’s office of our tiny village in the Southern French Alps.

“Oui” is French for “yes”.  We said yes to sharing and building a life together, nature and her wisdom as our guide, and love from all our friends and family. Although we sort of eloped (sort of because we didn’t tell our family until last minute and we had a little planning time) and our friends and family couldn’t be there, we still felt such love and joy.

I didn’t have so many expectations, just went with the flow. I’ve been feeling like this most days these days. It’s all in a good way. Not that I am complacent or don’t care, rather the contrary; it’s just that I think I’ve discovered an equilibrium for myself to live a life of balance, focusing on the important things (family, friends, health) and not so much the small stuff. It’s a daily practice. Yoga and meditation are my tools.

It was a Saturday. The morning of our wedding, I awoke, rested and peaceful in our yurt, on the royal bed Jorris had built for us last Winter. The sun was shining, luckily, since it had rained days before. It was just another morning, but so much more. I put on my robe, made my way to the farmhouse kitchen where my future husband was eating his oatmeal breakfast and had coffee ready for me. We exchanged “bonjour mon amour,” “good morning my love,” to each other and smiled, knowing it was just another day, but also not just another day.

I quickly finished the last sips of my coffee and made my way to the garden with scissors in hand. I began picking flowers for my bouquet and Jorris’ boutineer. I decided to keep it simple and elegant with wild carrot flowers, white and lacey, and of course, lavender. The lavender would match well with the lavender crown I had made yesterday. I made my crown with a variety of Lavender named lavandin. It is bold and beautifully, with bigger flower stalk and stronger lavender scent. I actually didn’t plan on using this particular lavender, I prefer the wild one, lavandula angustifolia, normally, but this one just presented itself to me fresh and still on the bush just down our farm house. Philippe had planted these and luckily, hadn’t harvested them yet.

I decided last minute to make a boutineer for Jorris, also of wild carrot and lavender, to match my bouquet. He was so enthralled and happy for it. Knowing our wedding time was 11am, I made my way back up to our yurt to quickly iron our clothes and get dressed.

My dress was linen and I had actually found it in a vintage store last year for 2 euros! Jorris’ outfit, ironically, was more expensive than mine! We had made a special trip to Nice a few weeks before to get him some dress pants, shirt and shoes. He already had a blazer.  I wore some sandals I had, which I felt were fitting for my simple dress, plus very comfy for my feet.

I wore this gold lariette necklace my Mother gave to me from the Metropolitan museum in New York when she was there for a trip.  I love that necklace and felt that by wearing it in a way my Mom was there.  I think it added elegance to my simple dress as well. I also wore this bracelet which was Daniel’s mother’s and his engagement gift to me along with a red string with blessings from the Dala Lama which Daniel and Sylvaine also gifted me before our wedding as an engagement gift.

We made our way down to Daniel and Sylvaine’s house. Francoise, the Tibetian Buddhist nun in retreat, and our wonderful friend, heard our car and rushed to the road to wish us luck and see us. She said we looked fantastic, perhaps even surprised by how well we cleaned up, since usually we are in our work clothes when we see her.

We arrived at Daniel and Sylvaine’s house where they greeted us with happy smiles and also complimented our outfits in exasperation. They gave us a ride down to the Guillaumes (village). Sylvaine was my witness and Philippe was Jorris’. Philippe would meet us down in Guillaumes.

We arrived just in time and were invited upstairs of the Mayor’s office which is quite a big building. It’s called “Hotel de Ville” in French, and it actually looks like a hotel building, blue shutters and all. In France, people get married by the mayor of the village or city where they live or where their family is from.

I had been inside the Mayor’s office, but I had never been upstairs. Upstairs is where marriages take place. The room is beautiful with art on the walls and though non-religious, it had a feel of a small church. Jorris and I greeted the Mayor of Guillaumes, Jean-Paul with the standard “bisous,” one kiss on each cheek. His assistant, Cedric stood beside him. Cedric helped us get all our papers in order for our wedding.

We were invited to sit in front of the Mayor and Cedric, and then he told us both to stand. He spoke in French of course, and although I couldn’t catch everything he said, Jorris translated some for me afterwards. A lot of it was about family and our duties and responsibilities. When he looked at me and said “Tiffanie.....something something...Jorris...(pause),” I knew that was my cue to say “Oui,” yes! Thankfully, in France, you don’t have to repeat after the person marrying you, otherwise I would have had a more challenging time. Saying “oui” was perfect. Then he asked Jorris the same thing and Jorris said “oui”. Then we exchanged rings and kissed. Cedric read our marriage certificate, which indicates that today we were marrying and where each of us is born and our who our parents are and their professions. We signed the certificate, together with the Mayor, Philippe and Sylvaine. And just like that we were husband and wife. 

There was such a feeling of serenity and joy, like we had just accomplished such  a grand task. I had asked Philippe to take some photos of us and I have to say he did a fantastic job. We couldn’t have done this, without Daniel, Sylvaine and Philippe both literally (you need two French witnesses), and spiritually, (they supported us all the way).  And we were even more lucky to have Daniel and Sylvaine because they were going to Greece the next day! I had come to France with just one month before returning to US (for a concert with my brother) and so we were quite crunched in terms of time. We had just enough. Enough time to go to the US consulate in Marseille to get a document saying I am single; enough time for the post in which the couple to be married has their names and wedding announcement posted so that if anyone should disagree they have 10 days to do so. It’s tradition.

The Mayor gifted us with this beautiful basket of flowers on behalf of the Mayor’s office. And then, he spoke to us, not from a formal script but from his heart. He said that my lavender crown was “magnific,” a symbol of our life together working with nature. He said how wonderful it was that we work with nature and that he hopes we continue to be a part of the community and make a life Guillaumes for years to come. It was so genuine and kind. We accept the flowers with gratitude and made our way out. Then we heard music playing! It was that wedding song from the movies when the bride and groom exit the church. We were surprised and smiled. They put so much thought into our little wedding, it was so sweet and forever memorable.

We took a few photos and then crossed the street to have a drink at the tabac shop, the local cafe of the village. People were sitting outside with their drinks basking in the 11am hour sunshine and when we entered they all clapped in joy for our wedding. It was such a warm feeling, these complete strangers clapping and admiring us! All I could do was say “merci,” nod and smile. An older man leaned over and said to me “vous etes belle,” which means “you are beautiful.” I thought that was so kind. Who knew my homemade lavender crown and 2 euro dress would make me beautiful.

We had drinks. Even the mayor joined us. There Daniel and Sylvaine gave us our wedding present of a tea set of dishes and cups. They are beautiful with flowers. I can’t wait to use them! He also gave us antique dinner dishes from his Mother.

After our drink we took a few more photos. I just looked around and said hey let’s take a photo by that fountain. I didn’t think so much about it. Sylvaine took our photo and it turned out to be the best photo of the day. I love these so much. They capture everything about our wedding and life. All the simplicity and beauty, the fountain, the flowers, the blue shutters in the background the painting in the far left corner on the wall, my foot lifted up just a little (totally not choreographed!). I am really so proud of that photo and cherish it with all my heart.

After those photos we were on our way up the mountain to Valberg, a neighboring village for a grand lunch at L’italiano, the best Italian restaurant in Southern France! It’s a small restaurant but the food is authentic and it’s like eating in Italy. The chef and owner is Italian. Italy is close to us so it makes sense.

They welcomed us warmly as always and offered us prosecco on the house. The sounds of clapping filled the restaurant as we entered. Daniel started it I think since he began clapping first. He’s so festive and sweet that way. Then we ordered appetizers to share, tomato bruchetta, cepes bruchetta. Sylvaine ordered a cepes risotto. Cepes is a type of mushroom. Daniel ordered a meat dish of some kind. Jorris ordered the ravioli with truffles and pecorino cheese. Philippe ordered pasta with cepes. I ordered pasta arrabiata, a little spicy and oh so delicious. Of course we shared a bottle of this exquisite red wine, which I can’t remember the name of. We all had various desserts. I had the panna cotta. Our meal was so intimate, clinking glasses, laughs all around, and some silence as we all devoured and savored our meals. I almost didn’t have room for dessert, almost. Philippe presented his wedding present to us, a book all about mushrooms from all over Europe. There are identifying pictures as well as recipes!

After dessert, bellies full, we headed home to our mountain. We stopped by Daniel and Sylvaine’s home for some sparkling water and just to sit and savor the ending of a wonderful wedding day with them.

Never did I imagine I’d marry a mountain man in France and move there! Nor did I think I’d have a French Countryside wedding. Sometimes the most magical and beautiful things we can’t even imagine happen to us. We have to just embrace it with  love, perseverance, courage and hard work. Jorris and I wouldn’t be married if it we didn’t share these values. We wouldn’t have taken this leap into the craziness of marriage and beekeeping and country living if not for these.

Cheers to my husband, Jorris, for saying yes to a life of adventure with me, in all its craziness, beauty, and love. After a month of being married, I still don’t know if I believe in forever or happily ever after, but I do know that Jorris convinces me more and more each day, and I believe more and more each day in the life we are creating together.

*photos by Tiffanie, Philippe, Daniel and Sylvaine.

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