I had the great honor to attend the wedding of the daughter of our French friends, Beatrice and Didier. Their daughter Margaux, an intelligent, beautiful, and accomplished young woman, married Gaël, a suave, open-hearted, life-of-the-party French man.
The wedding took place on Ile d'Yeu, an island off the Atlantic coast of France. We came by car from Normandy, which would have been fine except
I we spent too much time shopping sightseeing. My husband speedily carefully drove the four hours and we missed the ferry it all turned out fine. (I love the jacket I bought and it will always remind me of the two speeding tickets that arrived in the mail today a delightful drive through France's countryside.)
This affair did cause me a little concern regarding our attire. Blog reader Melody summed it up in a comment last week: "We American women are so intimidated by the French women and stress about what to pack and wear in France."
So I paid close attention to every bit of prenuptial information. The bride-to-be shared that everyone on Ile d'Yeu uses bicycles as transportation. Armed with this factoid, I assumed the attire would be less formal, maybe even casual.
Ha! Let me tell you this: France is a beautiful hexagon where it does not matter your age, the weather, the traffic, the number of legs you have or the clothing on your back, biking is how you get from one part of the hexagon to another. Women in flowing dresses and men with ties aflutter pedaled all over that island and never broke a sweat nor snagged a cuff in an oily chain.
So my theory correlating bikes to casual attire was flawed. No gowns, per se, but everyone wore lovely ensembles that completely satisfied my latent voyeurism. (Remember my fashion gawking in London? This time I refrained from taking secret photos.)
The bride wore a simple silk gown with a scalloped edge and inset lace panels designed by her friend Mazarine (above right) of the fashion atelier Mazarine Paris. Her bridesmaids wore non-matching dresses with headbands of silk.
The mother-of-the-bride, my friend Béatrice, looked particularly stunning in a color-blocked dress, tonal shoes, bag and belt, and a stylish hat she wore at a jaunty angle to match her jaunty smile.
The ceremony took place in an ancient church with hardwood benches and charming model ships hung from the rafters. I loved the statue of Mary holding a wee baby Jesus with the chain of an anchor wrapped around her ankle. I thought the anchor and chain was a reference to the way breastfeeding can trap a new mother. But no, the statue represents Our Lady of Navigators, a totem for sailors praying for a safe return from sea. I was dying to snap some pics but the priest began the ceremony by warning the congregation against taking photos and he scared me.
After the wedding, everyone rode bikes to the port for photos and aperitifs.
Then everyone biked to the reception. On a vast lawn perched atop a beach, champagne flowed and oysters disappeared. In case you were wondering, exactly 250 bottles of champagne were drank and 1152 oysters were slurped. The band played lots of Beatles and during their breaks, friends and family performed songs for an appreciative crowd.
We eventually repaired to a beautiful tent festooned with bistro lights for a delicious dinner of local fish prepared just about perfectly. Baguettes and bottles of wine were strategically placed every few inches. The meal passed slowly. There was time between courses. And everyone lingered over the cheeses, which were sublime.
Didier, the father of the bride, gave an emotional toast which made me cry. Margaux and Gaël's friends performed more skits. Sometime around midnight, the DJ began spinning tunes. Dancing to Stevie Wonder, I sweated off the last traces of make-up that had survived the earlier rides. Finally around 2:30, we extricated our bikes from the jumbled mass of wheels and handlebars, and set off with full bellies and hearts, riding past darkened windows in stucco beach houses, a drunk man who needed directions, and two black cats.
If you are a regular reader of The Bubble Joy, you may have noticed how much I've been traveling. This year, I've adapted a new philosophy. I'm strong and I feel good. This will not last forever. So I'm saying 'yes' to any opportunity that comes my way. It isn't every day that one is invited to attend a wedding on an island in France. And what an enriching experience it was.
Photos by Raphaël Berthier. Thank you also, Raphael, for giving us your seats on the ferry. :-)