Friday, July 12, 2013

The Charm of a French Country Wedding, part two

I touched the tops of the creamy roses to soak in their faint papery perfume. We had been too late to offer them at the church where other bouquets dotted the altar and so they were nestled against my knees. I smiled, thinking back to the ceremony echoing through the tiny, ancient church. How quickly it  was over and our friends, Nathalie and Laurent were now married. 

With a diva-worthy wave, Nathalie beckoned le cortège to follow their beribboned convertible and half of the village of Manou watched as we took our leave...

...through a countryside perfect for rolled-down windows and fingers splayed in the wind. The kind you can shout "Hello!" to for no reason.

With more than a dose of relief, we unfolded ourselves out of our lunch-box rental (a Ford!) and breathed in the open expanse of Le Moulin St. Agnes. Light shimmied through the leaves and across the lake, hinting of the evening to come.

For le vin d'honneur, champagne flutes were presented to each new arrival...

...along with a warm welcome from the beautiful bride!

Ah, but there was also an oyster bar to tuck into...

...along with a truly impressive variety of hors d'oeurves and delicately layered verrines, spoons of smoked salmon, a mountain of crudités...

Brochettes of  marinated chicken and shrimp were grilled to order à la plancha...

...and of course, this being France, there was much silky foie gras to be consumed...

...wines to be savoured...

...and even a tiny mini foie gras burger on a brioche bun to be inhaled tout d'un coup! Ah yes, thank you, don't mind if I do.

As I am shy, I let my camera do the talking as I strolled the grounds, listening to the relaxed chatter of Nathalie and Laurent's friends...

...and laughed as with a "Whoop! Whoop!" they took their turn for a boat ride across the lake.

So many friends, so many loved ones, gathered to celebrate. 

However, my nerves did a little twinge as we were called into dinner. Oh my, was a stuffy, more forks than you can count, prisoner of the table type of experience ahead of me? Would I be trapped next to strangers that would raise their eyebrows sky high at my accent?

I needn't have worried. Within minutes, napkins were being twirled in the air, accompanied by boisterous hollering and pounding on the table. I knew that I was in the clear. The evening was by all word that is not so applicable in France most of the time! While the dinner itself was certainly excellent (émincé de veau accompagnée d'une verrine des champinons), what fascinated me the most was all of the delights sprinkled in between the courses--sing-a-longs (of which yours truly did a wee solo for the end of "Stand By Me"), musical jams (oddly called un boeuf de musique in French. A musical cow?) games, and seriously funny toasts. Unbeknownst to me, apparently weddings are where these folks really let their hair down.

Nathalie and Laurent beamed even brighter than their spectacular cake. 

And then they opened le bal. Their First Song?

Now seriously, how fabulous is that?! It was exactly what I had been looking forward to dancing to (I know, I know, expectations...) and so we gave it our all. Then, I stuck to my motto as a former NYC Disco Baby--"Always Leave The Party When It Is Good"--and so that is what we did, bowing out immediately after, just past 12:30am. 

At  the brunch the next day (a relaxed affair sweetened by several chansons française delivered by an 80 year-old relative), we discovered that the dancing had lasted until 4 and that dawn was welcomed by many a guest.

Nathalie et Laurent, vous avez partagé votre amour et votre joie de vivre avec nous tous! And that, my friends is the Charm of a French Country Wedding. Long may they follow together on la route du bonheur...

My sincere thanks to les mariés for letting me share their big day with you all and I know that they will appreciate the lovely wishes that many of you have passed on to them.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone...


  1. Oh my goodness, this was really a grand finale post to such an extraordinarily beautiful event. Beautiful photos - as always, Heather. Your words and photos transported me to the French countryside. . .
    Have a great weekend. And thanks for stopping by our blog. xoxo J.

  2. What an amazing wedding; the location, the people, the FOOD!!!
    Just what a wedding day should be like: good food, friends and family, dancing and laughing, celebrating a union of love.
    Love it, love it. All of it.

  3. Dear Heather,

    While I have some serious reservations rgarding W.B.Yeat's poem "A Prayer for my Daughter" (particularly in regard to its predictable assumptions about the "role" of women in this life), I do love the closing lines.....

    Please send these to your friends:

    "...And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
    Where all's accustomed, ceremonious;
    For arrogance and hatred are the wares
    Peddled in the thoroughfares.
    How but in custom and in ceremony
    Are innocence and beauty born?
    Ceremony's a name for the rich horn,
    And custom for the spreading laurel tree. "

    I think that's lovely.

    ----david terry

    1. I think so too, David. I know that they have been reading the comments but I will make sure they get that.

      PS. I think that you know I am a Yeats fan, yes?

  4. Well, it was the same day as our daughter's! Nathalie and Laurent look a lovely couple, and so in love. And what fun...a true French wedding!

    1. And what a gorgeous couple they made as well!!!!

  5. "Charm of a French Country Wedding"


  6. Absolutely charming. What is the custom of leaving the bouquet at the church? Gallivanta

    1. Gallivanta, sorry for the delay but you know what? I have no idea! Remi said it is the traditional thing to do. Why not? It is lovely!!

  7. P.S. I once, when I was still teaching at Duke University, had to read an entire, dreary paper by a student who decided for herself (and everyone else, given the skoolmarmy tone of her prose) that Yeats's "rich horn" symbolized The Patriarchal Phallus (ooh!), and that his prefiguring of his daughter's wedding (she was about a month old when he wrote the poem)represented his eagerness to "sacrifice" her on some supposed altar of "patriarchal hierarchy".

    She then, clever girl that she was and having acquainted herself with Greek mythology 101, ponderously proceeded to explain that Daphne (while being chased aroud the block by Apollo) had changed herself into a Laurel tree (somehow, she missed the point that Daphne didn't do this to was done for her at her request).

    I kid you not....this girl's paper on "A Prayer for My Daughter" ended with a lengthy (if consistently ponderous) explanation of how Daphne had "re-created" her "Selfhood" as a "Vegetatively Female Entity" (thanks, I can quote entire paragraphs of this eye-poppingly awful essay), complete with a trunk....which, of course, constituted a "rival & victorious Feminine Phallocracy" (once again, I kid you not).

    I recall (1) wondering if she was pulling my leg, so to speak, and (2)telling her that the "rich horn" was simply a reference to the horn of plenty....such as you see on every Thanksgiving card from Hallmark....and that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar....and that, if I were Yeats's grown daughter, I would, for better or worse, probably be very/simply happy to know that my father wrote those lines about my future wedding when I was still in my crib.

    The student subsequently HATED me, of course. I did the only thing possible when your first reaction (which I successfully squelched) is to scrawl "This is complete BULLS**T!" across a student's essay.......I told her it was so "original" that I would like her to read it aloud to the entire class....which she did, much to the amusement of many of her fellow students. That young woman was impenetrably self-confident.

    Oh well...I think those lines are a nice thing to send to a bride.

    I still go to weddings now and then (Although, at my age, I hear more about divorces among my friends), but I stopped teaching a long while back.

    david terry

    1. David! Somehow I missed this while we were out in the woods (no that isn't a metaphor for something, we really were and the internet was sketchy, that is why I am just getting caught up now) and it made me bark with laughter. Shame on you for scaring the dogs!
      I have no IDEA what Laurent and Nathalie will make of this however...

    2. PS. And so folks are holding ceremonies/celebrations for divorces these days in the States? Wacky Americans.

    3. Actually, Heather?....I wasn't referring to folks holding ceremonies/celebrations for divorces.......but the fact is (I read about this a short while back in the New York Times) folks ARE doing exactly that. I kid you not.

      Apparently, this goes on among youngish-middle-aged & minimally-middle-class (large parties aren't cheap) folks who sort of just assume that everyone gets married at LEAST twice in this life....and they want to make it clear that their feelings about the divorce are perfectly "amicable",,let's just have a "divorce party", invite all the friends and family, and make it clear that we're, actually, pretty excited (!) to be moving on with our individual, new&improved hard feelings!!!,,,no one needs to worry!!!

      I don't know...I find the whole notion.....creepy? I'm scarcely some hidebound, ultra-orthodox (I'm an Anglo-Cahtolic, basically) advocate of perpetuating a painful relationship...but, simultaneously, I'm taken aback by the notion of acting as though a divorce were something done we all just do from time to time? they play Cole Porter's "It Was Just One of Those Things!" as background music at these events????

      If I were invited to one, I wouldn't go,simply because I don't think I could carry off acting, for several hours, casual about the matter... "Oh well....these things just HAPPEN, you know? And we're still Good Friends!!! More bubbly, anyone???".

      So, yes, I have turned into my own grandmother (in terms of both her attitude regarding sacraments and a nose that becomes more prominent with each passing year). I should emphasize that she was divorced (the first in our family) in her early thirties and never re-married. As far as I'm concerned a divorce is a sometimes quite necessary, but inevitably solemn event....I can't imagine celebrating one.

      ----david terry

    4. My dear David, I kept waiting for you to write "JUST KIDDING" in one of your glorious turnarounds like you do from time to time. I find this so disconcerting that I can't quite find the words to respond--whether in "reaaaaally?" kind of laughter or dispersion. I know you will understand that I am at a loss!

      Although this has nothing to do with divorce, the concept reminds me of going to an opening of the brilliant James Nachtwey's photos---but everyone was swanning around with champagne amidst the photos of utter sadness and the horrors of war. It was one of the big reasons that launched our leaving Paris.

    5. Hmmm,Heather...I was't joking....folks (at least in New York City) do really have "divorce parties" these days.

      I gather that this goes on regularly in circles where the couple met through "work"....the wife is a Manhattan corporate attorney with a degree from the Uiversity of Chicago and the husband is a real-estate developer in the Hamptons....or some dynamic such as that, in which it's a GIVEN that they and all of their "friends" will, like it or not, continue knowing and dealing with each other on an almost daily (if purely commercial/professional) basis.

      It reminds of when the authors of "The SilverPalate Cookbook) parted ways.....the LAST thing you were going to hear from either of their mouths was any gossip about the acrimonious (as it turned out to be)split or regarding each other.

      That would be Bad For Business, you know....and they had a LOT of jointly owned business ventures, to say the least. They were quite practical about the matter (for which I don't at all intend to criticize them; it saves everyone else a lot of worry and trouble)

      Oh, well, I'm very glad to have gotten out of that world (not that I was ever so remarkably "in" it) long before "divorce parties" came into vogue.


  8. The reception looks as wonderful as the wedding - you (quel surprise) captured it all so beautifully! It's nice to know that the French do let their hair down occasionally and I'm so glad you were able to attend - I'll bet the couple will love these posts, too! p.s. love the nail polish! : )

    1. Thanks Sister--it was truly a last minute add on! What was I thinking?? Luckily our hostess had remover for my misses.

  9. Oh my. Such a treasure to share with us. A glorious time captured with love and more love.
    The setting...the bride and groom...the food...the wine....the I enjoyed being there with you!!.
    Thank you sweet Heather for bringing some magic to my day.....

    1. You are welcome, joyful! You always bring the same to mine when you stop by. :)

  10. It looks like a wonderful affair. Such food!! Beautiful.

  11. The love at this wedding.....and the "fun" (an endangered species all over the world at the moment!!!) Is so evident!

    what a lovely thing to watch! Thank you for this enormous gift!



    1. So happy that you stopped by Penelope! And "ain't that the truth"! Sorry to hear that is not the case only in France...
      Thank you for your beautiful last post,

  12. Heather this was an experience beyond the grandest wedding. The love, the dance and song, the food served simply but tastefully. I must show Andrea, whose niece is getting married in the near future! Waving a napkin with you!!

    I just shared this on my Facebook Page...share the joy and pay it forward!

    1. Absolutely!! A good reminder! And THANK YOU!!!!

  13. Tu me donnes faim et soif !

    This sounds like (and looks like) a delightful affair, start to finish. Thank you for sharing it with us.


  14. I love this from "penelopebianchi":

    ..and the "fun" (an endangered species all over the world at the moment!!!) Is so evident!"

    ---david terry

  15. It makes me wish I was there. Your comment on my last post was so special, so unexpected ... Thank you so much. It was a lovely compliment and the encouragement I needed. Sometimes I have so many doubts floating in my head ...

    1. You are a wonderful writer, Loree. Don't let those doubts tell you otherwise...although, come to think of it, every writer I know has doubts all the time!!!

  16. A GRAND AFFAIR..............everyone looks so happy!Love the gal in the short skirt and FUR THROW????OR STOLE???

  17. Looks like such a beautiful setting, and as for the oyster bar...and "Daft Punk" as their first song? FABULOUS
    Congrats to the happy couple!

  18. Oh I love a good wedding! And that spread makes this one look like it was marvelous!

  19. those white r o s e s....


  20. Hello everyone!! For those of you checking back in wondering, "Um, where is SHE?" well were outta town and I mean so far out of town that there was no internet to be had--whoohoo! So I apologize for not responding earlier and I love all of these wonderful messages--as always! But these are especially important as I happen to know that the happy couple has been very touched by them. :)
    More soooon!


    Not that this necessarily has anything specifically to do with your friends' wedding Heather,but?....

    A friend of mine (he's 63) has just left to attend the funeral of his 87 year old, favorite uncle, who lived in Boston and died quite suddenly/unexpectedly of a stroke (he was mowing his front lawn at the time) a few days ago.

    Apparently, the aunt died twenty-some years ago, and the uncle never re-married. My friend, in speaking of him over the telephone to me, said "Oh, no....he had a nice life... he raised parakeets, worked in the garden, and went to a wedding at least once every week".

    Thinking that was a bit odd (there was a period when I seemed to go to a wedding every week, but lasted for only about two years, just after graduating from college...I wasn't in my 70's & 80's, to say the least).

    Turns out the uncle just LIKED weddings. He'd read the papers, listen to neighborhood gossip, read local church bulletins, find out where the nearest wedding was....and just GO to it...sometimes two per week. Apparently, he was never turned away, and, for decades, he'd attend the receptions afterwards. I guess no one's going to tell a septuagenerian (sp?) widower that he'd better get his wrinkly-old ass out of their church, even in hard-nosed Boston.

    I was told "Oh...he made a lot of young friends that way...they'd stop by to visit him later....he was the nice old guy who just showed up at their would have liked him..."

    I hope I don't need to explain why I find that a lovely, charming anecdote. I told my friend "Oh....there's a wonderful short story in there somewhere."

    Best of all good wishes to your friends, Nathalie and Laurent---

    david terry

  22. Love, fun and oysters! I hope they have started as they mean to carry on :-) Congratulations on a fine wedding and a fine wedding post!

    1. I do believe they have started as they mean to carry on, Lisa. And I am delighted to have you here!


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