Saturday January 10, 2015 was a day that I will always remember. I awoke to milder temperatures and weak Parisian sunshine and straight away prepared for a long-awaited event: the wedding ceremonies of my lovely French friends, Carole and Gildas! I had looked forward to this special occasion for months, and this exceptional couple had worked very hard to ensure that it would be a day that family and friends would cherish forever. Their
natural inclination to intricately plan and organize was clearly evident before and during the extensive festivities. That was no surprise to me, as I have seen them in action before on a smaller scale so I knew that they would pull off their Big Day with finesse and panache. However, I was completely amazed by the originality and creativity that prevailed in all aspects of the wedding ceremonies and celebrations, not only from the bride and groom, but from their longtime friends as well!
I really enjoyed the formal civil ceremony at the City Hall in the area where Carole and Gildas live. The mayor wisely counselled them in front of the assembly about the responsibilities associated with marriage. However, a light-hearted, joyful atmosphere also prevailed in this stately setting.
Who could not gasp at Carole’s demure beauty and perfect poise, and then juxtapose the response with awes directed at her partner Gildas’s flamboyant expressions of joie-de-vivre. Yin and yang – a perfect match. And they’ve known that for a long time. The couple has been an item for over nine years so they are well acquainted with each other!
I did not take many photos at this session, as I reacquainted with a young lady named Eloise, a friend of Carole’s who used to live near me in Dominica. We chatted away and caught up on our lives in the past couple of years as the extended family posed for pictures. Then the relatives headed off to a private lunch, to energize for the more intimate, festive celebration which would follow a few hours later. Eloise and I took the Métro to our respective stops, agreeing that we would meet up again at the next event.
Back at my guest apartment at Montmartre, I ate a quick lunch, showered again and dressed up for the next grand ceremony. Fortunately, I was less than a 15 minute (uphill) walk away from the ‘Espace Montmartre’ at the base of the famous Sacre Coeur Basilica, where the secular ceremony would take place. It’s a good thing that I like to walk up mountains. I easily climbed a few hundred steps, but did not break a sweat in the 12 degree Celsius temperatures. Perhaps I was a little pink and it was the perfect occasion for having a subtle glow on my cheeks!
I, perhaps like the bride and groom, was a little nervous about the role that I would play in this ceremony: my five-minute speech about Carole and Gildas when they lived in Dominica was to be a big surprise! Magali, the mother of the
groom had already reviewed it, so I knew that my sentiments could be understood in French. I was the second-last person to speak during this chronological and geographical programme (Carole was last – she was talking about the future), but I was able to enjoy the other presentations by family members, witnesses and friends, who briefly spoke about earlier times and places where the adventurous couple had previously lived.
Here is what I had to say about my special French friends, translated back into English:
“Newlyweds Carole and Gildas, Their Families and Friends:
It is a big pleasure to be here in Paris for this special occasion. I am particularly honoured to attend the marriage of this charming couple that I met in Dominica. You see, they were my French teachers, and at the same time, I got to know them, and very quickly they became my friends!
Well, they lived near me and I drove them home after our classes. In this way, I became familiar with them personally, as well as professionally.
When I met them at Alliance Française de la Dominique, I was learning (and continue to try to learn) French at an advanced level (so please excuse any errors in this presentation!). In the preparatory classes for exams, Carole was patient, gentle and friendly. She encouraged me and as well gave me supplementary courses for revising what I had forgotten or needed to practise some more. She also organized several cultural events at Alliance Française. Thanks to her, Dominicans enjoyed learning more about France.
As an individual, I discovered that Carole has an incredible capacity for empathy, that she demonstrated when I was experiencing some difficult situations. I have already told her that the world has need of more people with a gift of compassion like hers. She is an example for all of us to follow, and I am so happy to know her. Gildas, I know you are very lucky to have this beautiful lady as your life partner.
Perhaps it is surprising to learn that Gildas, like his wife Carole, is a marvellous French teacher. At our Friday afternoon conversation classes, my classmates and I enjoyed the lessons that he prepared for us, which included discussions about daily life in France, and occasionally Canada (the former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, for example). Also, he gave us information for communicating better if visiting France, and techniques for French cooking. As well, he taught us word games to improve our French vocabulary.
This nice young man certainly is competent in the kitchen and I appreciated all of his French culinary creations. I could also see that Gildas is a man who is very disciplined and intelligent, who loves to share his knowledge with others and in return, he receives different points of view with interest. I have also observed that he is very devoted to and respectful of his wife. In my opinion, Carole is very lucky to share her life with this exceptional young man.
I admire this extraordinary couple because of their numerous interests: in activities, other people and different cultures. They accomplished a lot during their short time in Dominica. They participated in many activities, including a difficult hike that crosses all of Dominica. This big walk in the forest and the mountains is very difficult for most people, but they succeeded without any problem. Carole learned to dive too. They attended many cultural events and formed friendships with people who came from various countries to live in Dominica. They additionally travelled to Central America and other Caribbean islands in that short space of time.
Carole and Gildas are now ready to throw themselves into a new adventure, as they are leaving to go ‘across the pond’ (New York City) to live and work in my part of the world. I am certain that they will make the most of this experience. I only hope that they will not acquire an American accent when they speak English, but I am saying that because I am Canadian!
I am here today to honour my special French friends and I would like to wish them all the best in their life together. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for everything that they have done for me – as my charming hosts during my first visit to Paris and for everything they have shared with me about your marvellous country.
Above all, Carole and Gildas, I wish that you will always have “une vie en rose!””
Then I sang a couple of modified verses of this classic French song, La Vie En Rose. I changed words so that it was more personal for them, not me. Maybe somebody recorded it. But if you would like to hear the original, sung by Edith Piaf, you can listen right here.
The newlyweds had written their own vows, and it was a thrill to hear them recite them to each other in the presence of family and friends. Then they recessed down the aisle and we threw paper airplanes at them for good luck! The reception, with the Eiffel Tower in the background was most congenial and there, Eloise and I continued with our earlier discussions. I even learned some new French vocabulary during our conversation!
The dinner was divine – several courses – which was too much food for me. But what really grabbed my attention was the way their wedding attendants had created and produced high quality audio-visual presentations about the lives of their dear friends. They were very humorous and certainly gave me more insight into what makes these two special people who they are today! Carole and Gildas were also very surprised by the collective gift they received: a cookbook with a
meaningful recipe and related memories of sharing a particular dish from each guest. I included Tourtiere, a French Canadian meat pie that I had prepared for them the previous Christmas. They were advised that they have one year to prepare every recipe in the cookbook. Of course, Gildas accepted the challenge!
A traditional French wedding cake, consisting of several tiers of macaroons was really a sight to behold. I smiled when the bride and groom exchanged bites, and quietly wished them much sweetness in their lives.
By 10 p.m., tables were pulled to the side of the room and the dancing began. I noticed that Carole had changed from her white satin shoes into ruby slippers. The place was hopping – people of every age took to the floor. There were plenty of oldie-goldie tunes – in English too, so I sang along for the fun of it.
As I am not a night owl, I departed before midnight but did rejoin the group at noon the next day for a sensational wedding brunch at Ton Ton Jaurès in the 19th arrondissement. It was one of my most
delicious meals in Paris. Perhaps the REAL Canadian maple syrup for the pancakes had something to do with it. I became better acquainted with some of the couple’s friends and all of a sudden, it was over. Time for everyone to move off and return to their homes. Gildas and Carole were leaving that evening for their honeymoon in Sri Lanka. You can read about their exotic adventures here.( Even if you don’t speak French, you can admire their incredible photos!)
I bade my special French friends au revoir and agreed that we would meet again sometime, perhaps sooner than we think!
Bonne chance, Carole et Gildas! À bientôt, mes amis! (Good luck, Carole and Gildas! See you soon, my friends!)