The Wedding… Part Three

By 4:15pm I was finally getting ready. The skies had started to clear and a faint shadow appeared on the ground. The tables were being reset outside and it was game on.

I was getting ready with three of my closest friends who had come from LA. We had shared a bottle of champagne (much needed by that point) and were starting to laugh about the catastrophic day.

At 5pm on the dot, the bell of the chapel began to ring and ring incessantly. I wasn’t ready and there was no way I was going to hurry.

Eventually by 5:30pm, my father, my dear friend Stella and I walked slowly down the path to the chapel. The ground was damp and muddy and I feared for my poor Pradas but otherwise all was well.

Outside the chapel we paused as Pious Giles began the ceremony.

I had gone off Pi-Gi at our previous meeting as it appeared there was a lot of ego involved. Sure enough, as the ceremony began, Giles announced to our gathered family and friends that we had already married in a civil ceremony and this was, in fact, only a blessing.

It was true as under French law a religious ceremony has to be preceded by a civil ceremony and while we’d planned on telling people, we hadn’t wanted to detract from the French celebration. So thanks for that, Giles the vicar.

As I entered the chapel, family and friends turned towards me. I kept my eyes on Letad as I walked the ten steps to the altar.

I held my father’s arm and Letad’s hand and wasn’t sure which of us was shaking. The marriage vows were brief, the sermon was long and the sweat poured from the brow of my now father-in-law as he read from Corinthians Chapter Two.

Finally we waked back down the aisle and were released into the glorious sunshine. The fickle weather was now absolutely perfect.

Ivory rose petals were strewn over us and photos were taken before we squelched our way along the muddy path to the reflecting pool for a very welcome glass of cold champagne.

At the risk of sounding unromantic, the worst was over. Let the celebrations begin!

The Wedding… Part Two

While the torrential rain was destroying the table plan, Letad was having his own drama… the Mini was breaking down.

We’d had the air conditioning repaired in anticipation of going to Corsica on our honeymoon and afterwards had noticed the car didn’t seem quite the same. The automatic gearbox wasn’t changing properly (this is why I insist on driving a manual) and the revs were extremely high. And it was getting worse.

For his third trip to the chateau, Letad had gone to pick up the kids. He was gone for a very long time. It turned out the car was shuddering, over-revving and very hot. It didn’t bode well.

Worried that he was going to miss the wedding, Letad pressed on. The Mini was in a bad way but there was nothing he could do.

Eventually they all made it to the chateau, just in time to witness Operation Table Cloth.

Stress levels were running high!

The Wedding… Part One

Saturday morning and we were up early. By 9am we were packed and heading to the chateau for the first of several trips.

My job was to set up the tables for dinner, greet guests and take them to their assigned rooms, organise the caterer and flowers and get to the chapel at 5pm. Didn’t seem that hard.

Letad was faced with three trips between Valbonne and the chateau, organizing the sound system, picking up the kids, doing pretty much everything else and also getting to the chapel at 5pm.

By 1:30pm things were progressing well. It was very hot and we’d managed to get two long banquet tables set up with sixty four chairs. The tables were set, the lavender bag place names which I’d spent hours making were finally done and everything looked gorgeous.

Things were on track and with three hours to go, all looked good. Except for the sky.

It had become increasingly cloudy and the ominous rumble of the thunder filled our ears. We glanced anxiously at the sky while we ate a quick lunch. Surely it couldn’t rain, today of all days. After all, it’s the south of France.

The thunder became louder and lightning streaked through the sky. Letad had left to pick up the kids and so I waited with a group of friends and family to see what would happen next.

Suddenly a storm was overhead. The lightening flashed above us as an enormous crack of thunder immediately followed and the first drops of rain became a torrential downpour.

It was all hands on deck as we ran to strip the tables. The caterers had arrived, the guys delivering the flowers, friends, cousins, anyone who could, jumped to help.

The tables were stripped, the wet crockery, cutlery, glasses piled hurriedly inside. The chairs were quickly stacked, seat pads were salvaged, the lavender bags I’d so carefully toiled over were ruined but the real casualties were the drenched table cloths.

Sodden and dirty, they lay on the terrace, a heap of soaked, heavy cotton. It was a catastrophe.

The rain continued to pour down outside as the storm passed overhead.

The catering crew wrung out the table cloths and everyone jumped in to help but a decision had to be made. It was 3pm, the ceremony was in two hours, we had sixty four people and no reception dinner. Could we pull it together in time?

I decided to give it until 4pm to decide whether to move inside or reset everything outside. It started to brighten and a tiny patch of blue sky gave me hope that we could still have dinner on the terrace, but would we have it ready and could we even set the tables again?

Behind the scenes my incredible friends worked tirelessly. The table cloths were washed and dried. My cousin’s wife ironed them dry. The catering crew started to reassemble the tables.

At 4:15pm I left to get dressed. I had no idea if we would make it but we had to try and so with rain soaked hair, I went to get ready.

Forty five minutes to go…

Friday Dinner in Valbonne

Friday evening and a casual dinner in the square was planned to kick off the weekend’s festivities.

I’d originally thought it would be dinner for ten however it seemed everyone loved the idea and it ended up as dinner for forty one!

As we strolled around into the square, familiar faces were already drinking at the Cafe des Arcades. We stopped to say hello before heading to the two long banquet tables set up for us.

Family and friends mingled easily as it turned into a reunion of sorts. Friends from LA met friends from Australia, my mother ordered another large whiskey and for my brother, an extended family he hadn’t seen for thirty years.

The evening was filled with conversation and laughter and we relaxed after a challenging week.

Suddenly two waiters appeared, a giant profiterole with a firework stuck in it rained sparkles in front of us as a French version of happy birthday with bonne mariage substituted was enthusiastically sung. We were surrounded by laughter and applause as everyone enjoyed the spectacle.

As most people left at a reasonable hour, a small die hard group remained behind for a final drink. It started to feel as though I had crashed Letad’s stag night as he and his friends reminisced about the past.

By midnight however we were home as a big day loomed ahead. I quickly removed the large bottle of excellent tequila (a wedding present) from Letad and his best man before they could open it, and we called it a day.

We were breaking with tradition as we would see each other before the wedding but with so much to do, it would have been impossible otherwise.

And so to bed.

The Cavalry Arrived

By Thursday evening, we were exhausted however we pulled ourselves together (or rather, I did) and set off to Mougins to meet The Californian Venetians.

Six of my closest LA friends had arrived and were in great spirits as we joined them for dinner in the pretty village.

Enjoying French wine!

Within minutes a plan was in place for organizing shopping, setting up tables and decorating the chateau. They offered to help with airport pick ups (one of the unexpected challenges) and then we relaxed and enjoyed an evening of laughter.

By 10:30pm I was fading and it was time for bed. Another busy day ahead!

Hurray for the cavalry!

The cavalry arrived!

Marital Meltdown

Thursday morning and after a sleepless night, a massive panic attack and finally admitting we had taken too much on, I conceded defeat.

I had fallen at the first hurdle and if I was a horse, would have been shot. Letad was galloping confidently towards the finish line while I lay in a crumpled heap on the track.

I was feeling extremely fragile as we went to see the Reverend Pious Giles in Cannes for a rehearsal of the ceremony. Too much god for my liking but that’s what you get for €375!

After the rehearsal, we enjoyed a quiet lunch with my parents. We had managed to extract them from the rest of the extended family and squeeze them into the back of the Mini. After what had become a circus on Wednesday, they were glad of the respite.

Lunch was exactly what I needed. A medicinal glass of champagne, a light lunch and a shoulder to cry on and I felt much better.

I have a tendency to take on too much anyway but it would appear that by organizing a three day wedding extravaganza, I had met my Waterloo. And Letad had done most of it anyway!

Good news though as it would appear the cavalry had arrived… just in the nick of time!

Lost… Four Relatives. If found, please return

Day one of family mobilization.

Heading to Nice, the mission was to stand on the spot along the Promenade des Anglais where my father’s grandparents had stood in the 1930s.

We had a photograph and with careful alignment, found the very spot we were looking for. The only problem was, someone was standing there. Outrageous!

Luckily they moved before any intervention was required and the necessary photos were taken to mark the occasion.

Mission accomplished, we headed into Nice for coffee, a wander around the old town and a cheap and cheerful lunch.

Despite the temperature (it was very hot) we decided to press on to VilleFranche where we sat under an umbrella drinking cold drinks (the theme of the day) before heading back to Valbonne.

On the way back (travelling in convoy) we accidentally lost my parents and aunt and uncle. Oops.

We waited at the peage but after fifteen minutes gave up and set off back to their hotel where they arrived half an hour later, a bit hot and bothered but otherwise fine.

After a long day, Letad and I rustled up platters of cold food and drinks and we all sat outside in the rue.

The sun set, the evening cooled and the swifts darted overhead while everyone laughed and relaxed.

It had been the best way to end the day.