I Do – Humour a Must for Destination Wedding! (Guest blogger Karen Taipalus)
My best friends in the whole world are the four I graduated from high school with in 1980. We got our drivers licenses together, shared our boy crushes and snuck away to concerts together before we received our Dogwood diploma. We never gave much thought about who we would marry, let alone thinking about children’s weddings. That was for when we were old; certainly not now!
Well, fast forward 40 years and guess what? Yup – I am attending a destination wedding in France. Not my friend’s, but her daughter Meaghan’s and her fiancé, Arnaud. And not in a church, but a chateau that has been in the family for centuries. Back in 1980, most of my high school contemporaries were getting married at the local community centre, let alone somewhere outside of town. Meaghan was my flower girl, so I was super happy and excited to attend. Who wouldn’t want to attend a wedding in a French chateau?
As romantic as a French chateau wedding sounds, I can’t help but think the logistics could be a royal nightmare (pun intended). Who makes sure the chateau isn’t full of cobwebs? Is the local priest a 97-year old that doesn’t speak English? Is the local wine any good or should we be using it as red wine vinegar to pour over the fig salad? How does one know this when you live 8300 km away?
I caught up with Meaghan yesterday to get some answers. Apparently, the most challenging thing is that you don’t know what you don’t know. What does that mean exactly? Well, take catering for example. In North America, we’ve come to expect custom service levels that resemble à la carte. The French caterer was quite amused when asked if plates and cutlery were included. Her response? “Well, what else would you eat on?”
Local etiquette and business customs also came into play when thinking about a destination wedding. Apparently asking a wedding expert to make all kinds of changes was a major faux pas. She is the expert, right? Isn’t that why the bride and groom hired them? Deferring to her expertise was something Meaghan and Arnaud had to learn along the way. No problem! Well, except for the fish. Fish you ask? When the wedding couple requested three vegan dishes, they were told, “No problem, we’ll serve local fish.” When the bride went on to explain that local fish would not work either, the caterer said she would be able to work around it. Thank goodness she was able to serve the three vegans some lovely salmon filets instead. Oops!
Navigating foreign paperwork has its own challenges as well. If a non-French citizen wants to get married in France, paperwork needs completing to determine if they are eligible to marry there. Arnaud, having been born in France, happily translated all the documents into English. Turns out all Meaghan needed to provide was a “Certificate of Celibacy”. Wait…what? How on earth was the Federal Department of Global Affairs Canada going to be able to provide that kind of certificate, never mind validating the claim? Awkward!! In the end Arnaud’s translating needed some tweaking. Turns out all they required was proof she was single (célibataire) and had no plans on being a polygamist. Talk about lost in translation!
Lessons to take away? If planning a destination wedding, keep local customs in mind (tipping included), double check your language translations and always, always keep your sense of humour because cobwebs in the chateau are probably the least of your concerns. And really, have you ever tasted bad French wine?
Karen Taipalus lives and works in Delta, BC and enjoys writing short stories and articles based on every-day life events. She likes travelling with her family, wine tasting with girlfriends, bookclub and pickleball. Karen works in business development and social media.