le mariage civil + noce + the French are softies when it comes to weddings

The Kiss - Kristin Espinasse Jean-Marc Espinasse (c) Nicolas Bourreli
"The Kiss". Jean-Marc and I celebrated our 19th anniversary with a hike along the sea and a swim at this calanque, in St. Cyr-sur-Mer.


la noce (nohce)

    : wedding, nuptials

faire la noce = to live it up
la nuit de noce = wedding night
le voyage de noces = honeymoon


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Stopping Traffic

Memories are like bubbles. Full and rounded, the richest of them come rushing to the surface of our minds. I marvel at how my husband remembers some things and I, others. With the help of our individual recollections we knit together the past, enjoying moments from our romantic history.

This week Jean-Marc and I celebrated 19 years of marriage. The French call this anniversary les noces de cretonne. Cretonne being a type of fabric, the symbolism hints at the consistent weaving together of a sacred fil, the thread of love and commitment. 

All this talk of fabric and weaving reminds me of a vivid scene from our first wedding day. This was the town hall wedding or le mariage civil and in our case it took place two months before the church ceremony. It being a more casual gathering, there was none of that superstition about seeing the groom or bride beforehand. In fact, the groom and I drove together to our nuptials.

I'll never forget parading down the streets of Marseilles, in traffic. Grinning from ear to ear, I looked out our car window as Jean-Marc navigated from behind the wheel of his poor man's sports car. The red exterior of his Honda was chipped and dented, but inside might have been finer than silk and leather--the latter being Jean-Marc's just polished shoes (as for my dress, it was silk-like).

As we drove past all the chic boutiques on Rue Paradis on our way to pick up my bridal bouquet, it was thrilling to feel a part of this glamorous world surrounding us. And when Jean-Marc stopped smack in the middle of traffic, one lane away from the fleuriste, I literally stepped out onto Paradise Street.

"You'll have to hurry! There's no place to park," Jean-Marc explained.

I opened the creaky car door and landed in the middle of two lanes of impatient traffic.

It is awkward to be the center of attention, but there on my wedding day--crossing the street before the halted commuters--I all but twirled in my two-tiered dress!  Jaywalking across traffic lanes, light on my heels, I stole in and out of the flower shop, returning to my modern day carriage with an armful of calla lilies. 

The bumper to bumper traffic outside had not budged an inch, but was united in a collective (if imposed) pause. As I passed before the halted traffic, my wedding dress fluttering in the breeze, our parking sin was quickly forgiven as horns began to sound. Allez, les mariés!

The French are such softies when it comes to weddings! I smiled thanks to the audience of strangers and hurried into the car as drivers practiced their patience for one more "Marseilles minute". Even the calla lilies blushed, witnessing that steamy kiss!

 
To read about our church wedding, where the groom feared he was stood up and the bride got stuck to the outside of the church (wind and stucco are bad company for a bridal veil), read the chapter in my book.

French Vocabulary

le fil = string
le mariage civil = civil wedding, registry office wedding
la fleuriste = florist 
allez les mariés! = cheers to the bride and groom!
Marseilles minute = the amount of time (seconds, actually) another car will wait before blaring its horn at a stoplight turned green 

Max and his 18th summer (c) Kristin Espinasse
Max was born 9 months after Jean-Marc and I tied the knot...

Jackie "First Cowboy Hat" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Jackie came next... She turns 16 in September (this post was written in 2013...). This photo was taken recently, in Idaho--where she is spending the month with her grandparents... and trying on her American hat! Whereas I dreamt of France at her age, Jackie's life goal is to live in the States. "France is so old," she moans.

Together Forever (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Through Thick and Thin". Everyone and everything needs closeness. Picture taken in Orange (Vaucluse)

Shopping

Create your wedding registry here, at Amazon.com

French groceries: Carte d'Or coffee, berlingots candies, cassoulet and more.

Laguiole steak knives are for sale in many of the local French market stands

French Kitchen Towels by Garnier-Thiebaut.

Espadrilles -  seen them everywhere this time of year -in the south of France and elsewhere!

PARIS EIFFEL PEACE T-shirt - "so many people have stopped to ask me where I got it" -Betty.


Bagatelle wedding
Those calla lilies and our town hall wedding on July 4th, 1994.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."
--Jed

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oreiller

DSC_0075
I couldn't find a picture to illustrate today's word (oreiller) so how about a snapshot of a favorite summertime libation? Also a great way to recycle these Domaine Rouge-Bleu wine bottles!

 

oreiller (oh-ray-yay) noun, masculine

    : pillow

prendre conseil de son oreiller = to sleep on it (re decision making)
une taie d'oreiller = pillowcase
une bataille d'oreillers = pillow fight 
les confidences (f) sur l'oreiller = pillow talk 

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read this sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Ma belle-mère m'a offert son propre oreiller. My mother-in-law offered me her very own pillow.

 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

At a beachfront café in Marseilles, Jean-Marc is buttering his mom's toast. "Honey or the confiture d'abricot?" he asks.

"T'es gentil," my mother-in-law thanks her elder son. "Abricot, s'il te plaît."

Taking a sip of her tea, Michèle-France turns her attention my way.

"Tu es toujours si jolie," my belle-mère begins. Instantly uplifted by her words, I send a grateful smile across the table. It's a good thing I took the time to have my hair done. That seems to have made a difference!

"I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on you," my mother-in-law continues. My thoughts race back in time. Guiltily I wonder, Did I remember the exact moment too? Little by little, I begin to see the Espinasse family's apartment, in the Roy d'Espagne neighborhood, near the end of Marseilles. I don't remember the pine forest or the sea. I do remember the shining white tiles in the hall entry. I remember that it was just Jean-Marc, his brother, and his mother who lived there in the three-bedroom apartment. I don't recall which floor of the high-rise they lived on—or even taking the ascenseur—though we would have had to.

I do remember the kitchen, where Jean-Marc's mother prepared an exotic-to-this-American dinner (or was it lunch?): lapin à la moutarde. I remember sharing the meal with Jean-Marc's friends, Rachel and Stephan. I do not remember Michèle-France eating with us. Did she discreetly withdraw to her room, to leave us young amours to dine?

As I reminisce, Michèle-France fills me in on where it was, exactly, that we met the first time she laid eyes on me: 

"I met you in the hallway, after you shuffled out of my son's bedroom!"

I vaguely remember the awkward situation. Had I been leaving Jean-Marc's bedroom? Behind me, the disheveled sheets would have covered the mattress. You could just see the desk, where Jean-Marc had been showing me his new Macintosh—when we lost interest in computers. I could also see the hook on the wall, where a green robe hung; it was a gift from Jean-Marc's sister. Was I wearing that robe when I met Michèle-France in the hall?!

I must have needed the bathroom. I could almost hear Jean-Marc assuring me no one was around—just go on down the hall. The restroom was at the end of it....

That is when I must have come face to face with Maman. My fears were now materialized and I could not have been more embarrassed. Jean-Marc must have come out of the room, in time to make the introductions.

Any discomfort quickly disappeared when Jean-Marc's mother smiled an unmistakably warm welcome. As long as I live I will never forget her words: "You can stay as long as you like. You are most welcome here with us. Bienvenue!"

I could not take her up on her generous offer at the time, as I would need to return to Tempe, Arizona, to finish another year and a half of school.

***

Taking a sip of my café au lait, it is 20 years later now, and I do not seem to have overstayed my welcome. My mother-in-law's eyes continue to glimmer bienvenue!

Michèle-France sets down her tea, and looks at me softly. Next she shares with me, for the first time, what her thoughts were that first time we met.

"I remember thinking: this girl will make my son happy one day!"

I return my mother-in-law's gaze. Her words echoed in my mind as I try to etch them there, on a gray-mattered blackboard.

"Oui, je savais que c'était toi qui le rendrait heureux!"

Lest the lovey-dovey mother-in-law-daughter-in-law moment were too gushy sweet, my belle-mère adds a little spice to the moment.  I recognize the beginnings of a rascal's smile as it spreads across my belle-mère's face... evidence her mischievous side is waking up.

"Yes, you were une bouffée d'air frais—a breath of fresh air," she winks, "especially after some of the girls he brought home!"

Recognizing the direction in which we are heading, I raise my hands, quickly inserting my fingers into my ears. "I can't hear you! I can't hear you!" I laugh. Next I begin to hum.

When I take my fingers out of my ears, my mother-in-law is in the middle of reciting a string of sultry names, "Ma..." (MArilyn? MArie? MAnon?) but I will not listen to a word of it—just as I won't listen when Jean-Marc's longtime friends tease me about les anciennes copines.

Jean-Marc laughs as his mom continues her innocent taquinerie, and when next it seemed safe to unplug my ears I hear this doozy:

"Ah, and that one! What-Was-Her-Name? Je l'ai jetée de mon lit! I threw her out of my very own bed!"

I can't help but appreciate the colorful scenes my mother-in-law paints with her words, and I finally give in, picturing Jean-Marc's mom yanking some young tart out of her very own bed (sheesh, Jean-Marc—your mom's own bed!).

On a final, tender note, Michèle-France colors in a bright ending to the story:

"But for you," my mother-in-law says as she reaches across the café table and squeezes my hand, "for you, I would have offered my very own pillow!"

 

 Comments: to respond to this story, or to any item in today's post, click here.

To see that wedding picture again, click here

Don't miss this tender story about my mother-in-law (with a picture, too!)

 

French Vocabulary

la confiture d'abricot = apricot jam

t'es gentil = you're nice

Tu es toujours si jolie = you are still so pretty

la belle-mère = mother-in-law

un ascenseur = elevator

le lapin à la moutarde = rabbit with mustard sauce

bienvenue = welcome

le café au lait = coffee with milk

Oui, je savais que c'était toi qui le rendrait heureux! = Yes, I knew it was you who would make my son happy!

une bouffée d'air frais = a breath of fresh air

l'ancienne copine = old girlfriend

la taquinerie = teasing

  Jean-marc kristin

Click for a larger image. In love in January 1993... only six months before Jean-Marc would buy me a one-way ticket home! Find out what happened after that, in the intro to the book Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language (the snap shot image includes Jean-Marc writing "la cloche ) fromages"--which is the cheese restaurant where we ate that night. The restaurant places the cheese in a circle on the plate, with a glass of wine at each quarter on the "clock". As you can see, we finished most of the wine and were feeling both giddy (I) and enchanted (him). Well that didn't last long! Don't miss the story.

DSC_0012
Then and Now (2012). Photo taken on Jean-Marc's 45th birthday, last March 29th.

 

Listening skills & learning French: 

I could really relate to this question of Rob's, as I, too, struggle with listening to French. 

I was wondering if anyone has recommendations for a way for me to build my French listening skills? I am improving in being able to decipher written French, but spoken just moves too fast for me. I'd like something I could listen to that would slowly build my skills. --Rob, in Illinois

Leave your listening tips here, in the comments box.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice


"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."
--Jed

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP: Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own free subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here