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WEDDING

The nine causes of Anglo-French wedding blues

The culture clash between Anglos and French is never greater than when it comes to weddings. The Local's Ben McPartland examines why his attempts to organise his own cross-Channel marriage keep breaking down.

The nine causes of Anglo-French wedding blues
Anglo-French marriage problems. Photo: Shutterstock
1. Location, Location, Location
 

(Photo: R~P~M/Flickr)
 
First question is obviously where to have the wedding. This is kind of made easier by the fact that English wedding guests are a bit like English football fans in that they love to travel to a match. It’s mainly due to the fact they like nothing more than boozing on the move. The French, just like their national team’s supporters, are unlikely to travel in such big numbers. This makes France the obvious host country for the wedding, especially given the range of spectacular, if pricey range of places available to tie the knot.  Problem rating: Low. Solution: Get married near an airport or a port.
 
2. The paper work
 

(Photo: Shutterstock)
 
Once you’ve chosen to have the wedding in France, the feelings of regret start to build. Firstly, think about the level of paperwork that is needed. In the UK normally a couple of passports will suffice to get you registered for the ceremony, but in France you’ll need to employ a personal assistant to do all the paperwork. Birth certificates need to be officially translated, then there’s proofs of address, and something known as a “certificate de coutume”, from a lawyer saying you are legally free to get married. Basically you need every bit of official paper you have ever collected, including your 10m swimming certificate. Problem rating: Medium. Solution: Just get on with it.
 
3. The Service
 

(Photo: Xynn Tii/Flickr)
 
But then there’s the problem of having to get married at a French Town Hall. In the UK the registrar will pretty much travel to any venue you like, pubs included, but in France the mayors who carry out the marriages refuse to budge. The services are about as romantic and emotional as if someone just read pages out of the phone book. Half the guests don’t even bother going. You often only get a slot in the morning, which means everyone then disappears again until the evening, so the atmosphere deflates. The split day has knock-on effects on transport logisitcs too. Problem rating: medium. Solution: Make the mayor watch Titanic before the service.
 
4. The meal
 


(Photo: Ben Camp/Flickr)
 
In the UK the meal at a wedding is just a distraction. You could give most people a plate of chips and they’d be happy, as long as there’s plenty of plonk. In France of course, much more importance is given to the meal. Which means it’s often pricier. But is there any point spending €50 a head on a five-course meal when half the guests don’t really care? Then again, you can’t be serving up food for your French guests that they can get in your average brasserie. Problem rating: medium. Solution: Pay up and give the Anglo guests a decent meal.
 
5. Speeches
 

(Photo: Ron/Flickr)
 
In the UK, the best man’s speech is more important than the wedding vows. It’s the moment everyone waits for and the wedding can hinge on whether the speech is any good. In France there’s no one key moment, with different groups of friends doing everything from polished video sketches to power point presentations and sing songs. The quality varies dramatically, and they can extend the meal time by hours. Obviously the key point here is not just a difference in tradition but language too. Do we employ someone as an interpreter or do the speeches in both languages? Problem rating: Very High. Solution: Get the UN to send some of those headphones along with interpreters.
 
6. Bacon Butties
 


(Photo: CandySchwarz/Flickr)

Imagine the look on the in-laws faces when you mention the need for bacon butties to be provided at around 10pm. Even after a five-course meal of the finest French cuisine, there’ll be a small group of Anglos, chanting for bacon butties come midnight. Problem rating: low. Solution: Make a few in advance and ask the servers to put them in the microwave.
 
7. The booze
 

(Photo: Shutterstock)
 
The French would be shocked to have to pay for any kind of alcoholic drink at a wedding. Whereas if there was a free bar at an English wedding all night, most newly-wed couples would have to do a runner on their wedding night and leave the country. Free wine for the meal is generally a given, but then what about after? How do we quench the thirst of the Anglo guests without becoming bankrupt and make sure the French don’t have to bring their wallets? Problem rating: medium. Solution: Allow people to bring their own booze.
 
8. The booziness
 

(Photo: Shutterstock)
 
The contrast in the levels of drunken debauchery between the Anglo and French guests is enough to give you nightmares. At one of the last weddings I went to I was hit square on in the face by a potato in the middle of a drunken food fight. The thought of my mother-in-law getting struck by a piece of flying foie gras thrown by a drunk mate, who was actually aiming for my partner, keeps me up at night. And would the French guests join in a “pile on”? Problem rating: Extremely high. Solution: Don't get married
 
9. The disco
 

(Photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr)
 
This is probably the biggest issue when it comes to organising an Anglo French wedding. What to do about the music? Music at French weddings tends to be just cheesy pop from the eighties that everyone, I mean everyone, knows all the words to. Imagine the Anglos surrounding the dancefloor arms folded ready to invade or storming the DJ box and sacking the disc jockey. Although the French will have a better knowledge of Anglo music, we can’t expect them to rock to the full back catalogue of Oasis all night. Problem rating: very high. Solution: One song each. 

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MARRIAGE

Top reasons why you should marry a French person

An American online writer, who married a Frenchman, says wedding a French person is the perfect solution. And not just for those looking for a French passport.

Top reasons why you should marry a French person
Photo: Damien Roué/Flickr
The Brexit vote result has forced many people in France to scramble for options to secure their future in France, with one popular alternative being to marry a French person.
 
But according to the American writer behind the Oui In France blog, there are many more advantages to marrying a French person than simply getting a European passport. 
 
You loosen up over time
 
Making a fool out of yourself when you confuse words in front of people who matter is always a good time and after the first one hundred missteps, you’ll learn to laugh at yourself. Everyone likes someone who can make fun of themselves, right? And anyway, your new spouse is your own private tutor anyway, so your skills will improve dramatically. 
 
Photo: AFP
 
The accent never gets old
 
There’s something about hearing my husband speak that makes me smile. Maybe it’s because I don’t know if he’s saying Missouri or misery, or focus or “f–k us”. A French accent is infinitely cooler than an American one. The pronunciation, the intonation and the cute mannerisms just make you swoon. Daily. Multiple times. Forever. 
 
Why we think the French all wear berets and carry onionsPhoto: Photonquantique/Flickr
 
It’s fun to hear people botch your new French surname
 
If you choose to take on your French spouse's name, then you might be in for some fun. For my surname, Wargnier, I've heard every permeation you can think of. And that’ll be a regular occurrence at doctors’ offices, for restaurant reservations and whenever a telemarketer calls if you’re outside of France. 
 
If your last name is Smith or something equally unexciting, you’ll be thrilled to marry a French person for the cool last name alone. You get a fancy new last name that will have your friends and family struggling every time they try to say it. Let the good times roll.
 
You’ll make bilingual babies (if you do it right)
 
Nothing makes me more envious than little squirts who are barely up to your knees and can speak more than one language. So if you marry a French person and decide to have kids, you’ll pop out little bilingual geniuses that you’ll always have around to make fun of your accent and correct you in front of people you’re trying to impress. And if that’s not enough, bilingual kids just up your cool factor. Like, tenfold.
 
Mais oui mama, I love you. Photo: Anaïs/Flickr
 
Because mother-in-law interactions are more fun in French
 
Regular mother-in-law dynamics are a load of fun when she’s your same nationality, but when she’s French and doesn’t speak English? Well, you’ve got yourself a bunch of fun-filled afternoons. Then add in the fact that you took away her son (or daughter) and that really makes for fun holidays.
 
You can feel like a master at English
 
If your partner doesn't speak perfect English, they'll undoubtedly have questions about the English language or American culture. Take pride in providing him with the answers and explanations that will make you feel like you know your stuff. It helps to appear really confident while doing so.
 
You can be the Shakespeare of the relationship. 
 
You can use the “That’s how we do it back home” excuse to your advantage
 
When you marry a French guy, take opportunities to teach your man about your culture whenever you can, even if sometimes it’s a fib. Feel like making a weird recipe for dinner? Well, it’s an American tradition. Have an odd habit? Oh, everyone does that back home. You don’t want to give me a nightly foot massage? Well, American men do that without us having to ask and it’s part of our culture. The answer to everything is always, “That’s how we do it back home”.
 
Photo: Hamza Butt/Flickr
 
You can use the “That’s how they do it in France” excuse to your advantage
 
Here's one for if you choose to live outside of France, or for when you’re back visiting family. Every time my friends or family ask about my little croissant habit, I tell them I’m just being respectful of my husband’s French culture.
 
Where appropriate, use this excuse when you’re taking daily afternoon siestas, cutting in line or doing other things that may or may not be French. It’s only natural to show your guy and the rest of the world that you’re immersing yourself in his culture, so I say embrace away (even if you take it a bit far sometimes).
 
You always have an excuse to take a vacation
 
Depending on where you’re living, you can turn a visit to see the family into an action packed vacation. And then make up excuses to go visit whenever your job has you down or you’re feeling stressed. And who doesn’t love a little jaunt overseas every now and again?
 
Photo: Steve Bennett/Flickr
 
Because everyone likes a challenge
 
Challenges keep us growing as human beings and moving forward. From the language to the distance to the culture shock, marrying a French guy may come with some hurdles. But it’s worth it. What’s life without a challenge? 
 
You learn what patience really is
 
From being asked the same questions by those who hear you’re American to letting your man stumble his way through a difficult sentence, patience truly is a virtue and one that will make you a better wife or husband — even if you don’t realize it at the time. Marrying a French person  has its fair share of difficulties just like any relationship and while it’s certainly different from marrying someone from your own culture, it’s a lot of fun as well.
 
And what’s the point of living if you don’t keep it interesting? So go on, marry a French guy!

To read more from the US blogger visit OuiInFrance, click here.

Are you a blogger based in France? Would you like to share your musings on life here with The Local's readers in a guest blog? Email us at [email protected]