New friend, French wedding and football match

I met up with the lovely Cynthia on Friday and chatted with her for a few hours about being an American expat in Chambéry. It’s always nice to talk to someone who is going through the exact same thing and has the same thoughts about our old and new countries. Check out her blog for great photos and videos of this region and other parts of France. She’s been here for a little over a year and has already seen much more of the Alps than I have. I am trying to wander around Chambéry more and take pictures of everything since I’ve been planning on making a photo album of my new city for about 3 months now.


Hôtel de Ville in Chambéry

Then I went to my first French wedding on Saturday. Because separation of church and state actually exists here, the only legal marriage takes place at the town hall (mairie) and then a church or outside ceremony elsewhere can follow the actual wedding. We arrived a little late and there were a ton of people so we couldn’t actually get inside the mairie to see the ceremony. The couple did choose to do a church ceremony as well (officiated by a deacon though, not a priest) and luckily the church was right next door to the mairie so we didn’t have to go far.

There were no ushers to seat people – everyone simply found their own seat. The groom and his mother and then the bride and her father walked down the aisle, and everyone stood for both of them, not just for the bride. There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen or flowergirls, but there were two witnesses (témoins – there must be at least two) who didn’t walk down the aisle but sat in the front row. I couldn’t hear anything the deacon was saying because his microphone wasn’t working well and because most of the guests were chatting among themselves while a ton of kids were running up and down the aisle. I was surprised at how informal it all seemed to be compared to the many, many (too many) American weddings I’ve been to. And another interesting difference is that it’s perfectly fine for female guests to wear white. That’s still a big faux pas at American weddings, right?

The ceremony was so incredibly long. At least an hour. The bride and groom had chairs so they could sit for the entire thing. There was a girl singing, people reading poetry, grandma giving a speech, the vows, exchanging of the rings, etc. At one point the witnesses were brought up to the altar and then guests could go up there and take pictures. At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom stayed at the altar and all the guests went outside. There was no receiving line – everyone just stood around and waited for the couple to walk out so they could throw rice and blow bubbles and take a few pictures.


Félicitations Sébastian et Cindy !

After the church ceremony was the vin d’honneur, which I guess is like wine & cheese hour/cocktails/toast before the actual reception/dinner. Usually everyone is invited to the vin d’honneur and then only family & close friends are invited to the dinner. We had to leave right after the church ceremony and didn’t make it to the vin d’honneur (it’s a long story) but I am glad I was finally able to see a French wedding after 3 years of being here. Most of David’s friends who got married just chose to do the simple mairie wedding and only invited their family, or they just don’t get married since having kids without being married is not stigmatized in France. In fact, I think all of his friends who have kids got married after the kids were born and some of them did it just for the lower income tax.

Saturday night we watched the France vs. Romania football match/soccer game, which unfortunately ended in a tie and means that France’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup next year are slim. The World Cup isn’t until June/July 2010 but they are already starting the qualifying matches. I still don’t really understand why the entire world minus North America is crazy about soccer, but then again I don’t understand why North America hates it so much. It’s a million times more exciting than baseball or golf. It’s not as violent as hockey or (American) football. Is it because the scores are always really low? Do Americans prefer sports with high scores so it’s easier to gamble? Someone please clue me in as to why Americans hate soccer so much!

At least my cat is not American. He watched the entire game without falling asleep and then started whining when it was over. (Though that may have been due to his empty food bowl instead of France not winning…)


Allez les Bleus !!

David had to go back to work today, but I still have two more weeks before I start again. He was telling me at lunch that if he moved up to the next catégorie (B) at his job and became an Inspecteur, there would be a one year training period in Montpellier followed by a minimum of two years in Paris before he could be assigned to another city in France. The only way to get out of going to Paris is to request a position in the DOM-TOMs, but it’s not guaranteed. So yeah, I don’t really know how I feel about potentially living in Paris in a few years. Honestly, I’d choose the DOM-TOMs!

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  • http://www.american-in-france.com/ cynthia in chambery

    Thanks so much, Jennie, for your kind compliment about me on your blog. It was a wonderful pleasure to meet you as well and I look forward to when I can have a ‘women’s American lunch or dinner’ together with the few of us who live in Chambery. Off to Brittany now. A bientot! Cynthia in Chambery
    .-= cynthia in chambery´s last blog ..Photo Journey of My First Year in France with Original Music =-.

  • http://www.american-in-france.com cynthia in chambery

    Thanks so much, Jennie, for your kind compliment about me on your blog. It was a wonderful pleasure to meet you as well and I look forward to when I can have a ‘women’s American lunch or dinner’ together with the few of us who live in Chambery. Off to Brittany now. A bientot! Cynthia in Chambery
    .-= cynthia in chambery´s last blog ..Photo Journey of My First Year in France with Original Music =-.

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    I don’t think America hates soccer, I think they just don’t care…
    I think the reason why is pretty simple. At every international competition America takes part in, America likes to pride itself as the best.
    Hence a total lack of interest in sports where America is not that good, and real interest only in sports that are homegrown.
    I don’t know how valid that thought is, I guess it has some validity, but it must not be the only reason.

    Personally, despite the fact that I’m French, I don’t care about soccer because it’s booooring (and the French national team is booooring, even when they’re good).
    I really only watch the World Cup and the Euro Cup, because it’s fun to cheer for England, drunk in an English pub…

    And yeah, as far as French weddings are concerned, I love them so much better than US weddings (but then again, I’ve been to one only… but I’ve heard about a lot), because they’re not formal, they’re about getting together and have fun… It’s supposed to be a fun day…

    For me it’s a big mystery how American people (who are very good at knowing how to have fun) can be so stuck up and formal when it comes to weddings… They even have rehearsals!!!! Is this a theater play or what?
    .-= David´s last blog ..Full Circle? =-.

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com David

    I don’t think America hates soccer, I think they just don’t care…
    I think the reason why is pretty simple. At every international competition America takes part in, America likes to pride itself as the best.
    Hence a total lack of interest in sports where America is not that good, and real interest only in sports that are homegrown.
    I don’t know how valid that thought is, I guess it has some validity, but it must not be the only reason.

    Personally, despite the fact that I’m French, I don’t care about soccer because it’s booooring (and the French national team is booooring, even when they’re good).
    I really only watch the World Cup and the Euro Cup, because it’s fun to cheer for England, drunk in an English pub…

    And yeah, as far as French weddings are concerned, I love them so much better than US weddings (but then again, I’ve been to one only… but I’ve heard about a lot), because they’re not formal, they’re about getting together and have fun… It’s supposed to be a fun day…

    For me it’s a big mystery how American people (who are very good at knowing how to have fun) can be so stuck up and formal when it comes to weddings… They even have rehearsals!!!! Is this a theater play or what?
    .-= David´s last blog ..Full Circle? =-.

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie Wagner

    @David: Oh the rehearsals!! i know!!! it’s like everything must be perfect or the entire wedding will be ruined so the bridal party needs to memorize every little step down the aisle. American weddings do seem more like plays though because of the rehearsal and the fact that the “audience” is supposed to sit there in complete silence. It’s a bit too stuffy and boring for me.

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie

    @David: Oh the rehearsals!! i know!!! it’s like everything must be perfect or the entire wedding will be ruined so the bridal party needs to memorize every little step down the aisle. American weddings do seem more like plays though because of the rehearsal and the fact that the “audience” is supposed to sit there in complete silence. It’s a bit too stuffy and boring for me.

  • http://toutesdirectionspourlafrance.blogspot.com/ L

    The wedding sounds pretty traditionnal, but the length of the church service is actually because it’s usually a Catholic mass. My Catholic friend in the states had a very long ceremony with a mini sermon, readings by friends, communion (which I also witnessed at a French wedding), and vows of course. The chairs for the couple are part of the Catholic mass, not French weddings.

    And as for the requirement to get married first in the Mairie, I found it kind of a pain since we didn’t have a Church service afterwards. If you don’t want to get married in a church or at city hall in the States, you can buy a one day license for uncle joe or Aunt Bee (at least in California) and they can marry you at the beach, in a park, at home, where ever. But since it’s first legal mumbo jumbo, and then a Mass if you want, non-religious couples with lots of family and friends end up with a pretty boring ceremony most of their guests can’t see (at least in my opinion).
    .-= L´s last blog .. =-.

  • http://toutesdirectionspourlafrance.blogspot.com L

    The wedding sounds pretty traditionnal, but the length of the church service is actually because it’s usually a Catholic mass. My Catholic friend in the states had a very long ceremony with a mini sermon, readings by friends, communion (which I also witnessed at a French wedding), and vows of course. The chairs for the couple are part of the Catholic mass, not French weddings.

    And as for the requirement to get married first in the Mairie, I found it kind of a pain since we didn’t have a Church service afterwards. If you don’t want to get married in a church or at city hall in the States, you can buy a one day license for uncle joe or Aunt Bee (at least in California) and they can marry you at the beach, in a park, at home, where ever. But since it’s first legal mumbo jumbo, and then a Mass if you want, non-religious couples with lots of family and friends end up with a pretty boring ceremony most of their guests can’t see (at least in my opinion).
    .-= L´s last blog .. =-.

  • Anna

    I think that French religious ceremonies are MUCH more stuffy and boring than American ceremonies! I was somewhat shocked at the wedding I went to last summer because the priest spoke for 15 minutes about how the couple needed to go and pro-create and raise their children in the church! I have not yet been to an American wedding that was a traditional religious service (but most of my friends and family members are non-practicing Christians/Jews/Muslims or atheists…I’m probably biased). So, I guess I agree with L.

    On the other hand, when my husband and I got married, we chose only do the civil ceremony which was incredibly short and painless. I will admit, though, that I was agonizing beforehand because we DIDN’T have a rehearsal and I had no idea what to expect! Ha. You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the America out of the girl…

  • Anna

    I think that French religious ceremonies are MUCH more stuffy and boring than American ceremonies! I was somewhat shocked at the wedding I went to last summer because the priest spoke for 15 minutes about how the couple needed to go and pro-create and raise their children in the church! I have not yet been to an American wedding that was a traditional religious service (but most of my friends and family members are non-practicing Christians/Jews/Muslims or atheists…I’m probably biased). So, I guess I agree with L.

    On the other hand, when my husband and I got married, we chose only do the civil ceremony which was incredibly short and painless. I will admit, though, that I was agonizing beforehand because we DIDN’T have a rehearsal and I had no idea what to expect! Ha. You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the America out of the girl…

  • ana

    Well I think you meant to say Americans and not North Americans. Let’s not forget that Mexico also happens to be in North America (not Central) and they lo00ooove fútbol aka soccer. They Just recently won the Gold Cup (north and south american countries cup). anyway, my comment is probably irrelevant to your whole post but i just could not resist pointing it out since i happen to be Mexican. Love the site btw.

  • ana

    Well I think you meant to say Americans and not North Americans. Let’s not forget that Mexico also happens to be in North America (not Central) and they lo00ooove fútbol aka soccer. They Just recently won the Gold Cup (north and south american countries cup). anyway, my comment is probably irrelevant to your whole post but i just could not resist pointing it out since i happen to be Mexican. Love the site btw.

  • http://groomweddingspeechtoday.com/ Lou

    Wow, thanks for sharing your experience. I have recently become more interested in the customs of people in other countries.

    This sounds so different from what we (Americans) have come to expect. While it is different from what what I am used to, I would like to experience it … once. :o)

    Lou (aka:GroomWeddingSpeechToday.com)
    .-= Lou´s last blog ..Fear Factor: How to Overcome the Wedding Speech Jitters =-.

  • http://groomweddingspeechtoday.com/ Lou

    Wow, thanks for sharing your experience. I have recently become more interested in the customs of people in other countries.

    This sounds so different from what we (Americans) have come to expect. While it is different from what what I am used to, I would like to experience it … once. :o)

    Lou (aka:GroomWeddingSpeechToday.com)
    .-= Lou´s last blog ..Fear Factor: How to Overcome the Wedding Speech Jitters =-.

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In January 2010, I started focusing more on teaching and learning languages in general. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at the university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling (though now my trips are usually in Australia) and being an American abroad.

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