April in Paris--A Wedding Story
by Lloyd Hauskins
It was an open secret. My wife and I were married some forty years ago in what cannot be disguised as anything but a “hippie wedding.” That was back in seventy - nineteen that is. Over these many years we have lived in most ways as a “normal” married couple - shared the family name, filed joint tax returns, raised a beautiful daughter who gave birth to five beautiful grandchildren. But. We never did get the gov’mint license! In our eyes, we were always married in the eyes of God.
Well...so far that’s worked pretty well for us. But lately we’ve started losing too many of our good friends as we age, and it’s been pointed out to us that in the event one of us should pass, Social Security may not necessarily recognize the eyes of God in determining survivor’s benefits.
So - at sixty-two years of age - I gotta’ get married? Shotgun! Fortunately we’re still relatively fit and despite forty years of life together, amazingly, we still love each other.
Our first marriage, however hippie, was extraordinary. The wedding took place on a lofty prominence of green serpentine overlooking a valley way back in the Trinity Alps of northern California. We were poor as church-mice. We had no rings or fancy clothes or limousines. When we awoke that morning she and I went separate ways into the forest. She made for me a wreath of leaves - I, for her, a wreath of wildflowers. Our (quite hairy) entourage assembled on the rocky summit. We mounted the rise - her in a gown stitched from a lacy tablecloth - me, bare-chested in white jeans (couldn’t pull that off today).
We wrapped a hefty rope around the wedding party in a figure eight - infinity - with all the men on one side, all the women on the other - the two of us at the hub. A good friend read some Kahlil Gibran. Another friend, a Universal Life minister, blessed us and we exchanged our wreathes.
Oh! April in Paris! So... the point is. We’d thought about an official marriage for a long time but the options just seemed so pedestrian - Vegas, Reno - an Elvis impersonator or a county bureaucrat. Hmmm. Just no comparison. What the hell could ever match that original magic?
And then our oldest granddaughter became an exchange student in the beautiful town of Pecs, Hungary - renowned for art and wine. Suddenly, we had an excuse (imperative) to go to Europe for a visit. Then the thought occurred to me. We’re already so close. What could be more romantic than a wedding in Paris? We’re talking simple here - a reflection of our first wedding...but a reflection in the Seine!
Uh-oh! To actually get a marriage license in France, I found out, requires three months residency. If only that were an option.
Cutting to the Chaise: We got formally hitched by an (extraordinarily beautiful and sweet) agent of the court in the US. So much for Caesar. But that has never been the important part of our lives. We made arrangements for a ceremony to solemnize (and celebrate) our lives together - in PARIS!
Researching the web for someone who could help us realize our dream, we strayed upon some recommendations for Paris Walking Tours. We found Dan Freeman and Steve Evans; two Americans who have lived in Paris for over a decade and share their love and knowledge of the “City of Light” through casual and intimate tours. We liked
some of the garden photos on their site and thought they could advise us about possible locations and logistics. They seemed enthused and amused by the prospect and we left it in their hands.
We had a wonderful visit with our granddaughter in Hungary. In her 10 months as an exchange student, she’d learned to speak fluent Magyar - no mean accomplishment. Hungarian is quite unique and often compared to Chinese in its difficulty to learn. I learned a few requisite words. The word for beer is, “Sór”, pronounced, “Shure!” So that was easy.
There is a wall in the town of Pecs, fronted by a steel fence, which is covered with thousands of padlocks - padlocks hitched upon padlocks upon padlocks. It must literally weigh tons. People making pledges of love or a determination to achieve a goal will purchase a padlock and seal it on the wall. We bought a little lock. I scratched our X + Y into the surface with my Swiss army knife and together we joined it to the thousands on the wall.
We arrived at our hotel in Paris - L’Hotel St. Jacques, which I can recommend. Paris Walking Tours had left a map, a card and a note in our box. We’d discussed some possible locations over email but it was still up in the air. They had arranged for the wreaths of flowers and leaves and had found a likable, if irascible, former monk and Universal Life minister to informally officiate. I had brought a light rope to wrap around the two of us (the minister joked - “is this a wedding or a hanging?”). I told him the story about the padlock wall in Pecs and that I’d kept the keys of the lock to use in the ceremony.
What followed was three fantastic days of touring Paris with our guides from Paris Walking Tours, Dan or Steve, checking out the most beautiful sites in the most beautiful city in the world to stage the wedding - gardens, monuments, museums. They are both extremely knowledgeable about Paris - history, art and culture and food. We finally arrived at a decision - a charming little foot-bridge across the Seine, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Our small party gathered at the apex of the bridge in the late afternoon - Dan, Steve, Sylvie - a Parisian friend/flower girl, Brother Rasputin - the affable but surly monk, and of course, my bride and I.
Under the eyes of God, the gaze of the tower, the Seine flowing beneath our feet, a rope around us in an infinite loop, we exchanged our wreaths and spoke impromptu words of love. The one thing I clearly remember saying is that in our forty years there had been a lot of water under the bridge (groan). We teared-up a little, kissed and then held the keys to the Hungarian padlock together in our fingers - and dropped them into the swirling waters of the Seine.
Sylvie then treated the wedding party to Champagne at a nearby sidewalk cafe, and later that evening, we treated them all to a feast at a fine Brasserie.
This was the fullest realization of a fantasy and far beyond our dreams and expectations. We could never have done it without the wonderful guidance, patience and ultimately friendship of Dan and Steve of Paris Walking Tours. Their rates are very reasonable and I highly recommend their services to anyone who wants an intimate, illuminating, and fun experience in Paris.