wine me, dine me, marry me (in Paris)

Hello, friends!  Radio silence for the past week, I know– we’ve been on vacation, first in London and then in Paris.  And today is a pretty special day (and, since it’s my blog, I can write about it): our anniversary.

Yes, The Better Half and I have managed to make it a whole year.  As we walked around Paris today, we recalled that last year was a day much like this one: sunny in the morning, then grey and dreary the rest of the day.  However, for a photographer, a little grey is perfect– the light is diffuse, and makes for excellent photos.  But let’s step back a minute.  How does one, exactly, elope to Paris?

It’s actually pretty simple.

Two years ago, we discussed getting married in Paris.  We’ve both been married before, we didn’t want anything big, and why not get married in our favorite city in the world (sorry, Cincinnati, but you’re a close second).  We decided not to tell anyone (well, except my mom) and spring it on everyone as a surprise: yes, we were eloping.  I started to do a little research.

You can’t get legally married in many parts of Europe as a United States citizen without some sort of residency requirement.  If you want to get hitched in Spain, you can do so any time if you’re Catholic, but you have to reside there for two years if not.  France? 40 days’ residency and more bureaucracy than you can shake a stick at.  Greece, Italy, and Scotland are all easy places to get married.  Or, you can get married in the U.S. and have it solemnized in Europe.  That’s the easy peasy way, and the way we chose to do it (as much as I wanted to be in France for 40 days before we got married).  We had a simple ceremony (and by ceremony I mean “someone signed the papers”) at the Cincinnatian, followed by dinner with my mother.  If you want to keep something a secret (I didn’t want to run into anyone and have to explain anything, as we hadn’t told anyone), the Cincinnatian is the place to do it.  We were placed in one of the back, private dining rooms (which only really seat four– it’s more like an alcove) and they did an excellent job, both with being discreet and with our meal during the busy holiday season.

The key, in my mind, to a wedding in Europe is finding someone else to do the work for you.  That’s where Fete in France and Nancy LaTart come in.  I scoured the web for suggestions on wedding planners in France, particularly ones that specialized in weddings for American tourists or expats.  Nancy, who’s from Chicago, was absolutely perfect!  She helped me find a hairdresser (who, unfortunately, moved to Australia so she can’t be of help to possible Parisian brides-to-be), had a beautiful bouquet made that matched my dress, and coordinated with the photographer, Isabelle Nery, who along with her boyfriend, took us around Paris in her Peugeot to take some gorgeous pictures.  The whole day went off without a hitch.  I would never, ever do a destination wedding without a wedding planner.  It is worth the expense, I assure you. The only things I had to worry about were things like clothing (a dress I bought off the rack at Bloomingdale’s, a vintage fur and custom veil, both from Etsy vendors and shoes for me; and a tuxedo, which The Better Half already owned) and wedding rings (James Wolf is fabulous, for the record).  Though traveling with a gown and a tux is something of a pain, if that was the only thing we had to worry about, I call that a job well done.

The photo tour of Paris was fantastic– we were on our fourth trip, and we ended up in places where we’d never been before: the Grand Palais, Vendome, a couple of bridges, and had the best time.  I don’t think either of us have ever had our picture taken so many times– we had our photographer, sure, but everywhere we turned, tourists thought we were just the best thing ever, and snapped our pictures as well, yelling “Bonne Chance!” and “Congratulations” (at one point, we had a whole group of people at a corner taking pictures. Crazy.).  Though I wasn’t wearing white, it was hard to mistake us for anything other than a bride and groom.  In fact, our very favorite picture of the wedding is from an area between two bridges on the Seine, where probably two dozen people were taking pictures, waving and shouting, which caused us to look up and smile.  Very memorable– and we ended up in a few random people’s vacation pictures, too.

Seriously. The dining room. Isn't that amazing?

For our vows and our celebratory dinner, we went to 1728, which is off the Champs Elysee.  It, at one point, was the home of the Marquise de Lafayette in Paris, and it’s a gorgeous building that simply oozes history.  It also happens to be the home of a fairly good restaurant in Paris, headed up by a female chef with a very good command of French ingredients and Asian technique (if she’s good enough for Alain Ducasse, she’s good enough for me).  It was a beautiful setting and beautiful food (including a play on hot-cold steak).  The menu changes often, so telling you what Ihad won’t help you very much, but check it out for a special occasion if you find yourself across the pond.

So one happy year down, many (I hope!) to go.