Part 5. Marry The Duvagne
Benoit and Matthieu have been planning their wedding with a whirlwind of activities for over a year.
And while I've missed the pretend-but-kinda-real super fun and wacky union in a Las Vegas chapel by an Elvis impersonator...
... the elegant civil wedding in Paris followed by delish food and urban fun...
... I was not about to miss out on the exclusive nuptials in Provence - even if it meant traveling 6,000 miles.
The grooms wanted chic, so we gave them chic.
They had warned us that their venue might self destruct at the mere sight of a wife beater or anything less noble than silk. The warning was not to be taken lightly. The family had searched high and low for the perfect pieces and assembled some very fetching outfits if I may say so myself.
I dress classically French every day of my American life. But for this joyful occasion, I stayed true to my lifelong pursuit of divergence (“Cécile can’t do anything like anyone else”, Maman would say) and donned a full-on Hollywood glam gold lamé dress.
It's a hot day. As hot as it can get. The heat wave roasting France for several days still has not surmised, not even a little bit. I'm driving with my face plastered on the AC to prevent it from melting and running down the front of my dress. I can see the contours of the venue and its cypresses in the far distance. Let the party begin.
Domaine des Andéols is everything the grooms had promised and more: as far as the eyes can see, fields of lavender stretched between orchards gorged with fruit so ripe even my eyes are watering. Buildings boasting a geometric architecture and, tucked in corners, suites with skinny swimming pools like exclamation points. Lounges and lounge chairs for the faint of heart. A vast estate built from the top to the bottom of a hill, allowing for the fun to roll down slope and finish its race at the roots of a centenary sycamore we soon baptized the Avatar tree.
We would later eat all the eats, drink all the drinks, and be showered in Champagne by a drag queen under that same tree, but that’s a story for another time.
For now, I’m taking in the neat rows of manicured guests; most Europeans, some traveled from very far, as far as Tahiti; many working in the fashion or luxury industries; all the shades of sexual orientation under the sun.
The fashion at this wedding is, to say the least, "fashion-y".
Dresses range from flowery, romantic patterns to bold block colors, my personal favorite. Varying shades of blues, bright oranges and reds, white (yes, we were allowed since the grooms wore tuxedos), neutrals always, and black of course.
For the French, black is the color of absolute elegance and does not necessarily embody sadness or grief. We’ve had very happy times involving black from head to toe (and wine. lots of wine). Weddings are great opportunities to fashion your latest LBD (Little Black Dress) or a truly amazing, daring, (nothing little about it) black dress, the one you’ve always dreamed of turning up in slo-mo style.
I notice that jewelry is of the “one bold piece is all I need” kind, and outfits are punctuated by simple clutches. Makeup is kept minimal, with a lot of lip.
Men are proving that their side of fashion need not be boring. I spy: perfectly tailored suits, straw boaters, and funky bow ties galore.
As you may have gathered, this is a gay wedding.
“Le mariage pour tous”, marriage for all, FINALLY became legal in France in 2013, and it was not a minute too soon. But it didn't go easy. And passing this law, which simply recognizes that uniting in love is a basic and unconditional human right, triggered violent reactions in the French society.
A beloved French philosopher, Jean D’Ormesson, once said:
There you have it. On the one side, culture and heritage we pride ourselves in and desperately hold onto. On the other side, a history and education in rebelling and blowing things up. And in the middle, a torn society facing something “revolutionary" instead of leading it. A France on fire became the more traditionalist of the European bunch when looking to legalize gay marriage.
Centuries of love professed to the objects of desire; screamed from the mountain tops; carved into wood, stone, flesh; driving wild minds wilder; raising souls in ecstasy or drowning them into pits of despair.
Centuries of poems, myths, entire books, ballads, anthems dedicated to the art of love produced by a country that would eventually end up blazing in protests against it. A contradiction, absolutely.
Thankfully, only love is ablaze that Saturday in Provence, when Benoit and Matthieu are joined in holy matrimony.
We Uuuuh and Aaaah and Ooooh, and even wipe a baby tear from the corner of our eye (I’m not crying, you’re crying). We shower them with good wishes for a beautiful life together.
The ceremony now over, all bets are off. Parched beyond belief, the clan agrees the very first thing to do is to procure water, urgently. Instead, we throw ourselves in abandon at the first Champagne flute and foie gras toast that meet our path. Well, at least we tried, even for a second.
Time goes by but the Avatar tree sits still. There should have been shooting stars honoring this night, and I’m sure there were. But I was too busy to notice. Too busy dancing barefoot until four in the morning, watching a guy with an enormous (real) diamond earring vogue like the nineties are back (PS: they are), drinking the equivalent of a lobotomy in Champagne and probably costing my cousins a pretty penny in bubbles (sorry boys!).
I can bet everyone in attendance fell asleep smiling that night. I know I did, with the grooms’ smiles tattooed on my brain and laughter echoing in my head. It was a gay wedding, a very gay wedding indeed.
Congratulations, we love you.
Photos: Cécile Charlot, Pierre Atelier @pierreatelier