Before this weekend I hadn’t attended a wedding since I was the groom of my own in 2017. Though mine was an amazing occasion I’ll celebrate forever, it’s way more fun to be a guest at one than to host.
I went to Bretagne, a small region west of Paris to celebrate the union of my cousin Isabelle to hometown boy Pierre Le Leannec and his welcoming family. In my experience as a wedding co-star two years ago, I found myself whizzing through the hectic big day. Months of planning finally meets the moment of execution. My wife and I were anxious for several reasons—both grand and trivial. For starters, it was our damn wedding! We were promising and devoting our lives to each other in front of family, close friends, and… God!
Then there was the silly stuff like:
- Would the food we choose be delivered as planned during the reception? It wasn’t. Our catering service plated the trout we didn’t choose and tried to pass it off as the sea bass we did.
- Would the ceremony—which we rehearsed for to avoid mistakes—go off without a hitch? Well, mostly. I practiced lighting candles with a classic cigarette lighter, but somehow a long lighter (which I had never used in life at all prior) replaced it at showtime and I clumsily fumbled with it in front of our guests until giving it to someone else to light. Not cool.
It was an awesome day, but the well-earned hype of its meaning and the pressure we put on the production of the night resulted in us in searching for perfection rather than fully being in the moment.
Do you know what I was concerned about the day before my flight to attend Izzy and P’s wedding?
- How good I’d look in my Ralph Lauren suit, Yves Saint Laurent shirt, and Bally shoes and making sure I packed my pocket-sized Aquaphor for my ankles because I’d be rocking no-show socks.
- How much wine I’d enjoy through the trip.
- The fun I’d have with my family at the lux Airbnb my sister found.
See the difference? When my brother Joseph and I sat back in our balcony seats for the wedding, I got to do something I wish I could have done more of on my wedding day: simply enjoy myself and be present. I didn’t have everyone in attendance asking for pictures. No marriage vets interrupted me to provide How To Husband wisdom. I didn’t… As I write this, I know that these words can come off as ungrateful.
To be clear, receiving love and congrats on your wedding day is a good thing! But if you’ve been a bride or a groom, you know that it also eats away at the time you could be spending marveling at your new spouse and getting drunk. That’s fun, too!
At the ceremony in Bretagne, I just sat in appreciation. Isabelle and Pierre looked incredible. Izzy the American recited her memorized vows in French. The Frenchman returned the sentiments in English.
Joe and I took turns flexing our camera skills. When I wasn’t snapping, I often thought about and felt the energy in the room. The joy. The love.
I noticed everything. There is Auntie Carol and Uncle Zachee (Isabelle’s parents). It must feel wonderful to give your daughter off to such a great partner. There’s my eldest Uncle on my mother’s side, Isaac, here to bring some Cameroonian proverbs to the table. Oh, it’s my dad in… Are those alligator wingtips?.. Yes! Yes, they are!
At the reception, the conversation was light, worries nonexistent, and the vino consumption gratuitous. Oiu, monsieur! I’ll take another glass. Merci!
Aside from spending half a Wham! verse dancing with Isabelle and Pierre, I spent most of my time watching them and the entire hall be happy and celebrate.
They sang and performed David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” There was a video short that featured family members sharing memories of the newlyweds. Pierre’s best buddy’s speech was the ideal balance of embarrassing close-friend jabs and heartwarming recollections, noting that the San Francisco couple had corniness in common and that Pierre has looked like his shaggy self since he was a kid.
I’m typing this from my Sky Priority Air France seat (leg room!) nine hours deep into a 10-hour flight back to Los Angeles. I’m jet-lagged in a disorienting way (the France/LA time difference is a whopping nine hours and this was only a four-day trip) and in bad need of kisses from my wife and daughter, who couldn’t make this run with me. But my spirit is also full.
Pierre and Isabelle’s gift registry begins with a note about how all those who attend their destination wedding have already given an incredible gift to them with their presence. Interestingly enough, after witnessing their nuptials, I’m coming back home feeling like I scored some treats, too. Congratulations, Pierre and Isabelle! And thank you, Pierre and Isabelle!