It isn’t until the priest begins to speak that I remember I am in France.
The ladies look like they are dressed for Ascot. The first reading is the one that begins: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love” which we have all heard a million times, the hymn ‘I vow to thee my country’. It is all so comfortingly familiar. And then the priest speaks: “I am so ‘appy to welcome you.”
I am at my first English wedding in France. My friends Peter and Natalie are about to be married by Inspector Clouseau.
Oddly enough, they are already married. Priests or vicars do not have the right to marry you in France. The only person that can marry you here is a mayor. This is all part of the French laïcité, the separation of church and state, which dates back to the revolution and is why girls were banned from wearing veils to school last year.
Still, it is a beautiful service, which my husband sadly misses on account of the fact that it is the FA cup final. Yet another great British tradition upheld in France, getting married on cup final day.
We are all dressed up, the women in strappy dresses, some of the men in morning coats. I don’t know what the villagers make of it all as we leave the church. I am told by one of them that for a little village wedding like this the guests will normally wear jeans. Maybe they think we have taken a wrong turn on our way to St Tropez.
We go from the service to the grounds of the château where Peter and Natalie live. Some Spanish musicians are playing Gypsy Kings-style music. At last something foreign. The guests jig about in an effort to keep warm; one of them even goes back to her hotel to get her coat. So the weather is English too.
During the excellent speeches I get a text message from my husband: “Slight delay. Extra time.”
I ask one of the waiters if there is a big difference between English and French weddings. This is his first English wedding, he tells me. But he has noticed that all anyone wants to drink is champagne.
“What do they drink at a French wedding?”
“Pastis of course.”
A few days before I had met France’s ‘It’ girl, Hermine de Clermont-Tonnerre, and asked her what she thought differentiated the English and French at weddings. “Alcohol,” she told me. “You English drink much more. The first guy to dive into the swimming pool fully clothed and drunk is always the English guy.”
During dinner we are treated to entertainment from an Algerian belly dancer (not enough belly on her is the verdict from the amusing Ozzie sitting next to me, who could certainly have lent her some).
Then the disco begins. The air is filled with the Rolling Stones songs and the obligatory Mick Jagger impersonations start. I see the French look on in bemusement and wonder how many drunken Englishmen they will be fishing out of the pool before the evening is over. At least this time it won’t be my husband. As an avid Chelsea fan he is too busy complaining about Arsenal’s stolen victory to drink too much.