Paris, Liverpool, Gretna Green, November 2002
Emily and I began scheming about a wedding in Paris
sometime in June. What
could be better, we thought, than getting married in the City of Lights. Given that Emily had been living in the city for the past 6
months, and that her French was fluent, we surmised that we would fill
out some forms, go to the “mairie” or city hall, and be done with
it. No need to mess around
with invitations, reservations, food, etc.
We were both quite excited at the prospect and began the
preparations in earnest. It
should be noted that during this time Emily was living in Paris and
attending the Cordon Bleu Culinary School while I was back in San
After a trip to the mairie Emily came home armed
with all of the required literature.
We would each need the following for our civil ceremony:
A valid U.S. passport or a French resident permit.
A birth certificate (less than three months old).
A certificate of celibacy (less than three months old) which can be done
before an American Consular Officer in France. [Celibat]
An affidavit of Law (cotume). It is a statement (must be done by an
attorney licensed to practice in both France and United States) about
U.S. marriage laws, certifying that the American citizen is free to
contract marriage in France and will be recognized in the United
A medical certificate (less than three months old).
Proof of domicile (electricity bill, etc.).
Certificat du notaire (if the parties to the marriage opt for a
One of the parties to be married has to have resided in the city of the
marriage for at least 40 days preceding the ceremony.
certainly had our work cut out for us but the list was manageable. Items #1 and #2 were straightforward and #3 required only
filling out a form that Emily got from the mairie.
#4 and #5 gave me some problems as I had to find a lawyer and a
doctor in San Francisco who could practice in both countries but the
local French embassy gave me a list and after parting with $150 for the
lawyer I had my forms. These
steps were much easier for Emily since she was already in France.
Having been living in Paris for 6 months, Emily was able to
produce an electricity bill so #6 was taken care of and we didn’t want
a prenuptial so #7 was not required.
That left #8, which Emily easily satisfied, hooray!
overnighting the documents, Emily arrived at the mairie to set the date,
and here is where the French bureaucracy just killed us.
You see, my birth certificate has the name of my birth father but
my passport has the name of my mom’s husband.
The women at the mairie could not comprehend this and Emily left
in tears. What to do?
We decided to get my mom’s marriage certificate, as this would
show the transition from the old name to the new name.
So I did, and once again sent it overnight to Paris and once
again Emily went back to the mairie…
the same results! Once
again the damn French bureaucrats made no attempt to accommodate Emily. When presented with the marriage certificate they did
nothing. After much
pleading she again left in tears. At
this point we had invested hundreds of dollars and about that many hours
as well and we were no further than when we started.
It looked hopeless so we began to look into alternatives. Maybe a cruise ship captain could perform the ceremony, or
another country, or…
looked into everything, and got nowhere.
And then, at our darkest hour, Emily happened to be telling her
co-workers about her trials (at this point Emily had graduated and was
working at La Cantine de Gourmets).
One of them was from the UK and asked why we hadn’t considered
Scotland. It turns out that
the land of haggis has very loose wedding requirements, indeed, it is
known as the Las Vegas of Europe. After all that we had been through we were skeptical, but
looked into it.
it worked! And it was easy!
And we got married just north of the English border in Gretna
Green on the 11 of November in 2002. The paperwork was a snap, I think we just filled out 1 form
each and faxed it in, along with a nominal fee.
Now getting to Gretna Green was another story.
began with a flight from SFO to CDG for me.
Then I spent a few days in Paris with Emily, during this time we
bought a suit for me to get married in and had it altered the night
before we flew on Easy Jet (a European equivalent to Southwest) from CDG
to Liverpool. At the
airport we met Peter Lloyd at the information desk; he gave us hotel
recommendations. (On the way back we also saw him but at first he didn’t
recognize us. However, once
we jarred his memory of 2 days prior he was happy to see us and let us
each choose anything out of the store we wanted; both of us selected
Liverpool shirts.) We spent
that day and night in the home of John Lennon and early the next morning
hit the road north in a rented Fiat Punto.
was quite a drive, and the steering wheel was on the wrong side, along
with the drivers, but we made it without incident, at least without
accidents, to Comlongon Castle in Clarencefield,
15 miles west of Gretna and 136 miles north of Liverpool.
Our bridal suite at castle was fabulous, as you can see from the
pictures below. That night
we ate at the only pub in Clarencefield, drank draught and cider, and
shot some pool. Before
retiring for the night we had chocolates and champagne (included with
the room) in the giant whirlpool tub.
A proper English breakfast, complete with haggis, was served to
us the following morning then we packed up and drove back to Gretna and
got married. But it would
not be so easy…
needed witnesses and didn’t have any so Emily had to go drag a mother
and daughter off of the street. People
there are used to this, but it was still an awkward situation.
After the wedding we changed and went into the Gretna Bakery to
get some snacks for the drive back to Liverpool. Emily selected some
delicious meat pies but we regretfully didn’t try a deep fried
“Mars” candy bar. We
munched our way back to Liverpool, taking some scenic detours, caught a
plane back to Paris and ended up back at Emily’s apartment before
midnight. Of course we had
to get up at 6 AM so that I could catch my flight back to San Francisco
the following day.
major expenses of the wedding are given below although I don't know why
anyone would care. Actually, given the amount of travel it was
pretty cheap, especially the cost per mile.