The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

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The beginnings of a multicultural marriage

Once upon a time a young British/Australian girl met a handsome Frog in a far away land. After a whirlwind romance they decided to get married and this is where the fun started. They lived in Hanoi, Vietnam, her parents lived in Barbados, her siblings in England, one grandparent in Australia, the others in UK. His family lived in France.

couple walking

The first big question was where on earth (literally) should they get married? They considered a Vietnamese wedding. Though they realised probably not enough family members would make it. They considered a wedding on the beautiful Caribbean island of Barbados. They realised probably not enough family members would make it (though unsurprisingly the number of friends who thought it was a good idea was high!) She realised she didn't have a home town – didn't "come" from anywhere, there was no one place that warranted dragging friends and family to from around the world. He came from Nancy, France. His friends and family were all in and around Nancy. It made sense; a location was found and she realised what it was to "come from" a particular place....

It was an epiphany moment. The moment she realised she was a little different to most people. Until then it had never occurred to her that her itinerant upbringing living in 9 different countries wasn't quite "normal". That most people "belonged" to somewhere in particular, had roots in a certain place. It turned out she was a TCK. A phrase back then that had hardly been coined but is now a recognised phenomenom.

Barbados option

So the location was chosen, but just imagine this if you will....imagine trying to organise a wedding in France (a country not known for the simplicity of its administration), from Vietnam, back in the days before email and the Internet (gasp!), the days when direct phone lines between Vietnam and Barbados didn't exist. Remember the fax? Thank goodness for the fax machine!

The next BIG question was to church or not to church ? She was an Atheist, he was brought up a Catholic though no longer practised. Their gut feeling was not to church (cue garden wedding in Barbados....) but they were young and wanted to please, she didn't want to alienate her in-laws from the day-go and there was pressure to do "the right thing" from one side of the family. So bizarrely church it was then. She was the first person in her family in at least 3 generations to marry in a church. But that's what love can do. (Nearly 20 years later she can't imagine how this state of affairs came about, but it did, and that was then...) His uncle was the priest and was amazingly understanding of her profoundly different beliefs and agreed that they didn't have to do the Catholic preparation stuff and even agreed to leave out God as much as was possible within the context of a Catholic marriage service!

Hanoi option for wedding

So the organisation continued and Language reared its head. Which language would the invitations be in? How could the non-French speakers at the service understand what was going on? Could some of the actual marriage service be in English without making it drag on too long translating everything? (She had a horror of long church weddings having once been to a double marriage (2 Icelandic sisters marrying, one an Icelander, the other an American) where everything was translated from Icelandic into English...and repeated twice!) It was agreed that there would be some secular readings in English and the service would be translated on paper in both languages. And the invitations were sent out in French in classic French tradition (invitation from the parents and grandparents) to the French family's guests and in English to the English side. Both sets of parents organised their own invitations.

Nancy option

Perhaps the biggest complication for the British girl (at this stage she didn't bring in the Aussie nationality as that really would have thrown a spanner in the works) was that in the huge dossier of paperwork needed to marry a Frenchman she had to have a "Certificat de Coutume". Now remember this was back in the dark ages before Google, so no one in Hanoi had a clue what this certificate was nor how to get one, or where to go to find out what it was. Once it was established that it was a formal document proving she wasn't already married (note the Frog didn't have to have this ridiculous piece of paper) getting hold of such a thing proved near impossible. The British Embassy didn't acknowledge its existence – if you'd never been married and either divorced or widowed, you didn't have any form of paperwork declaring your marital status to the world. It was kind of like trying to imagine a new colour that didn't exist – impossible! Finally in desperation strings were pulled in high up places (how lucky the couple were that certain members of the family had powerful jobs in useful places) and the absurd certificate was produced at the last minute. Welcome to the horrors of French bureaucracy! This was the beginning of a whole new world to discover for the young girl in love....

jeph

More and more cultural differences threw themselves at the couple, but these will have to wait for another tale. You do know who I'm talking about don't you ? Of course, this is my story; how I discovered I was a TCK and the beginning of my journey into a multicultural marriage with my lovely Frog.

 

Please excuse the quality of the photos, they were all taken in prehistoric days before digital!  In the Barbados photo you can see the house and garden where we could have married.  In Hanoi our own house on West Lake (Tay Ho) features with its lake view roof terrace and pretty flowers.  In the main photo of Nancy the view is from the dining room where we held our reception overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage, and stunningly beautiful, Place Stanislas.  You can see reflections of the ornate interior. It wasn't a hardship to marry in such an amazing place.

 
 
 
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Comments

  • Guest
    Ada Wednesday, 18 February 2015

    Hi, I am Ada and I co-hosted #allaboutyou this week. First of all thanks so much for linking up. =)

    This was a great story too, Phoebe. Thanks for sharing it with us. I now welcome you to my blog.

  • Guest
    Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork Tuesday, 17 February 2015

    I love this story Phoebe, it brought back so many memories of my own wedding and marriage! I (a Belgian raised abroad) married a Brazilian-Brit, while living in Italy, and with our friends and family spread out all over the globe. We ended up with three separate occasions in three different countries across two continents. And oh the fun and games with the authorities! To this day neither the Brazilian nor the British authorities formally recognise our marriage because I just CANNOT be bothered to go through all the hoops they're certain to put in front of us. You have to laugh at the absurdity of it all though (and hope you never get divorced, not least because because you've gone through all that effort to get married in the first place ;-))

  • Guest
    kara Sunday, 15 February 2015

    you forget how difficult things were before the internet but what a choice to have to make. You have lived in some very beautiful places

  • Guest
    Cass Friday, 13 February 2015

    What a lovely story - thanks for sharing xx

  • Guest
    jf Friday, 13 February 2015

    Great story and I'm proud to be part of it!

  • Guest
    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault Friday, 13 February 2015

    I love a good fairy story and it's even better when it's a real one! Sans Internet? How did we manage?! We did though, even if our children may not believe us.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Fairy Tale? It's funny thinking of it like that! My son actually commented, without any pressure/influence from me, I think because he was soooo impressed that anything at all could happen without the internet!

  • Guest
    Rosie @Eco-Gites Of Lenault Sunday, 15 February 2015

    Mine can't believe we only had 3 tv channels, no remote controls, no mobiles etc and yet we survived these Dark Ages! Mind you at times I winder how we did manage!

  • Phoebe
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Hi Phoebe! What a great story, mixing cultures always makes for such an interesting wedding doesn't it? My husband is German/ South African and I'm Costa Rican/American and we lived on the same continent for 9 days before we got married! So ours was going to be crazy (as if that wasn't crazy enough!) or simple, we went with super simple, a simle ceremony and dinner for 14 :) looking forward to part two of your story!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    That's such a great cultural mix Adriana. 9 days only! That's not long! I really have to write Part 2 now don't I? Too many people expecting it!

  • Guest
    Merlinda Friday, 13 February 2015

    Lovely story of 2 person in love =)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    thanks Merlinda :)

  • Phoebe
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    This is a wonderful story of love and beaurocracy - I can almost imagine it as a film, romantic comedy perhaps! Of course love wins out over beaurocracy, but it was lucky you had relatives in high places and the priest uncle to help you. I'm joining you from #MyExpatFamily

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Ha ha Ruth, the idea of a rom com about my life makes me laugh! Thanks for your sweet words.

  • Guest
    Ersatz Expat Friday, 13 February 2015

    What a wonderful story. Bureaucracy is a nightmare but....love conquers all.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    It's amazing really. I'm not sure I could be bothered with all those hurdles again; I'd just live with my man, and not bother about the paperwork!!

  • Guest
    Richard Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Catherine's right - it was freeeezing that day in Nancy. She's also right about how hot it was in Ghana, though she didn't mention the mass rally going on next to the shack we were getting married in, let alone the fact that one of us wasn't in theory allowed into the country. Friends in high (Ghanaian) places helped on that occasion too! Wedding complications must run in the family. Maybe they'll skip a third generation?

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    I think your wedding probably rates higher than mine in the "most bizarre stories to tell" stakes. Being a PNG in the country of your wedding is pretty unique! Let's hope that if my boys marry one day, it's nice and easy for them.

  • Guest
    Queen Boudica Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Wow. Beautiful story, we struggled enough organising our wedding in the village in which we lived. Which neither of us were from but we just happened to be living there at the time.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    As I said to another commenter, I think most weddings, if not all, are pretty stressful to organise.

  • Guest
    mellissa williams Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Love always finds a way - I am glad you are happy and still together :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Thanks Mellissa.

  • Guest
    Fliss Thursday, 12 February 2015

    A marvellous story - I will always associate you both with Barbados though xx

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Without Barbados we'd have never met you Fliss! It's one of the best things that came out of our time there :)

  • Guest
    Jen Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Oh I adore this and would love to know more about you. You have certainly lived in some places. It must be interesting in your house!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    There are a few places to find out more about me Jen. Check out the "About Me" post and plenty of other links are there. Thanks for your kind words. I think it's just normal in my house, but perhaps tht's just my warped view of the world!

  • Guest
    Damien Thursday, 12 February 2015

    I reckon you did one thing wrong... showing your British passport to the French administration. You overlooked the French/English history. Things would have been so much smoother with your Aussie passport. We like Aussies. Well, after the Rainbow Warrior, it was maybe not reciprocal ! :p

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    It was also just at the time Chirac was nuclear testing in the South Pacific and Aussies weren't too happy about that either Damien! I still have a t-shirt that says "say no to Chirac " that I wear for bricolage somewhere!!! Great to see you here Damien, thanks for commenting.

  • Guest
    hannah staveley Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Find this very interesting and at a time I get married this May.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Good luck organising your wedding Hannah :-)

  • Guest
    Rosemary Kneipp Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Oh Phoebe, that was certainly complicated! I, too, needed a "certificat de coutume" but I was living in Paris and had no trouble getting it from the Australian Embassy. I can remember some paper the préfecture was supposed to give me that was finally produced the day before the wedding. By the time my second wedding came round, I had French citizenship so it was a whole lot easier!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    I'm relieved to hear the Aussie Embassy in Paris knew what the Certif de Coutume was! I guess they had more takers. I wonder if it's still necessary?

  • Guest
    liska Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Reading this has put tears in my eyes. The photos punctuate like BOOM in all of the right places. What beautiful pics they are too. The hurdles and bureaucracy you overcame wow! I take it this was many years ago and that you are still together. LOVE that you call him your frog. You turned him into a Prince right? :-) xxx

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    "Many years ago" makes me feel ancient, but yes, it was a pretty long time ago, we've just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary and yes we're still together! Of course he's my Prince ;)

  • Guest
    Oscar V Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Pretty cool story about my lovely parents, even if I don't really get how life could have worked without internet, email and all the technology :p

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    WOW! The FIRST EVER COMMENT from my son N°1!!! So happy to see you here Oscar! I know your generation can't imagine life without the internet; it's probably as alien as the dinosaurs. (Although they proabably seem real thanks to Hollywood!!)

  • Guest
    Catherine Thursday, 12 February 2015

    We were there. It was a lovely wedding, freezing cold. Unlike our wedding 49 years ago today in Ghana. It was hot.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Yes it certainly was cold! Happy wedding anniversary Catherine :)

  • Guest
    Clare Nicholas Thursday, 12 February 2015

    What a truly beautiful story, but yikes I thought planning my wedding was hard enough.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Thank you Clare

  • Guest
    Bryndís Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Still regret not attending this wedding ;) xxx Bryndís

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    I know...I know...but you were young and broke and Nancy was far from Reykjavik especially just after Christmas and in the days before budget airlines!!

  • Guest
    Sara (@mumturnedmom) Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Absolutely loved reading this Phoebe, what an amazing story. I cannot imagine trying to do all that without the internet :) I'm very glad that our expat journey hasn't involved anything so complicated, although some things have certainly been easier than others (proving our kids existed for US tax for example...!!).

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Now that sounds like a headache...anything to do with tax usually is!

  • Guest
    Jaime Oliver Thursday, 12 February 2015

    What a beautiful story your beginning is! .. i love the photos (even though they are not digital) they tell a lovely tale of young love, hope and promise .. beautiful x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Thanks Jaime!

  • Guest
    Clara Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Great photos Phoebe! I think we were lucky. Both British, living in Jamaica, no burning wish for a big wedding so we kept it small and simple (us, two friends, at our favourite beach resort).

    And as for the TCK stuff, it amazes me how much more is understood about us these days....

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    That is one minimal wedding Clara!! It's good to be acknowledged isn't it? TCKs rule!!!

  • Guest
    Mina Joshi Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Looking forward to the next part. You are so lucky to have stayed in some wonderful parts of the World.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    I know I'm lucky Mina. I'll have to make sure I write the second part soon.

  • Guest
    Meghan Thursday, 12 February 2015

    That's a wonderful story! Love the photos and I laughed at 'the dark ages' the time before Google and digital. So glad I'm not the only one! Thank you for sharing :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    You're from the dark ages too? Great!!! ;)

  • Guest
    Amanda @Expat Life with a Double Buggy Thursday, 12 February 2015

    What a lovely story - and some of it very recognisable, though we only dealt with a location choice of the Netherlands or England so not quite as a) exotic or b) complicated ;). I also had to organise a certificate of non-marriage from the British Embassy which was a bit of a palava. Having to prove you are not married in order to marry....... pffffffff

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    It's almost a Kafkaesque sitiation, isn't it? Trying to prove something where there's no proof, it just IS. Funny to hear another European country insists on such silliness.

  • Guest
    My Family Ties Thursday, 12 February 2015

    What a lovely post, and so nice to hear of your story with your husband. It must have been so hard to organise (and stressful!) with so many variables to consider. What a romantic place to have a wedding in the end, although all your options looked gorgeous! My other half is a Kiwi and although we are here in the UK we are planning to move to Aussie, so to a small extent I know what it is like to have family far flung across the globe! xx

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Good luck with the move to Aus, you'll love it, I'm sure.

  • Guest
    Globalmouse Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Wow what an interesting story - I love it! It sounds complicated and difficult but so worth it. I love all the photos and would LOVE to live in Vietnam for a while!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    It was fun scanning the photos and reliving some memories. Of course Nancy is still somewhere we visit regularly but we haven't been back to either VN or Barbados since that era.

  • Guest
    pinkoddy Thursday, 12 February 2015

    What lengths to go to and I bet it was the most amazing day.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    It was an amazing day in the end...check back in a month for Part 2 of the story!

  • beauty and the prince
    beauty and the prince Thursday, 12 February 2015

    aw what a lovely story with a lovely ending I cant imagine what its like to organise a wedding abroad x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Thank you :)

  • Lauren belle du brighton
    Lauren belle du brighton Thursday, 12 February 2015

    This was a lovely read! I thought keeping all our family happy was tricky and they're at least all in the same country! Very sweet of uncle vicar to leave god out as much as possible of the service!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Wasn't it lovely of him? Pretty hard to imagine really as God was his whole raison d'être!

  • Guest
    Kate Williams Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Oh my goodness! I thought organising my wedding was complicated and it was only in the town we lived in in England! Very impressed!!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    I think all weddings are stressful.... :o

  • Guest
    Emily Knight Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Wow, what a fantastic story! Can't imagine how difficult it must have been pre-Internet to get everything sorted out!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    It's hard to magine how we survived with the internet isn't it?

  • Guest
    Clare Mansell Thursday, 12 February 2015

    I organised a wedding in the UK whilst living in Germany and had to get my sister to try wedding dresses on for me, so I can only imagine how difficult it would have been with a bigger distance and worse communications!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    That's funny, getting your sister to try on the dress for you! I like that! That's not something I had to deal with though the dress will feature in the 2nd part of this story as it wasn't straightforward either!!

  • TinyExpats
    TinyExpats Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Such an interesting story :)) We also had difficulties arranging our wedding, having family and friends in Russia, Ukraine and all around Europe. We chose a city, where none of them lived :)) And I'm always interested to read about TCK, as my kids are growing up this way. Actually, my story for My Expat Family link up this month is about them and what I hope this life style would give them.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    If you embrace the positives in TCK lifestyle then I think it's the most amazing thing. Your option of a neutral location sounds like a good one.

  • Guest
    seychellesmama Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Ahhh Phoebe I love this!!!!
    What a fantastic story this is, I can't wait for the next part!
    So amazing to get all that organised then, no internet, not even any phone lines between the two countries! Just shows what love can achieve :)
    All of the options looked so beautiful, but I have to say that Nancy looks like a fairytale, absolutely amazing!!

    Thank you so so much for sharing this lovely tale with #myexpatfamily

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    I can't imagine how we managed with such basic communications either but it was just how it was! I'll have to make sure I get Part 2 ready for next month's link up.

  • Guest
    Sara Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Great story! Things do get complicated sometimes due to bureaucracy. I guess I will have similar problems as I am portuguese and my boyfriend is swedish. But i believe it is all worth it for love ;)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 13 February 2015

    Portuguese and Swedish sounds like a wonderful combination. I hope you don't have too many administrative problems!

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