The Paris Wedding (Part 2)

The Paris Wedding (Part 2)
I was once doing a final walk-through with an American client a few days before her daughter’s wedding. This client had lived six months out of each year in Paris for over a decade. She was a proud, card-carrying Francophile and had told me that she wanted to give her American guests the ‘Ultimate Parisian Experience’. I walked her along the 50m yacht, pointing out the Royal Limoges dinnerware, the silver and crystal Baccarat vases, the table that would hold the five-foot croquembouche from Ladurée, and the hand-blown Christofle flutes which would overflow with ice cold Perrier-Jouet. In the midst of my presentation, a dark cloud passed across my client’s face. ‘I don’t know,’ she sighed. ‘It just doesn’t scream “Paris” to me.’  I apologized for my oversight, and quickly pointed out the Seine below us, Notre Dame to the left of us, and the Eiffel Tower looming on the right. I then asked Madame if she could perhaps pinpoint what exactly seemed to be missing. She waited a few seconds, and then the light bulb clicked. ‘An accordionist…wearing a stripy shirt…in a beret!’ ‘Gigi’. ‘An American in Paris’. ‘Ratatouille’. For generations Americans have cultivated their own image of Paris. It is the epicenter of sophistication and class. The birthplace of fine art and fine dining. An exotic land where kids drink wine, and mimes can be found on every corner. With this image in mind, Americans are drawn to Paris year after year. They ‘do’ the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. They ‘do’ the tiny little hotel rooms with no air-con and tepid, over-priced Coca-Colas, and schedule in an hour to ‘do nothing’ at Les Deux Magots café, all in an effort to emulate the artist/intellectual bon vivant experience that they’ve admired in the movies, books and music of Hollywood’s Paris. Once back in the States, many seek out other post-Paris Americans at places like Alliance Francaise and bond over Eric Rohmer films and horror stories of steak tartare and Turkish toilets. Those that move here, soon start to act more French than Jacques Chirac. Once firmly settled in the city, they quickly start sprinkling their conversations with French terms like ‘Bof’ and ‘ben’. They start to pretend that they don’t speak English at all. They subscribe to Le Figaro and learn to create entire meals with little more than a lettuce leaf and a pinch of fleur de sel. But buried deep inside many of these Nouveaux Francais, there’s a nugget of inherent American culture that can’t be washed, reasoned, or sautéed away.  Something that, on occasion, makes them wonder where all the mimes are. Or gives them the urge to snap their finger at a waiter and call him ‘garçon’.  Or smoke a filter-less Gitanes in a Speedo. For some Americans in Paris, the “artists studio” on St Germain-des-Pres and the ‘wine-and-cheeses’ and the stripy-shirted accordion player really is just another part of the American dream. Kimberley Petyt is an American wedding planner in Paris, a French wedding expert and the owner of Parisian Events, a wedding & event planning agency catering to English-speakers in Paris.  She writes the popular blog “Parisian Party: Tales of an American Wedding Planner in Paris“. Petyt and the business have been featured in print publications such as Real Simple Weddings, LA Times, Get Married Magazine, Essence Magazine, Eco-Beautiful Weddings, Cosmopolitan China, and France Magazine. In 2011, she was featured in the New York Times T Magazine “Summer Travel” issue, highlighting her skills as a cultural liaison for brides seeking to marry in Paris. Her book, The Paris Wedding (Gibbs-Smith, 2013) is a full-color, idea-packed, go-to guide for globally minded trendsetters who are in love with the style and romance of Paris, and is available online and at booksellers nationwide.

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