The Paris Wedding

The Paris Wedding
People keep asking me how and why I became a wedding planner. I wish I could say it had been my dream forever and the thought of bridal dresses made my heart sing. In reality, it was a set of circumstances I never anticipated. And, no, it didn’t start out as romantic. I was laid off from my job the week before I turned 30. Needless to say, it was time for a change. I had dreamt of Paris since I was a little girl, and had even spent an eye-opening “girls vacation” there a decade earlier.  So, with bucket-list in hand, I decided to leave my Sweet Home Chicago and go find myself in Paris. What I found instead was My French Boyfriend. Found on Day 4 of  “Paris Trip ’98.” What followed on days 5 through 30, was a stereotypical whirlwind month of long, romantic walks, visits to art museums, and lazy afternoons at trendy cafes. I got to see Paris from the inside out, and learned, firsthand, why it’s called the City of Love. As the end of my trip grew near, My French Boyfriend and I decided that we liked each other enough to try to make a go of it together Stateside. It was still the good old days in the U.S., (where if you couldn’t find a job, you just started your own company!), and we both quickly found positions in San Francisco and settled into coupledom. One year later, we decided to get married. By that time, I was planning corporate and fundraising events, so I thought it would be EASY! and FUN! to plan my own wedding in a country 3000 miles away, despite not speaking French!  My first clue that French and American ideas about weddings were different was the hoopla that erupted from the French family when we announced that, instead of being married in a church by a priest, we would be married by a friend in an informal, non-denominational ceremony (something quite common in the US, but très avant-garde in France). Then came the “Great Mini-Chinese-Takeout-Box Favor Caper,” followed by the War of the Faxes (between myself and the florist over the bridesmaids bouquets).  Add to that the mountains and mountains of paperwork required to be legally married in France, and the Kafka-esque process of filing it. I was in desperate need of a wedding planner who “spoke my language” both literally and figuratively, but at the time, this just didn’t exist in France.  But we got there, and in the year 2000, we were married in a beautiful medieval village in the North of France. Not long afterwards, the dotcom bubble burst and we decided to return to Paris. I was pregnant then, and Paris seemed like a nice place to settle down and raise a family. But I found it difficult to wear my “mére au foyer” (housewife) hat. Remembering my wedding difficulties, I thought surely there must be other monolingual Parisphiles just dying to get married in my adopted city. I decided to create a wedding and event planning agency that catered exclusively to English speakers dreaming of Parisian celebrations. Eight years on, life is never dull. Juggling a family, running a business, maneuvering my way through a foreign city… two languages and two cultures.  The fête goes on! 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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