Six years ago, on May 25th, 2013 at the city Hall in Dijon, I married my husband Alban in a simple white dress. I was clinging to a small bouquet of carnations and struggling to understand all that the mairie was saying as he ambled through a long missive about the laws of matrimony in France, fearing I’d miss the fast approaching moment when I’d be expected to say either ‘oui,’ or the more formal, ‘oui, je le veux,’ and agonizing over which was the more appropriate.
After putting on our suit and dress together in our small living room, we’d walked to the Palais de Duc hand in hand from our apartment in the late morning. Following briskly behind us was my dad, who had flown all the way from Hawaii just to watch the 10 minute proceedings, and Alban’s parents. We waited in the salle d’attente as the marriage before us finished and filed out into the courtyard behind the city hall, jubilantly and cheering. The mairie, in a handsome blue suit with the French national colors tied around his waist, had leaned through the door, raising a hand to beckon us inside for our turn.
Now there was an expectant pause in whatever he was saying, (not that my French was entirely hopeless, but I was so nervous and my mind kept wandering to all the back and forth, ‘yes’ and ‘no’, elation and anxiety, expectation of happiness and fear of regret, that I’d subjecting myself to in the weeks leading up to this day,) and I realized with fear it was my moment.
‘Oui, je le veux.’ I said too quietly.
‘Comment?’ The mairie prodded, leaning towards us.
‘Oui!’ I said louder, my nervous voice this time echoing around the stone walls.
That time was good enough. Alban calmly gave his own, affirmative response, and the book for signing was placed on the table before us. My heart beat quickly as I signed my name on the contract.
Outside, the rain of Burgundy’s moody spring had subsided, and we posed for pictures and reveled in the welling feeling of love, accomplishment, and wonder at having created a new family of just the two of us. We had expected it to be a little thing: no wedding, no guests, no party or planning, just signing the papers at city hall with little fuss and no unnecessary sentiment. Still, both our eyes were wet, and we each acknowledged in a kind of stunned surprise that we’d just lived one of the happiest moments of our lives.
When I’d first arrived in the unassuming Dijon, 3 years prior, I could never have imagined that I would be getting married in the unfamiliar city, now so familiar, and how pivotal and integral a part of my life this place in Burgundy would have become.
It’s wonderful to celebrate and to have things with worth celebrating, and many things are deserving of planning and acknowledgment, but sometimes celebrations creep up on you in modest silence, invisible, unassuming, and the festivities ring loud and vibrant in the intimacy of your own heart, like the expansive bloom of a firework over the ocean.