Wednesday, May 14, 2008

French etiquette

An ex-colleague of mine is getting married this summer, 3 weeks after my wedding to be exact. We feel clearly all the humdrum of his excitation since the day he "declares his flame", that is how we say it in French, boosted by an expensive diamond engagement ring he showed me. The event was then consecrated by a bottle of champagne he brought during another colleague's BBQ party. I learnt later that he asked some colleagues to save the date for his coming mariage. I did not receive any messages so I presumed that I was not invited.

Meanwhile I was preparing my own wedding quietly on my side. Naturally, he was not on my guest list for my wedding dinner. I could probably invite him for the cocktail party for the sake of courtesy if only it were in Paris but it is not, we will have it at 500 kms away! I personally find it impolite to invite people to go 500 kms away, that makes it 1000 kms back and forth, just to see me getting married and have a couple of drinks then shove them off for the route back. Since I feel it this way then someone else could possibly feel the same. So I decided to invite only close Parisian friends for the whole ceremony - cocktail party and dinner - and provide them with accommodation. It is the least we can do for people bearing the long journey just for us!

It turned out that I received an invitation last Saturday morning for a cocktail wedding party from this colleague of mine in... Montpellier! 750 kms away from Paris or 1500 kms back and forth, crossing (almost the whole) France from North to South. Accommodation is of course not provided. I know that I would not attend the wedding for 3 reasons: firstly I will certainly have tons of work after 5 days off my office in July, secondly it will just cost too much for a coup de champagne especially after financing my own wedding, and third reason will come after.

A line in the wedding invitation is a link to their wedding website. Wedding list is pointed out along with all the important information about the whole sequence of their wedding, including a ... civil wedding in Paris XIV city hall followed by a small cocktail party in a Paris suburban house where the groom's mother lives. There, I got a knock in my head for about ten seconds: why the hell would he not just invite me to this cocktail at 4 kms away from where I live?

It took me the whole Saturday morning to figure out how to decipher this invitation. Do the groom and the bride really expect my presence? Because if they do not then I am supposed to turn down politely the invitation or otherwise I am a badly educated person without a savoir-vivre. Do they just expect my "participation" to their wedding list? It seems to me that (logically) this must be the latter. Next question is about my "diplomatic" strategy: the wedding list looks expensive - a honeymoon in Bali, at almost half-way around the globe - how much money should I put on it to be polite without making a dumb of myself by giving too much. I have to admit that I started to feel irritated, I even take their invitation as a coded message, since I learnt about their Parisian civil wedding.

A good thing is I am getting married myself. This is a way to cook out a smart move. I have just sent them an equal invitation to my cocktail wedding party in Alsace and I am waiting to see if they are interested in "participating" to my wedding list ;). I put my list nowhere that my guests could find by themselves, I still find it impolite to put a pointer to a wedding list on an invitation card. If they ask me for it then I think I will just give out the same as what they would, if not then perhaps I should just forget about their list.


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