Part 1: First Comes Love
Ever wondered what a Mexican-French wedding would look like celebrated in the South of France? Well, look no further. Let me introduce you to my dear friends, Lizzeth and Thomas, otherwise affectionately referred to as Liz & Tom.
I met Liz at uni while pursuing our graduate degrees in social work. Sweet, but feisty and mighty at only 4’11” tall, Liz comes from the tropical region of Acapulco, Mexico. She emigrated to the United States with her mom when she was 10 years old. They settled in the O.C. where she subsequently went to live with her father in Anaheim.
In high school, Liz traveled to Germany to visit her friend Siba, a foreign exchange student whom Liz and her dad had previously hosted. During that inaugural European trip, Siba introduced Lizzeth to France. Liz was instantly smitten. Liz’s love for the country and culture only intensified during her junior year in college when she participated in an overseas program that led her back to Paris. It was during this visit in 2002 that she would meet her future husband.
With only one month remaining in her international program, Liz met Tom. Tom spared no time attempting to woo Lizzeth. Every weekend during that entire month, wherever Lizzeth was, Tom was there too. Whether it was an excursion to the French countryside, Tom would be there. If it was a visit to Mont Saint Michel, Tom came along. Tom had quickly grown enamored with Lizzeth and Lizzeth began to feel the same for Tom.
The night before Lizzeth’s return flight to the States, Tom took her to a fancy Italian restaurant. He professed his adoration for her and handed her a plane ticket. The plane ticket revealed a departure date two months into the future. However, the following day, Lizzeth made the difficult decision to bid her new beau au revoir as she flew back home to Southern California.
Thomas was born in France and is just a few years Liz’s senior. Tom is the total physical opposite of Liz. Whereas, Liz is petite and bronze, Tom is tall, lanky, and fair complected. But Tom is also intelligent, a great conversationalist, and what I later discovered, wonderful with kids. My son simply adores him. As a child, Tom’s father’s job afforded their family the opportunity to travel globally and live internationally. They resided in England, Australia, Spain, and Mexico. But it was the latter nation and its people that truly stole his heart.
Liz and Tom became official in the summer of 2002. They were together for a few years, but separated for some time. But as fate would have it, they reconnected and resumed their courtship until eventually tying the knot.
In the summer of 2011, Tom proposed to Liz. The following year, they married in Tom’s hometown of Salies-de-Béarn, a charming border community in southwestern France. I have to say, it was a most glorious affair from start to finish and I’m so thankful for having been witness to such a beautiful event.
Lizzeth and Thomas celebrate their seven year wedding anniversary in July. Joyeux anniversaire, my dear friends! This post is dedicated to the two of you.
Part 2: Then Comes Marriage
Arriving at La Demeure de la Presqu’ile
Upon arrival to Salies-de-Béarn, Liz and Tom rented out for us a B&B. The Chambres d’hôtes La Demeure de la Presqu’ile (22, avenue des Docteurs-Foix, 64270 Salies-de-Béarn) is an 18th century home converted into a quaint five bedroom bed and breakfast boasting of comfortable rooms, a lush garden, and superb breakfast.
Liz’s wedding party consisted of her parents and nieces, as well as her international crew of girlfriends. We traveled from Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Paris, London, and elsewhere to celebrate the nuptials. Of course lovely Siba was there too (wearing the lavender sweater).
That evening, which was the night before the wedding, we had a lovely dinner of delicious homemade tamales, courtesy of Liz’s mom.
A Quick Tour of Salies-de-Béarn
On the morning of the wedding, we had our delectable breakfast of freshly made breads and yogurt, jams, and fresh fruit. After we finished, we walked into town to do a little bit of sightseeing. None of us had visited Salies before, so we wanted to make good use of our time and get a brief lay of the land. There was still ample time before the ceremony.
The town of Salies-de-Béarn is located in southwestern France in between Orthez (to the east) and Biarritz (on the western coast), and approximately 40 miles north of the Spanish border.
Salies is recognized for its saline waters and thermal baths. But in WWII, Salies became known as the border commune between the occupied zone and the free zone during the pre-liberation occupation of France by Nazi Germany.
The city center of Salies is small, pedestrian friendly, and charming. The narrow lanes, the winding water channel, the painted window shutters, and the multicolored hanging pennants created a romantic backdrop for Liz and Tom’s Mexican-French wedding.
The Procession to the Church
Come the late afternoon, the momentous occasion was finally underway with a mariachi led procession to the wedding ceremony. The quartet arrived from Paris via train. Guests met at the B&B and trotted together towards the church to the tune of traditional Mexican music.
All the children wore either a Mexican dress or French themed accessories – red berets and red scarves over white clothing.
En route to the wedding ceremony, it sprinkled a little, but the slight pour did nothing to dampen spirits on such a festive occasion, including the bride and groom.
The walk from the bed and breakfast to the church took only a few minutes as it was a mere quarter mile away.
The Wedding Ceremony at Eglise Saint-Vincent
The wedding ceremony was held at Eglise Saint-Vincent (St. Vincent Church), a 15th century old Catholic Church. While its austere aesthetics harkened the Middle Ages, the wedding ceremony imbibed warmth and simplicity within.
At the very last minute, Liz asked me to sign as witness to their holy matrimony. I was caught off guard, but nonetheless obliged. How could I not?
After the ceremony, attendees proceeded to exit the church and congregate outside to listen to a brief speech or two, snap photos, and receive carpool instructions and directions to the wedding reception.
The Wedding Reception at Maison Lapadu
The wedding reception took place at Maison Lapadu, Tom’s family estate some miles outside of Salies-de-Béarn. The property is composed of the main house, auxiliary cottages, gardens, and a pool. But impressively enough, it also has acres of farmland and even a small forest. According to Tom, the Lapadu estate has been in their family for the past 500 years and endured much in its history, including the Nazi occupation of WWII.
Maison Lapadu was certainly the ideal setting for the wedding reception. It provided the French provincial charm and welcoming atmosphere befitting such an event.
During the reception, our gracious hosts, Tom’s parents delivered a heartfelt speech perfectly encapsulating the newlyweds relationship.
Not to be outdone, Liz’s mom graced us with her lovely voice. She sang a Spanish song accompanied by the mariachi band.
The hors d’oeuvres served before the dinner were absolutely divine and Liz’s dad and I just couldn’t get enough of them.
The dinner and all-night merriment took place inside one of the cottages. Its normal furnishings were cleared out and temporarily replaced with banquet tables topped with crisp white linens.
In keeping with the Mexican-French wedding theme, the spacious room was adorned with Mexican touches as piñatas and strings of delicate red and white alternating papel picado hung from the ceiling.
For the place cards and seating assignment, Liz had the creative idea of using loteria cards with guests names written on them.
For dessert, instead of a traditional wedding cake, Liz and Tom opted for the beloved French favorite, croquembouche, a puff pastry tower. Think of éclairs, but round in shape and missing the chocolate icing.
The party went on until the wee hours of the morning, and the following day, we all met back at Lapadu for Day 2 of Liz and Tom’s wedding celebration.
If you’d like to learn more about the Lapadu estate and its history, please let me know in the comments section below. I’d first have to get approval from Tom though.