Jewish Journal

Intermingling Marriages

by Tamara Shayne Kagel

June 30, 2011 | 10:43 am

I am back from my whirlwind weekend in France.  My job as Demoiselle d’honneur is officially over.  And Tess is a wife.

Going into this weekend, I didn’t really think that a French groom and an American bride would lead to a large culture clash.  It wasn’t like Tess was marrying a Muslim man from Saudi Arabia – that would be something worth working up into a frenzy over. 

But while at this wedding, I realized just how different the worlds the two lovers come from are.  I looked over at my parents’ table to see a bunch of well-coiffed Diane Von Furstenberg-attired Valley Jews comparing the Filet de Boeuf to the steak they had at the new Nancy Silverton restaurant last week.  On the other side of the room sat a bunch of rural French women in floor length paisley dresses who know how to make their own wine/cheese/butter still smoke indoors and had probably met a Jew for the first time when they met Tess.  I realized what Tess’s mother had been up trying to create a wedding fete where all these types of people could have a good time.  But beyond the wedding, I also realized how relevant and present your spouse’s background can be in a marriage.

How important is it to marry someone with a similar background?  For most people, we marry someone like us – similar income level, similar religion, similar political affiliation, similar age.  That’s why it stands out so much and makes for such good gossip when there’s a large disparity in one of these markers.  But does this convention that you usually marry someone similar to you exist because that’s the way to make for better marriages?  Perhaps it’s just the result of us spending time with people that are similar to us.

But the real question for me became, when you marry someone from a different background, have you chosen to make life more difficult for yourself?  It seems like the odds are so against you in making a marriage work at all that are you just worsening your odds if you marry someone from a different country, different religion, different upbringing, different language?  Or does none of this matter if you marry someone you know you will love and will love you forever?  Do all of these little distinctions just become details that are a backdrop to a love story?

This wedding was a beautiful romantic French countryside wedding that in some ways was probably the wedding many little girls dream about.  And yet, almost everything that happened was subtly different enough to make it continually unfamiliar.

The wedding began at 2 pm at the Mayor’s office of the tiny town the Groom grew up in.  The bride and groom, their parents and the witnesses (which included me) sat at a conference table while the mayor read in French the civil commitments while the guests squeezed their way into the standing room of the long oval room.

Then it was on to the church, a beautiful stone building, hundreds of years old, where a ceremony was conducted under a Chuppah, were poems were read, and songs were song, and vows were made.  It was a ceremony that truly celebrated love and was all about love; yet it was hard for me not to wonder if there was symbolism in the Jewish prayers being recited in front of the abundant crucifixes hanging from the walls.  Was this proof that there is a way to seamlessly meld two different religions and cultures into one?  Or was it a sign of the omnipresent tension between two different worlds?

From here, there was a long cocktail hour at the winery, where as in the French custom, many acquaintances who were not invited to the actual wedding come to drink and enjoy decadent French appetizers.  At around 9 pm, all the more remote guests leave and the wedding guests finally sit for dinner which meant dancing didn’t start till around 1 am and I couldn’t believe how many people were ready to bust out their dance moves in the middle of the night and continue for hours.  But I will say most of the Valley Jews had left by this time.

At about 4:30 am Tess and her new husband disappear and it is the job of the guests to find them so that we can bring them French Onion soup in their “bed.”  So yes, not exactly your typical American wedding but when you saw the two of them together, it was easy to believe it was all meant to be.  It is an incredible thing when you can look at your best friend on her wedding day and know that this is the happiest she has ever been in her entire life.  Tess was glowing.  All weekend, she was beaming with infectious happiness that I’m pretty sure I started to glow too.

The morning of her wedding we were in her room getting ready and she looked at me and said “I’m getting married in France!”  For her, this was a fairy tale come true and it was her fairy tale wedding.  And Tess and her husband were obviously so in love it made you want to believe in fairy tales.  And maybe I still do.  Because at this point, when I saw how happy they were together and how in love they truly are, it really seemed to me that nothing else mattered.  Here’s to them proving that dreams really do come true.

Tamara Shayne Kagel is a writer living in Santa Monica, CA. To find out more about her, visit www.tamarashaynekagel.com and follow her on twitter @tamaraskagel. © Copyright 2011.

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Tamara Shayne Kagel is a twenty-something fixture on the Los Angeles scene currently living in Santa Monica.  Currently, Tamara is a successful freelance writer (just ask her...

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