So, you know those love stories where the North American girl goes to Europe and falls in love with a French man with an accent? Yea, well, this one of those! I’m very excited to present Pierre and Debbie’s love story:
This is definitely the farthest and “most foreign” place I’ve been to shoot a destination wedding. As usual, I had all my video stuff to lug around everywhere (to the other side of the pond in this case), but it was quite unreal to be picking up my equipment from the baggage claim in Charles Du Gaulle Airport and wheeling it past French military with machine guns (because that’s how they roll in French airports apparently). Unfortunately, no one else from the team could make it so I was doing this one… SOLO.
The beauty of destination gigs, besides the obvious travel opportunities, is that I get to spend time with the couple’s entourage and the “main players” before the wedding day. It’s a great chance to build a rapport before day zero so that the family and wedding party will be more comfortable with me lurking in the corners of each room they go to. Pierre and Debbie’s wedding party in particular was a very warm and genuine bunch, hailing from as close as Paris, and flying in from all corners of the globe, like, the USA, Sweden, England, Germany and even as far as Indonesia. Can you say “impactful”?
Though I did spend some time in the city of Paris, the château was located in a town, Montgeroult, about 45mins drive outside of Paris. Yes, 45mins drive – I drove – and it was one of the most life-threatening things I’ve ever done! All I thought the whole time behind the wheel was, “Thank God I got the damage waiver on the rental!” I didn’t crash BUT I had a few near-misses that, from the French perspective, were “business as usual” when driving. Lane changing, following lanes and even marking of lanes are very “laisser-faire” in Paris.
Enter the groom
The groom walked in to Shakira’s “Hips don’t lie”. I’m not sure what the story was behind that, but it was a pleasure to watch!
The parallel of Ruth
As you hear in the film, the officiant makes a comparison based on the bride’s middle name, Ruth, with the story of Ruth in the Bible. I thought it was really clever how he drew the similarities between Debbie and the Biblical character. One of the main similarities was, of course, that the protagonist is from a far away land (Debbie is from Massachusetts) and she was committing to someone… for the rest of her life.
This was a new one for me. During the rehearsal, someone casually mentioned “private vows”. Upon confirming with the bride, the conversation went something like this:
Me: So, Debbie, I heard you’re doing private vows?
Debbie: Yea, we are
Me: So… no one hears them?
Debbie: yea [nods non-chalantly]
Me: So, usually I put a mic on the groom to capture any vows or, you know, stuff like that during the ceremony. Do you think you want those words captured?
Debbie: No, it’s okay, It should be fine.
Me: Okay [nodding cheerfully]
For those of you who know me or have followed Aperture Lane long enough, you know a part of me died when I heard that! I think personal vows are probably the best way to capture the essence of the two people in a couple, and now that they were going to be secret, I felt like I was losing out on so much great material to tell the story. Having accepted it and looking sadly at my lapel microphone, I grieved quietly.
However, I was ecstatic to find out during the prep the next morning that the couple had cards they wanted to exchange before the first look… and were willing to read them aloud! I definitely remember an instant pep in my step!
I’ve never heard of this private vow thing before. In fact, I imagine that the whole point of vows at a wedding ceremony was for them to be witnessed. But hey, to each their own – I’m here to capture the story! You could definitely say I added another experience to my wedding filmmaker toolkit.
Small town problems
I was having a ball at the reception, meeting people from all over the world, eating French food and butchering the French language while doing so. Suddenly, Mia, the coordinator calls me over and says, “So, the electricity went out in the town [in which our venue was located]. Also, we’re going to start the speeches in 5 minutes.”
I replied, “What? Really? No? Don’t start the speeches until I’m ready!”
I ran to get my audio recorder and battery-powered light.
Typically speeches are recorded from the DJ’s sound board so we can get them crisp and clear. The DJ’s sound board, however, currently had NO POWER. The speeches were about to be kumbaya’ed in the sunset with no way to record them. So, I MacGyvered one of my camera mics on the stand, connected it to my audio recorder, and begged everyone doing a speech to speak into the mic even though they wouldn’t hear themselves over the speakers. I was a little… unconventional, but I don’t regret it at all. The speeches were preserved, which I think was more important that guests in the back negotiating in their heads how the orators talking into the mic were not being heard!
In spite of the cool factor of capturing this love story, there were a few challenges to overcome to bring the film to fruition. Every wedding has its challenges, of course, but this was a new yet I never faced before – and I did so alone. I definitely unlocked some achievement points on this mission. Big shout-out once again to Pierre and Debbie for trusting me to help them tell their story. If you guys are reading this, please accept this long-distance hug from Toronto to Paris!
Until the next story!