Monday, July 24, 2006

A Wedding in Köln 7.5 and 7.7.06

On Wednesday, the 5th of July Andrea and Vincent were officially married in the eyes of the German government. They did this at a civil ceremony at the Rathaus, the town hall, which dates from the 1300s, near the Dom Cathedral in the center of Köln.

A small group of friends and family gathered outside the town hall awaiting the bride's arrival, along with Vincent looking so sweet holding her bouquet and looking around expectantly. Stepping out of her father's car, Andrea looked gorgeous in a crisp, deep red, silk blouse with her cream-colored full skirt embroidered with designs that matched the color of the blouse. With her dark hair and light complexion, she was stunning! We were then all asked to proceed into the chambers where the ceremony would take place.

The large room was set up with a desk in front, 4 chairs for Andrea and Vincent and their two witnesses - Andrea's cousin Fenec and Vincent's sister Emilie. On the other side of the desk was the person officiating the ceremony and asking all the "do you Andrea, etc" questions and giving what sounded like a very lovely and poetic talk about marriage and relationships. We did not understand a word besides their names and "liebe" (love) and "leben" (life) but did understand that this seemed to be the more official wedding, the first, that said that they were now married in the eyes of the law, husband and wife. It lasted about half and hour after which everyone hugged and kissed and we all proceeded outside where their friends had prepared a small white sheet by drawing on it the outline of a heart which the newly married couple had to cut out with tiny scissors, each starting from the opposite side and ending up in the middle, removing the heart and stepping through it to the cheers of the onlookers. A musician was playing a jazz saxophone and joy was in the air! The day was sunny and hot and after taking a bunch of photos we were asked to walk across the square, in front of the Dom and into the Dom Hotel for lunch. I know that everything was delicious and maybe it's the fault of the wine we drank but neither of us can remember what we ate! I know that we enjoyed it, that everyone was friendly to us, that Andrea and Vincent said thank you to all the people there in a special way (and in their particular language) and made each and every one of us feel special and appreciated.

Later that night we all met at a place called the Beach Club, on the other side of the Rhine River having taken a taxi there. The view across the river to Cologne was magical as the sun set behind the Dom and the bridges and the river reflected all the colors of the sky.

Friday, the 7th of July, was the day of the church wedding. The ceremony, at the 12th century Basilica St. Aposteln, was to begin at 11am and no one was surprised that Andrea did not arrive at 11! Vincent looked amused, friends and family, unfazed; only the priest kept looking at his watch! Finally, after around 20 minutes even Vincent started to look a bit concerned but before 11:30 the gorgeous bride and her beaming father were walking down the aisle. Later she told everyone there had been a little problem with the hoop for the dress, something about not being able to find the little hole to thread it through but we all knew that really, it didn't matter. She was there, she was stunning, she radiated joy and happiness and we were thrilled to share this day with her and her family, both old and new and proud to be considered a part of it.

When Andrea was 16 years old she came to Arizona and stayed with us for a month.
She loved the U.S.A. and rock and roll in particular. She wanted to go to every Hard Rock Café everywhere she found one. So it did not surprise us when a big pink 1957 Cadillac convertible pulled up in front of the church blaring rock and roll music and Andrea and Vincent climbed in, her veils and train, dripping with rose petals, flowing behind her, kissing and laughing and waving as a few raindrops fell unnoticed around them. A true Andrea moment! A perfect ending!

The ceremony over, the guests, who had put an overnight bag in a bus outside the church, were then taken on a ride to the city of Bonn, not far away for the reception. The bride and groom had arranged for their guests to stay at the 4 star Hotel Bristol in the heart of the city so that we could party until late in the night and not have to drive back to Cologne. The reception was held at the mansion "La Redoute," built in the 1700s. It is surrounded by a beautiful garden with lush lawns and stately old trees. Beethoven was said to have played here. The atmosphere was pure elegance. The food was a mixture of Hungarian dishes (Andrea's parents were born in Hungary and still have family there) and French cuisine. The speeches were multi-lingual, the guests international. With each course came a different kind of wine. We tasted them all.

When the many courses of dinner were over and the cake eaten and after dinner liquors served, the dancing began. Andrea changed into a scarlet red dress and danced traditional Hungarian wedding dances with her father, her mother, Vincent, Bob, Vincent's father. Each of those men danced with other women in the room and the band, a Hungarian folk band played on. Andreas, her father, insisted I go out on the dance floor with him and we spun around so fast I felt that the room was spinning and I would soon be on the floor! It was so much fun! We danced until 3, until our feet hurt and we couldn't dance anymore. We left Jessica and Nick and went up to our bed to sleep it off. I didn't think I was all that tired until I laid down. Bob says I fell asleep in mid-sentence. I believe it. It was a night we will remember for a long time to come.

The next morning there was a brunch at the hotel. Guests wandered in from 11am to 2pm all looking sleepy but happy. Jessica suggested we take the boat back to Cologne from Bonn, about a 1-1/2 hour ride. Andrea and Vincent and a few of their friends said they would like to join us. With a few hours to kill before it left Bonn, we toured the city, visiting Beethoven's house and the Bonn Cathedral, walking around the center. Before the re-unification of Germany, before Berlin became the capital, Bonn had been Germany's capital city so there are many fine buildings and stately mansions. It's a beautiful old city. The ride back to Cologne was relaxing and peaceful and gave us a chance to talk with our friends a bit more.

We then walked through Cologne with them, stopping for ice cream, watching Jessica and Andrea, walking arm in arm like two sisters, heads close together, sharing thoughts I suppose, like they did sixteen years ago. A nice moment.

That night, we met Andrea and Vincent and a group of her friends at a little bar. This was the night that Germany beat Portugal for third place. A funny thing happened! We were about 20 people and the man, the owner, refused to make any food for us because he hadn't expected such a large crowd! He would serve drinks but we would have to get food somewhere else - we could bring it back there, yes, no problem but he had planned to watch the game too and did not want to be in the kitchen cooking food for all of us! I suppose he didn't have enough food to feed so many people but I think mostly he just wanted to watch the game! Too funny!

Jessica and Nick went home early Sunday morning. We hope they had a good time and made happy memories and new friends.

Andrea and Vincent left on Monday for a week in the south of France, followed by two weeks in Hungary, with celebrations in both places waiting for them. Surely they will be exhausted at the end of it all but they should feel very proud of the beautiful event they planned so perfectly.

We wish them a lifetime of love and happiness.

Rosemary & Bob

(more on Germany: visiting friends in Germany)

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