Our Wedding in Scotland

2002 November

Paris, Liverpool, Gretna Green

Emily and I began scheming about a wedding in Paris sometime in June. What could be better, we thought, than getting married in the City of Lights. Given that Emily had been living in the city for the past 6 months, and that her French was fluent, we surmised that we would fill out some forms, go to the “mairie” or city hall, and be done with it. No need to mess around with invitations, reservations, food, etc. We were both quite excited at the prospect and began the preparations in earnest. It should be noted that during this time Emily was living in Paris and attending the Cordon Bleu Culinary School while I was back in San Francisco.

After a trip to the mairie Emily came home armed with all of the required literature. We would each need the following for our civil ceremony:

  1. A valid U.S. passport or a French resident permit.
  2. A birth certificate (less than three months old).
  3. A certificate of celibacy (less than three months old) which can be done before an American Consular Officer in France.
  4. An affidavit of Law (cotume). It is a statement (must be done by an attorney licensed to practice in both France and United States) about U.S. marriage laws, certifying that the American citizen is free to contract marriage in France and will be recognized in the United States.
  5. A medical certificate (less than three months old).
  6. Proof of domicile (electricity bill, etc.).
  7. Certificat du notaire (if the parties to the marriage opt for a prenuptial contract).
  8. One of the parties to be married has to have resided in the city of the marriage for at least 40 days preceding the ceremony.

We certainly had our work cut out for us but the list was manageable. Items #1 and #2 were straightforward and #3 required only filling out a form that Emily got from the mairie. #4 and #5 gave me some problems as I had to find a lawyer and a doctor in San Francisco who could practice in both countries but the local French embassy gave me a list and after parting with $150 for the lawyer I had my forms. These steps were much easier for Emily since she was already in France. Having been living in Paris for 6 months, Emily was able to produce an electricity bill so #6 was taken care of and we didn’t want a prenuptial so #7 was not required. That left #8, which Emily easily satisfied, hooray!

After overnighting the documents, Emily arrived at the mairie to set the date, and here is where the French bureaucracy just killed us. You see, my birth certificate has the name of my birth father but my passport has the name of my mom’s husband. The women at the mairie could not comprehend this and Emily left in tears. What to do? We decided to get my mom’s marriage certificate, as this would show the transition from the old name to the new name. So I did, and once again sent it overnight to Paris and once again Emily went back to the mairie…

With the same results! Once again the damn French bureaucrats made no attempt to accommodate Emily. When presented with the marriage certificate they did nothing. After much pleading she again left in tears. At this point we had invested hundreds of dollars and about that many hours as well and we were no further than when we started. It looked hopeless so we began to look into alternatives. Maybe a cruise ship captain could perform the ceremony, or another country, or…

We looked into everything, and got nowhere. And then, at our darkest hour, Emily happened to be telling her co-workers about her trials (at this point Emily had graduated and was working at La Cantine de Gourmets). One of them was from the UK and asked why we hadn’t considered Scotland. It turns out that the land of haggis has very loose wedding requirements, indeed, it is known as the Las Vegas of Europe. After all that we had been through we were skeptical, but looked into it.

And it worked! And it was easy! And we got married just north of the English border in Gretna Green on the 11 of November in 2002. The paperwork was a snap, I think we just filled out 1 form each and faxed it in, along with a nominal fee. Now getting to Gretna Green was another story.

It began with a flight from SFO to CDG for me. Then I spent a few days in Paris with Emily, during this time we bought a suit for me to get married in and had it altered the night before we flew on Easy Jet (a European equivalent to Southwest) from CDG to Liverpool. At the airport we met Peter Lloyd at the information desk; he gave us hotel recommendations. (On the way back we also saw him but at first he didn’t recognize us. However, once we jarred his memory of 2 days prior he was happy to see us and let us each choose anything out of the store we wanted; both of us selected Liverpool shirts.) We spent that day and night in the home of John Lennon and early the next morning hit the road north in a rented Fiat Punto.

It was quite a drive, and the steering wheel was on the wrong side, along with the drivers, but we made it without incident, at least without accidents, to Comlongon Castle in Clarencefield, 15 miles west of Gretna and 136 miles north of Liverpool. Our bridal suite at castle was fabulous, as you can see from the pictures below. That night we ate at the only pub in Clarencefield, drank draught and cider, and shot some pool. Before retiring for the night we had chocolates and champagne (included with the room) in the giant whirlpool tub. A proper English breakfast, complete with haggis, was served to us the following morning then we packed up and drove back to Gretna and got married. But it would not be so easy…

We needed witnesses and didn’t have any so Emily had to go drag a mother and daughter off of the street. People there are used to this, but it was still an awkward situation. After the wedding we changed and went into the Gretna Bakery to get some snacks for the drive back to Liverpool. Emily selected some delicious meat pies but we regretfully didn’t try a deep fried “Mars” candy bar. We munched our way back to Liverpool, taking some scenic detours, caught a plane back to Paris and ended up back at Emily’s apartment before midnight. Of course we had to get up at 6 AM so that I could catch my flight back to San Francisco the following day.

The major expenses of the wedding are given below although I don't know why anyone would care. Actually, given the amount of travel it was pretty cheap, especially the cost per mile.

  • My round trip ticket from SFO to CDG: $584.06
  • Cotume Fee (wasted money) : $150.00
  • Gretna Green Fee: $149.38
  • Liverpool Car Rental: $124.76
  • Mario Dessuti Suit: $159.81
  • Bridal Suite at Comlongon Castle: $261.18

Total: $1,429.19

Cotume. Click here for a pdf.

Celibat. Click here for a pdf.

Paris, Liverpool, Gretna Green, November 2002

Our rental car, the fabulous Fiat "Punto". It served us well although this is not a picture of the one we rented as you may have deduced by the left side steering wheel. Ours was on the right so we had to shift the manual transmission left handed. That wasn't really a problem though.

And it's less well known cousin, the Fiat "Multipla". Emily and I agree that it is one of ugliest cars we have ever seen, although the Pontiac Aztec is a close second.

We stayed at Comlongon Castle in Scotland the night before the wedding.

Castle locals checked us out then went back to their business.

Hanging around in the castle dungeon.

Emily lounges in our wedding suite.

Our suite had an gi-normous bed.

And quite a bathroom. We had champagne and chocolates in the tub later that night.

A proper English breakfast, with haggis, the morning before the wedding.

Emily is about to sign her life away. I am about to pass out!

We are married! The ceremony was performed by Laura Steele, shown in the center. My smile clearly forced, although Emily's appears genuine.

Susan Routledge and Alice Hampson, our witnesses. They are old friends from the Gretna Bakery.

Across the street from the Gretna Registrar is the Gretna Bakery where we went to find our witnesses.