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Wedding Car

Never use spray paint, unless you hire a genuine graffiti artist who will make a 'Just Married' like you've never seen before

By Novella Carpenter

I'm happy to report that my older sister is now legally married. I was there at the Hotel d'Ville (literally: town building) in Narbonne as a witness and as the maid of honor. Though it might seem like a pragmatic and unromantic thing to get hitched in a city building, as with many things European, the mundane strikes an American as being hopelessly charming. For instance, French town halls are a lot cooler than ours--this one was something like 700 years old, looked like a castle and had cobblestone streets running between the various offices.

There were many other things that were different in France: their cars are tiny, to better maneuver down those narrow, beautiful roads; the bicycles are ridden by cute old people carrying baguettes; and drivers have to yield to the car on the right, even when they're driving on the main thoroughfare. I'm sure there were other road rules I didn't learn because, luckily, I didn't drive. Miriam, the Dutch bridesmaid, chauffeured me around to the wedding-photo shoots, the brunches and the hair appointments with a man named Jean-Patrick.

Besides getting my hair put up into a ridiculously tight chignon, I also took part in another French tradition: the bride car. It's a wedding custom popular in many European countries like France, Italy and Spain, where the car the bride arrives in is decorated to look like a hearse. Well, no one says it looks like a hearse, but it does. There are flowers on the hood of the car, streams of white tulle pulled across the grill all the way to the back of the vehicle and a huge bouquet in the back window.

On the way to the church or courthouse, guests follow behind the bride car in a long, somber line. See what I'm saying about a hearse? My sister said she thinks a wedding is supposed to be like a funeral because it's like dying. You lose your name, you leave your family--you cease to be the person you once were.

After the wedding, the groom and bride jumped into the bride car and zoomed off to their honeymoon. No, no one tied a pair of Keds to the back of the car or a stream of tin cans. That's so American. But then I started to wonder: What's up with that? From a couple sources, I heard that the shoes come from an Egyptian practice of trading sandals when any kind of ownership is transferred. Yuck, maybe we should completely dispense with that one.

And tins cans are supposed to scare away evil spirits, but in reality they may spark and cause a brush fire, so better to stick with plastic water bottles. But then that's like littering. Tell you what: How about everyone switches to a Euro-bride car?

I'm sure many of you have gone or will go to a wedding this year, so just in case, here's the deal with decorating the newlyweds' car. Never use spray paint, unless you hire a genuine graffiti artist who will make a "Just Married" like you've never seen before. You should also avoid anything with sugar in it, like whipped cream, because it can ruin a paint job (save it for the honeymooners). Also, don't use duct tape to attach anything, because it can chip off paint. Basically, then, your options are Scotch tape to attach streamers and soap or white shoe polish to write with on the windows.

Of course, the wedding industry has been working hard to broaden your car-decorating options with new traditions. One thing that's big on wedding websites like theKnot.com are "window clings." For $12 a package, you can get personalized window clings for special people like Mother of the Bride, Maid of Honor or Best Man. Similarly, for the newlyweds you can get "Just Married," "We Tied the Knot" and "Together Forever" window clings for $12.

Of course, don't forget the balls--antenna balls shaped like a bride and groom ($2.95) or a giant pink heart. The worst, most cheesy thing, though, has to be the oval black and white newlywed sticker that's supposed to look like a European country code: "NW." That's one country I'd rather not visit.

Novella still has jet lag. Email her at [email protected]

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From the September 1-8, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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