Monthly Archive for May, 2012

top 5 tips to survive a paris destination wedding with kids

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These days, most couples who plan a destination wedding with small children as guests try to create a kids table of activities, or at least a goody bag with toys to entertain the little ones during the reception. This a thoughtful way to help both the children and their parents enjoy the evening.  But while these activities are great for kids who are older than 3,  what most people who don’t have children themselves don’t realize is that these types of activities really aren’t very useful to under-3s.   Toddlers are too small to sit at a table unsupervised. They’re more likely to eat the crayons than draw with them. Plus, many traditional goody bag toys like figurines, cars, etc., are choking hazards to children under 3, so those are out too. So, when you accept an invitation to a destination wedding, you should assume that it’ll be up to you to entertain your own little one if you plan on having any fun yourself. In order to help you get the most out of your Paris destination wedding experience, I’ve created a little list: The American Wedding Planner in Paris’ Top 5 Tips to Survive a Destination Wedding in Paris with Small Kids.

1. Bring a travel booster seat.  Actually, this is a good tip even if you’re not going to a wedding during your Paris trip. Paris doesn’t really “do” high chairs, and while occasionally you’ll find a restaurant with one or two chaises hautes (high chairs), it definitely is not the norm. I’ve seen jet-lagged, stressed-out moms literally break down in tears when I’ve told them that the venue didn’t have a high-chair for their child. Don’t be that mama-  bring a booster seat.  Since most Paris cafés have bistro kids-eating-wedding-cake-angry-parenttables with pedestal legs, the boosters that strap on to the seat of the chair work better here than those that clamp on to the table.

2. Bring Lots of Snacks: Parents of toddlers usually bring their child’s favorite foods with them when they eat out, but keep in mind that French weddings are all about the dinner- we’re talking 6 or more courses over just as many hours. Of course your toddler doesn’t have to sit at the table with you all that time, but a great way to occupy them while you sample a few of those courses is to have small finger foods like Cheerio’s or crackers or something on hand.  Again, this isn’t something that French restaurants or wedding venues will have, so it’s better to bring your own.

3. Pack and Play: By now you know that traveling with toddlers means bringing lots and lots of gear. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is (I swear it gets better after they’re 6). If you can manage to squeeze a pack-n-play into your check-in luggage, it would make your Parisian wedding experience go so much smoother. Since French weddings tend to last until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, your kiddo will have a safe, comfortable place to sleep while you dance the night away. If you just can’t swing bringing a pack-n-play with you, consider buying an inexpensive one once you’re here, or renting one for the day from an agency like Kidelio which rents baby equipment in the Paris area.

4. Find a Friend: One thing that I love about our annual visits home to the States is how well our children are taken care of when we’re out in restaurants. You get high-chairs, and crayons with kiddie place mats, and a waitress who gives you hugs and calls you “hon”. If you need a bottle or jar of baby food warmed up, it’s always “no problem”.  See, in Paris, you don’t really get MaryNursery.jpgso much of that.  It’s just not part of the culture. So when you arrive at a wedding reception in Paris, don’t be surprised if all of the waiters don’t hop to attention and start fawning over you and your child.  So, rather than coming in and asking (in English) for a high-chair or bottle-warmer, I suggest that you scan the waitstaff until you see someone who seems to be a bit warmer than the rest, and who probably has children of her own. Then, wait until your child is particularly calm (the French love a child who is “sage“), and in your best “indoor voice”, ask for your bottle to be warmed, or an extra spoon, or whatever. When you get the help that you need, go out of your way to say thank you and let her know how much you appreciate her helping you out. All done discretely, in near-hushed tones. If executed correctly, you’ll swear that Mary Poppins was working that wedding.

5. Hire a childminder: If you really want to enjoy yourself at this wedding, you should consider hiring a childminder for the evening. Now I’m not saying that you have to leave your baby in a hotel room with a stranger in a foreign country. I’m suggesting that you hire a babysitter who will take care of your little one with you at the wedding. Ask your hosts if you can purchase a meal for her (this will typically be a lower-priced,  “menu service“- the meal that the dj, photographer, etc., is served behind-the-scenes.) Also, see if there are any other parents who may want to split the service and cost with you. Most hotel concierge services in Paris will be able to arrange an English-speaking childminder for you, or you can try Babychou, a Paris-based babysitting agency.

A quick trip to the corner bakery with a toddler can be pretty trying at times.  Traveling thousands of miles to attend a wedding in a foreign country with a toddler is nothing less than a noble feat. Hopefully these few tips will help to make your time in Paris that much more enjoyable.

-parisian party, 2008

an eco-friendly, eco-fabulous paris honeymoon hotel

Here’s a tip for eco-friendly couples planning an eco-fabulous honeymoon or romantic getaway in Paris.  Sitting at the nexus of the Triangle d’Or in Paris, the luxurious 5-star Hotel Fouquets Barrière has become one of the most environmentally friendly hotels in the world. A member of the Leading Hotels of The World,  Fouquets Barrière is also one of the rare hotels to be Leading Green Certified.  Their commitment to Dignified Luxury is supported even further by their “triple-threat” ISO certifications: for environmental initiatives, respectfulness towards human rights and the rights of children, and for its superior quality of service.   In July 2010, Hotel Fouquet’s Barrière was the first hotel in Europe to receive the distinguished Luxury Eco Certification Standard (L.E.C.S.) from Sustainable Travel International.

wwwboutique-fouquets-barrierecom
At Hotel Fouquet’s Barrière, eco-conscious newlyweds can reserve their stay through the hotel’s Make a carbon neutral booking program,  which allows clients the opportunity to fully offset the carbon emissions generated by their travel.  Once in Paris, couples can dine on bio ( “organic” in French) produce at Le Diane, the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, sip organic Pop Earth champagne (Pommery’s first “eco-citizen” champagne which is made from grapes harvested from sustainable vineyards, bottled in lighter bottles that use only half the glass and labelled with recycled paper and printed with solvent-free inks) enjoy fair trade flowers and fruit juices in the hotel’s U-Spa, or whisk around the city in one of the hotel’s electric E-solex bikes or hybrid limousines.  It’s all part of what Fouquet’s Barrière calls “Dignified Luxury”-living in an environmentally friendly manner while focusing on environmental issues.

parisnewgreenhoteltransport

Hotel Fouquet’s Barrière
46, Ave Georges V
75008, Paris
+33 (0) 1 40 69 60 00

top 5 tips for an elopement or vow-renewal in paris

Pop Diva Mariah Carey and hubby Nick Cannon celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary with a vow renewal on the Eiffel Tower this past weekend, which gives me a perfect opportunity to repost this vintage parisian party piece from 2008 on how to plan an elopement or vow renewal in Paris:

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I must get at least 3- 5 emails a week from couples who want to elope in Paris. There are tons of reasons why people choose to elope: to save money, to save time, to save their sanity! Couples that contact me about eloping in Paris also typically display a very strong romantic streak. Since I find myself answering a lot of the same questions week after week, I’ve decided to compile The American Wedding Planner in Paris’ Top Five Tips for Planning an Elopement in Paris

1. Start Planning Early

Gone are the days of dropping into town at midnight and waking the village parson to marry you. As romantic as it sounds, it’s just not realistic in this day and age. There aren’t very many English-speaking celebrants available in Paris, and most of them work full-time at their own churches. They also have families, hobbies and other commitments, which leaves a limited amount of time to officiate weddings for couples coming from overseas. They, of course, try to be as accommodating as possible, but to be fair, you should plan on contracting your officiant at least 3 months in advance of your ceremony (longer if you’re planning on eloping during the high season).

2. Hire a good wedding planner

Well…this one is pretty simple. People tend to think that wedding planners are for big, elaborate weddings. That’s not true at all. A destination wedding is a destination wedding- whether it’s just you 2 or 200 of your closest friends! Do you know where to get a hand-tied bouquet of café au lait-colored peonies with a matching boutonniere in Paris? A wedding planner would. Do you know the name of an awesome, reputable, English-speaking Parisian photographer? A wedding planner does! I could go on for another 2 paragraphs, but you get the gist. Besides having access to top-notch local vendors, hiring a wedding planner based in the destination that you’re planning your elopement takes the pressure off of you and your honey, and gives you time to concentrate on planning your honeymoon. As when you’re hiring your officiant, keep in mind that most wedding planners need at least 3 months notice to book an elopement ceremony.

wedding-planner-in-paris33. Try not to plan too much

So, my first pointer was to start planning early, but that’s not to say to plan every single second of your event! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- France is not America. France runs as it’s own pace, and to most Americans, that’s about 3.5 paces behind the U.S! Everyone is familiar with the stereotype of the American tourist in a Parisian restaurant, waiting…and waiting  for “l’addition” (all the while growing more red-faced and furious at the waiter for “ignoring” his table). I’ve had elopement clients send me their itineraries timed to the quarter hour, “Car Pick-Up at Hotel: 12:45. Arrive at Eiffel Tower: 1:05. Waiter brings 1st glass of champagne: 2:17, etc. etc…” If you learn nothing else from this post, learn this: You can pay a deposit, fax an excel spreadsheet, confirm, re-confirm, and re-RE-confirm an order, but it won’t really confirm anything. In Paris, “on time” typically means between 15 and 35 minutes “late” by U.S. standards. So, if you’re expecting a car to pick you up at 1:00 to get you to the Eiffel Tower for your ceremony to start at 1:30, just know that the car will probably arrive at 1:15, but it’s no problem because the ceremony probably won’t start until 1:50 anyway! It all works out in the end, and the wedding ceremony will be just as lovely 20 minutes later than planned.

4. You can not get married on top of the Eiffel Tower

Let me just say that once again for the girls at the back: You Can NOT get married on top of the Eiffel Tower*. The Eiffel Tower is a national monument which occasionally rents the top out for corporate functions, but not to private individuals. If you want to host your wedding at the Eiffel Tower, you’ll be encouraged to rent rooms at one of the two restaurants in the tower. BTW, you also can’t get married at Notre Dame Cathedral or at Sacre Coeur, unless you have some pretty strong pull in some VERY high places in France. For starters, in order to have a church wedding at all in France, you will first need to have a civil wedding here. That comes with a whole slew of rules and regulations, which is why most foreigners who come to Paris to get married choose to have a religious blessing or a symbolic ceremony instead. With symbolic ceremonies, you have a lot more flexibility- so while you still can’t get married on top of the Eiffel Tower, you can have a very simple symbolic ceremony in front of it.

5. Think off the Beaten Path

If you’ve already decided to elope to Paris, chances are you’re a pretty non-traditional couple. So why settle for the same ole same ole once you’ve arrived in Paris? Sure, you can get married beneath the Eiffel Tower. It’s gorgeous, historical, romantic- everything that you could ask from a wedding in Paris. But wouldn’t it be really cool to exchange your vows on top of the Buttes Chaumont, with its amazing panoramic view of the city spread out at your feet? Or beneath the echo-y vaulted ceilings of the Place des Vosges? Or even at sundown in the dramatic shadows of the Pyramide du Louvre. Since you’re creating your own, unique elopement ceremony, the world (or at least Paris) is your oyster! Elopement ceremonies tend to be fairly short, so if you’re mindful of the legalities of your intended venue (no standing on the grass, for example, if you’re not permitted to do so), and respectful of your environment (i.e.: don’t hire an accordionist to serenade you in a busy restaurant), your elopement in Paris should go off without a hitch!

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* unless you’re a multi-award winning Pop Diva with a heck of a lot of dosh influence. 2012 edit.