Piccata, Paella and Other Secrets to 10 Years of Marriage

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Melissa and Philippe d'Arabian's Wedding

Today is my wedding anniversary. It all started with my 4-Step Chicken Piccata, the first dish I ever cooked for Philippe (I made it with veal and served it on a bed of sauteed spinach). And it culminated in a crusty paella, a d’Arabian family tradition, served alfresco on a June evening a couple of years later to about a hundred of our friends and family who had traveled to our wedding in the village where Philippe grew up.

Since we had so many tourists visiting from as far as Hawaii, our wedding stretched into a two-week vacation, filled with meals, toasts and sightseeing that started in Paris and made its way south to Aix-en-Provence. By the time our actual wedding arrived, it seemed as though our guests had become a community, connected by something more than just being on our short list of special people in our lives. One of my favorite snapshots caught by a guest is of my (American) stepmother talking animatedly with Philippe’s (French) grandfather, both heads are thrown back in laughter, totally understanding one another, even though neither spoke a word of the other's language.

Our wedding incorporated both of our cultures: We recited our vows in French and English, and we had a classic tiered American wedding cake as well as a French croquembouche (an impressively tall cone of cream puffs held together by spun caramelized sugar). We were married by a priest and a pastor in small stone church at the top of a hill, surrounded by the people who matter most to us. The whole experience is etched in my heart as the just-right start to my life as a d’Arabian.

Melissa d'Arabian's Wedding

The fact that I remember my wedding so fondly this week doesn’t mean it was snag-free. Instead of the rich roses (no greenery!) I had painstakingly chosen from Martha Stewart Weddings, carnations, baby’s breath and what I can refer to only as moss were delivered. My bouquet itself was a white plastic (!) spray that actually eclipsed my hip-span. Yet somehow this didn’t bother the wedding me, as much as it would have sent the engaged me through the roof. And let’s just say that it’s a good thing the experience was “etched in my heart” because the photo processing house that had our negatives went bankrupt (this was before digital was standard), leaving us with only some proofs and a few snapshots for wedding pictures (a situation that would haunt us a year later during Philippe’s final green card interview when he failed to produce a suitable photo album to match the wedding we had described in separate interrogations). Did I mention our wedding band was the French equivalent of Beatlemania? Not because we are huge Beatles fans, but it was the only band I could find locally that could sing convincingly in English. (What bride doesn’t imagine herself swaying dreamily in her wedding dress to "It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night"?)

Melissa and Philippe's Wedding

The engagement, the wedding and the marriage — all three are special to me. But my favorite by far is the marriage. Ten years have flown. And (spoiler alert) we’re renewing our vows this year! Our four daughters will be flower girls, and I’ll probably put it together in about one-tenth the time it took me to plan my wedding. We’ll take pictures this time, and I’m going out on a limb here to say that we probably won’t hear more than a tune or two by the Beatles. For the food, maybe we’ll do something whimsical (and easy) like food trucks — as long as there’s paella.

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