Sunday, June 5, 2011

Les Noces: 28 May 2011!

The mild spring weather Europe's been enjoying for months now disappeared in London on May 28th. However, the blustery, chilly, rainy skies could not dampen the excitement and joy of watching Alex marry his long-time sweetheart, Sonia Morange, at Hackney Town Hall, in what we called "the other, much more important, London Wedding." Here, in this imposing Art Deco building, family and many of the couple's friends gathered from around the world to celebrate what turned out to be a "right Royal Wedding!"

In the lobby of the apartment building where the  out-of-town Robbins family stayed, we sat, decked out in our finery, waiting for the taxi...

...Sonya in her super pretty Marc Jacobs dress (unearthed at her local thrift shop in Brooklyn, NY), and me in my Louis Féraud 1980s vintage frock (spotted by Matthew at the Marché aux Puces at Clignancourt)!

 Sonya's fiance, Alex Escalante, had just arrived the morning before, a little jet-lagged, but in time to join us all in the festivities.

Meanwhile, the groom kept his usual cool expression -- maybe a little excitement and nervousness in that smile...

Outside Hackney Town Hall, guests milled around the barrier...

...waiting for the previous wedding to take their leave of the front steps...

...and waiting for the arrival of the beautiful bride and her immediate family.

Shortly before 5 pm, the doors to the grand Council Chambers opened, and we escaped the chilly English climate!

As the guests took their seats, the groom went over to greet Sonia's grandparents, Ghislaine and Alec Head, the venerable matriarch and patriarch of the very large and wonderful Head/Morange family, almost all of whom were in attendance.

The Robbins' family was fully represented with members arriving  from Paris, Berlin and Vermont.

And holding up the McMichael torch were my niece and nephew, Stephanie and David Harding!

Right on time, and to music by Bob Dylan, Sonia made her entrance on the arm of her father, Cyril. Her teal//aqua silk gown was stunning, offset by beautiful white peonies. No wonder Grandmère Ghislaine is smiling so broadly!

And, clearly, the groom is equally impressed!

 Standing before the Hackney Registrar, Adam Creed, and under a somewhat faded portrait of HM the Queen, Alex and Sonia listened as Mr. Creed went through the required formalities to be sure they were, in fact, legally able to be married. He even asked "...if anyone here knows of any reason..."

 ...thankfully, no one did, and vows were spoken and rings exchanged.

The look of love on both their faces was a joy to behold!

The bride was not the only one with tears in her eyes!

With the announcement, "I now pronounce you..." the chamber broke into cheers and applause.

Grandpère Alec raised his hand in salute... the newly weds sealed their troth with a kiss...

...before signing the register...

...which was then witnessed by future brother-in-law, Alex Escalante, and Sonia's Los Angeles friend, Rosha.

With the wedding certificate firmly in hand, the sound of guitar playing took everyone by surprise...
Sonia's high school friend, Juliette Commagère and her brother Robert Francis, both professional musicians and singers, performed Neil Young's Harvest Moon to honor the newly-weds.

As an added touch to this lovely moment, and in one of those never-ending twists of fate in life, I should mention that the father of this talented pair, Robin Commagère, went to USC film school with Matthew, and if anyone had said way back then, before marriage and parenthood, that one day his children would sing at our son's wedding, we would have thought them crazy!

Emerging onto the steps of Hackney Town Hall, we were greeted with some raindrops as we all tried to come together for the "group snapshot" -- Art Rogers, we needed you!!

Before the rain came down too heavily, guests made their way to the bus stop to take the number 48 London Transport over to The Rag Factory, just off the trendy Brick Lane, where the reception took place.

Alex and Sonia almost missed the bus! Must be hard to scurry in those beautiful shoes!

Sonia climbed to the upper deck of the double-decker, where the few non-wedding passengers were a bit nonplussed at all the excitement, but took it with good humor, as did the bus driver who had to "make change" over and over again.

At the Rag Factory, a gallery/performance space, the light-filled main room had been transformed into a dining hall, with peonies along the tables, and fronds of greens cascading down from the light tracks, filled with sweet peas. It was so beautiful!

In an adjacent equally light-filled and festooned room, we gathered to drink champagne and eat delicious hors d'oeuvres, and visit with one another before dinner...

...entertained by a delightful trio combo who played with great gusto!

The mothers-in-law shared some words with the groom, or maybe he's sharing words with us, and making us laugh.

Among the many guests, Alex's cousins Juliette and Sean - the elegant Parisian/Americans...

Grandmère Ghislaine, surrounded by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

My English niece and nephew, representing all of my family, and having a great time!

Our friend Anne-Marie, who attended our wedding in 1970, currently leading a student program in Prague this summer, came for the weekend. She found two of her favorite young Parisian/American girls happy to see her again.

In the dining room, it was "hands off" the towering Croquembouche, an amazing confection of choux buns filled with crème patisserie, built into a pyramid and decorated with fine strands of caramel. Yum!!

Heading into dinner, the children -- some 16 or so in all! -- had their own table, where Ora Rose, as the eldest, presided.

Meanwhile, the rest of us looked for our name cards, and settled down to a delicious supper of roast pork, wonderful fresh vegetables, sea bass, several cheeses, wines.

Sonia, ever gracious, made sure everyone had what they needed, especially her Grandmère Ghislaine, and her honorary Grandpère, Jacques.

Then she returned to her own seat, where she "sandwiched" her new husband between Sonya and Sonia!!

Matthew, meanwhile, continued snapping guests:

Sonya's fiance, Alex Escalante...

Alex Robbins' highschool and college chums, Stuart Walker and Danny Field, who came from San Francisco and New York...

...and, familiar to West Marin readers of this blog, Claire Ptak and her husband, Damien.

There were speeches -- Cyril Morange paid a wonderful, touching tribute to his lovely daughter and welcomed Alex into his family...

...whilst Matthew's heartfelt and witty speech about a Sonya and a Sonia now being a part of the Robbins family, was read with great flourish by Sonya, because Matthew -- irony of ironies! -- was totally and completely without voice, having succumbed to a tenacious laryngitis three days before. 

For maybe the only time in his life, he was utterly speechless!

With everything she had to do organizing this fantastic wedding day, Sonia also found time to surprise our niece with a birthday cake to celebrate her 40th birthday on this very day!

This utterly divine chocolate cake was baked -- no surprise -- by the super-talented pastry chef, Claire Ptak!!

After a few words from the groom...

it now remained for the bride's father to dance with the bride...

...and for the happy couple to take their turn on the dance floor...before some of us took ourselves off to bed, and the younger set went on to a neighboring nightclub for some serious dancing until the early daylight hours.

Long life and much joy! It was a beautiful day.

À bientôt!

(Many thanks to Matthew and to Sean for these great photos!)


  1. Wonderful! Sonia is stunning, Alex both handsome and very distinguished, and both of them obviously very happy. Congratulations to all.

    Wes S

  2. Lovely, lovely. Great pictures and wonderful occasion.
    Love to you all

  3. What an incredibly lovely event! May joy and love surround them for the rest of their days. Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures with us all!
    Deb & Ian

  4. Thanks for sharing these lovely photos and stories around them with your readers.
    Congratulations Janet and Matthew!
    may Sonia and Alex live happily ever after ..

  5. Dearest J et al,
    This is a first! Weeping(with joy) over a blog posting. Many many thanks for sharing all the photos and commentary. What a glorious day! much love to everyone,

  6. The description of the events of the day were wonderful as were the photographs. Sonia glowed and the mothers looked pretty great too.
    Thank you for sharing your happiness.

  7. Mazel tov! What a glorious day! You all look so happy, especially the bride and groom. Great photos, lovely commentary, delicious looking food, and happy people. What a day!

    All our love,

    The Blooms (Jim & Melissa)

  8. quel jour glorieux ce doit avoir été pour tous et vous remercier de partager ce jour incroyable avec nous. Mazol Tov à Sonia et à Alex pendant une vie merveilleuse et saine ensemble. Amour, Berta et Lou

  9. What a great day that was! Captured and narrated beautifully. Next up, Sonya and I (the other Alex) !

  10. Wonderful post, Janet! I'm so happy for all of you, especially Alex and Sonia.

    Much love... and can't wait for the next one!

    ps: LOVE those dresses, Robbinses and Morange.

  11. I'm late to the date here, but warmed by the photos and description of this astoundingly happy day. Clearly everyone was a few feet off the ground for most of it! Such an elegant family, all of you!
    And the dresses! Go vintage! Love it!

  12. What a super time you all had! Everyone looked beautiful and delighted with life and love and London too. What fun it must have been. All the very best love to Alex and Sonya for the future. Love and kisses Jill B