Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Banned by the embassies.

The British Embassy in Budapest charged me a small fortune to do my ‘bans’ which seemed silly as the likelihood of anyone popping in to see who was getting married that week and making a complaint that I was already married to him was unlikely. They joked behind my back ‘Funny one this one, English girl marrying French chap, ha ha!!!’ The French Embassy was much more serious and when they posted Jacques’ bans asked him to get his papers ready for signing the pre-nuptial agreement. French law states that you must sign either a general agreement of 50% split in the case of divorce or you can agree to a split of assets before you wed. The document covers provision for children too and shared properties and belongings. Most of my English friends found it shocking to even think about divorce, but since mixed-marriages have a high rate of divorce, it seemed prudent to at least consider it as a possibility.

We went to the local Hungarian registry office where we lived. Via a translator they said that they simply could not see why on earth an Englishwoman would want to marry a Frenchman in their office. They postponed and postponed. Meanwhile the Frenchwoman in charge was determined to stop Jacques making the biggest mistake of his life by marrying an English citizen. Her reason: ‘She doesn’t speak enough French.’ This was true as every time we met I was tongue-tied. Grilled by this sophisticated middle-aged coiffured and manicured lady I was shy and unable to answer her fast firing questions regarding assets, money to be split and what we would do in the case of divorce? But I wasn’t an imbecile and I knew what I was doing. Time dragged on and as my stomach swelled as we missed our planned summer wedding schedule. I would not fit in a white dress now I knew…

Eventually I went to moan to the British consulate and they used their diplomatic clout to convince the registry office to give permission. The registry office had only one slot free in 1996 (a cancellation perhaps?) - October 26th at 2pm. There was to be no discussion about the proposed date and we had to bring translated versions of all the relevent documents. Relieved it was at least a Saturday and before the baby was due we agreed quickly. All the documents had to be verified in Hungarian; our birth certificates, and proof of address, employment etc. Luckily I found the official English-Hungarian translators office in time and got the copies with the official red seal. So we were able to book the restaurant at last.

But the French embassy would not give up and days before we were due to marry stated that 'Your fiancée does not understand the document' - making it invalid. On the Friday before our wedding Jacques’ French family arrived a day early and they all accompanied us to the signing, piling onto the plush leather sofas of the Consul's office and showing their support for their non-French future daughter-in-law. We roped in a Hungarian-French translator who spoke some English and she sat between us simultaneously translating from the Consul's French into Hungarian and then back to English for me. After a few paragraphs the translator frowned and it was obvious she was not sure of the legal words in English. So Jacques offered to translate and she would agree to each sentence before we signed. It was not authorized but at least it worked and we could sign on the line, just in time...

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