Johann and Yasmina - a European Tale

The bride and the groom are amused by the whole story. Everything in the name of love, and perhaps also in the name of an ideal Europe that is coming into being.

CORDOBA - Johann could be the perfect stereotype of a Dutchman. Long blond curls, blue eyes, a tall, robust man who looks down on his surroundings from his height of 195 centimeters. Yasmina has big, beautiful black eyes, the same color as her long, flowing hair. She is about 1.60 meters tall. She looks like she could be Spanish, Greek or Israeli. She is a citizen of Luxembourg, and Tunisian in origin.

Let's begin at the end, with the final marriage ceremony of Johann and Yasmina. It is their third within a year and a half, and it took place about two weeks ago in a dark church in Cordoba, in southern Spain. The couple have been living for two years in the city, where Johann works for the European Union. The priest gave a sermon in Spanish, switched into Dutch and from there to French, the only language in which he could be certain that his questions about the couple's commitment would be fully understood by the bride as well. About 80 people were present at the ceremony, mainly close friends. There were Bernard and Megan (French and English), Katya and Paolo (German and Italian), Peter and Marie-Ange (Swedish and French), Helia and James (Portuguese and English). There were also couples from Germany and Sweden, Spain and Malta, Belgium and Italy, Romania and Great Britain, the Netherlands and Spain, Germany and Portugal. Only three of the couples, who came from all corners of the continent, were of the same nationality.

At the party after the ceremony English and French predominated, mingling with a melange of other languages. Those present danced to the strains of contemporary Western music, 1980s disco and Middle Eastern trills; the Romanian "Dragostea Din Tei" ("Numa-Numa Hey"), "Laila Laila" and "Aisha" by Khaled the Algerian, and Ofra Haza's "Im Yinalu" were accompanied by joyous ululations.

Let's go back. Exactly a year before the Catholic wedding, Johann and Yasmina's second wedding ceremony took place. This was a civil ceremony in the Luxembourg city hall. The clerk officiating on behalf of the mayor, himself a Buddhist, gave a standard speech, preaching to the newlyweds about the importance of preserving their union. He expressed joy over the mix of cultures that their partnership embodied, and gave them the "family book" containing the legal confirmation of their marriage. Outside the hall, the next couple waited - two elegant and excited men. Homosexuals. Yasmina and Johann swallowed broad smiles at the sight of Yasmina's embarrassed father, an elderly man of 80 and a native of Gabes, Tunisia, looking around desperately for the next ceremony's bride-to-be.

About half a year earlier, the first wedding took place, at the home of Yasmina's family. A Muslim wedding. Only the family and a few neighbors were present. Men and women were kept separate. Yasmina participated in the traditional henna ceremony. Johann wore a traditional galabiya and was asked to adopt a Muslim name. He chose Aziz. The imam checked that he had not forgotten a dowry, and had the couple sign a document written in Arabic. To this day, Aziz has no idea what he signed.

The Catholic Church is unaware of the Muslim ceremony, and Yasmina's family will not be told of the Catholic ceremony. The bride and the groom are amused by the whole story. Everything in the name of love, and perhaps also in the name of an ideal Europe that is coming into being.

Back to Cordoba, September 2007. The celebrants dispersed under the influence of wine and sangria in the early morning hours. The newspapers lying on their hotel doorstep carried news of the shocks the Belgian federation is undergoing; the Spanish monarch's struggle to preserve the unity of the kingdom in the face of growing protests by Catalan separatists; the French initiative to mandate DNA testing for immigrants who want to reunite with their families, and the growing Islamophobia in Great Britain.