Emma had wanted to have a small, romantic wedding by candlelight, but her father insists on a traditional wedding feast. Dozens of guests arrive at Les Bertaux, dressed variously according to social station. On the day of the wedding, bride, groom, and guests walk in a colorful procession to the church. After the ceremony, they eat and frolic all day long. Charles’ mother feels neglected, Charles’ father smokes and drinks all night, and Charles himself has only a so-so time with the rambunctious guests, since he “[has] no talent for the facetious.” The morning after the wedding, however, he is all aglow; he dotes on Emma in the most loving possible way, though she herself is somewhat cool and detached. The newlyweds leave for Tostes the next day, leaving Monsieur Rouault to reminisce sadly about his own lost happiness.
In almost every detail of the novel, Flaubert embeds the contrast between Emma and Charles. Emma is preoccupied with the ceremony, the symbol; she had wanted an elegant, aristocratic wedding, not a peasant feast. Yet she seems indifferent about the actual marriage. She does not have a framework f or marriage itself, because love stories tend to drop curtain before married life begins. Charles, on the other hand, does not care very much about the ceremony, and does not perform well at it. But the marriage itself is deeply significant to him.