Modern French weddings mix old and new…
At modern weddings in France, the goal is to combine current style with time-honored traditions.
Combining modern aesthetics with time-honored traditions is the name of the game at modern-day wedding photography in France. There are many lovely displays of France’s romantic history that modern couples choose to incorporate into their wedding day, despite the fact that some of the more outmoded traditions are pretty much extinct (thankfully, most brides are no longer forced to drink the mysterious contents of a chamber pot brought to them by guests during the pot de chambre ritual), but this does not negate the fact that there are many lovely displays of France’s romantic history.
We enlisted the assistance of French wedding planners and designers Mylène and Geoffrey of White Eden Weddings as well as a French bride named Vanessa Monnet to provide a comprehensive rundown of the things that you should anticipate if you are fortunate enough to be invited to attend a wedding in France.
White Eden Weddings is a destination wedding planning and design company based in Cannes, and it is owned and operated by a married couple named Mylène and Geoffrey. Wedding planning and event management in the southwestern region of France is the couple’s area of expertise.
A number of French wedding customs extend back hundreds of years, including who stands with the couple at the altar and the number of ceremonies that take place (hint: it’s two). In addition, there will be exquisite decorations, regional cuisine and wine from France, and a celebration that will not be taken lightly! Wedding fêtes in France are events that will go down in history, from the cocktail “hour” that lasts for hours to the reception that lasts all night and has over-the-top entertainment.
Find out everything there is to know about French wedding customs and traditions in the following paragraphs, and don’t be shocked if you find one or two that make you say, “Je le veux.”
01 of 16 “engagement” is spelled “fiancailles,”
The word “engagement” is spelled “fiancailles,” and the cultural significance of this rite of passage cannot be overstated. According to Monnet, “the proposal is typically a big event that takes place in the context of a romantic trip to someplace symbolic.” “Ours was in the desert of Atacama, which is located in Chile.” After the proposal, French couples prepare an engagement party for their families, close friends, and future witnesses. This tradition is very similar to the one that exists in the United States. According to Mylène and Geoffrey, “This bringing together of families is an important tradition that is respected by the vast majority of French couples.”
02 of 16 Témoins Rather than Bridesmaids and Groomsmen, Consider Having…
In place of bridesmaids and groomsmen, French couples traditionally have “witnesses” or “témoins” who stand behind them throughout the ceremony and sign the marriage registry. They can be of any age or gender, and they typically dress in whatever they like. When it came time to choose their attendants, Monnet went with her three sisters, while her groom went with his brother, sister, and closest friend. On the other hand, according to Mylène and Geoffrey, an increasing number of couples are deciding to have bridesmaids and groomsmen in the traditional, Western sense.
Page 3 of 16 Two Events to Celebrate
In France, engaged couples celebrate their union over the course of two days with two separate ceremonies: a formal ceremony and a symbolic service. The civil ceremony is typically held the day before the wedding reception, with only immediate family members and witnesses in attendance. Mylène and Geoffrey tell us that “the civil ceremony is still very important in the French spirit” because it is the only event that makes the marriage official. “The’real’ wedding is the day after and has more meaning, whether it’s at a church or just a more symbolic, secular ceremony,” they say. This applies whether the ceremony takes place in a religious setting or in a more traditional setting.
04 of 16 Livret de Famille Bride signing document with priest
A mayor will present a couple with a livret de family booklet, which is a civil registry, when the pair is engaged to be married. It includes the couple’s marriage certificate, as well as their birth certificates, passports, and any other relevant documents for use in the legal system. The livret de famille is a “strong symbol that literally shows you’re now creating your own family, Mylène and Geoffrey,” and it is both “mandatory” and “required” for the marriage to be considered legally binding. “It will be used throughout your entire life, and the names and identities of your children will be added to it.”
05 of 16 The French Wedding Gown Collection
La robe de mariée, which literally translates to “the bride’s dress,” is typically a traditional, understated white or off-white gown with a train and a veil, similar to what American brides wear. The French bridal attire, on the other hand, is very understated, is never flashy, and is invariably chic. The majority of the time, French ladies do not wear wedding dresses that are embellished with diamantés or other similar elements; rather, they prefer to let the opulent materials take center stage. The same goes for the bride’s hair and cosmetics; understated, natural aesthetics are preferred by French brides. They also limit the number of accessories they wear.
There are seven French bridal designers that every bride should be familiar with.
06 of 16 Le Cortège
Le cortège is the tradition in which the mother of the groom and the groom walk hand in hand down the aisle of the wedding ceremony. Mylène and Geoffrey explain that although French people are often reserved and do not enjoy participating in parades, this custom is honored with great respect. To tell you the truth, we know more than one mother who would have been really upset if her son had tried to opt out of the activity. After the groom has arrived at the altar, the father of the bride walks down the aisle with his daughter, following a tradition that is very similar to the one practiced in the United States.
07 White Ribbon-Cutting Newlyweds Walking Through a White Sheet Photo by Thomas Papaterpos; Courtesy of Vanessa Monnet 7 of 16 White Ribbon-Cutting Newlyweds Walking Through a White Sheet
In rural areas of France, it was once common practice for the future husband to bring a makeshift caravan to the future bride’s home in order to collect her before the wedding ceremony. The bride and the bride’s father led the procession accompanying musicians, while the groom and the groom’s mother followed at the very end of the line. Before the bride could enter the church, children strung up white ribbons to act as a barrier in her way. The bride was required to cut the ribbons in order to make her way through. The custom was intended to be a metaphor for the bride prevailing over any challenges that married life would present. According to Monnet, the tradition has been updated in recent years to involve cutting a heart shape out of a white sheet and having the bride and groom walk through it together at the reception. Monnet and her now-husband did this at their own wedding celebration.
08 of 16 Le Vin D’honneur
In contrast to the conventional length of one to one and a half hours observed in the United States, Great Britain, and Asia, the cocktail hour (technically hours) of the wedding typically lasts two to three hours. Mylène and Geoffrey both agreed that this particular moment in the French wedding day is the most significant one. “After the ceremony, it’s an occasion to gather everyone around for some high-quality food and drinks—mostly wine.” After the conclusion of the cocktail hour, the newlywed couple will arrive at the reception in what is known as the “broom car” or la voiture balai. “In our case, we arrived on a scooter, which had a little carriage at the back, but many couples will arrive in a horse carriage or vintage car,” adds Monnet. “Our little carriage was attached to the back of our scooter.”
09 of 16 Regional Food and Drink (Including Wine)
“The first thing that French couples absolutely want to have is French food and French wine,” said Mylène and Geoffrey. “The second thing that French couples absolutely want to have is time together.” “As cliche as it may sound, the French are extremely proud of their culinary heritage and don’t want to miss any opportunity to express it,” (For White Eden Weddings, that’s meant lots of local wine trucks—especially in the South of France). During the vin d’honneur, you should take care not to overindulge in the hors d’oeuvres, such as paté, mini vegetable tarts, and French cheeses. This may seem like an impossible task, given that you probably won’t sit down for a dinner consisting of beef bourguignon, potatoes au gratin, and coq au vin before 9 o’clock in the evening. According to Mylène and Geoffrey, the late-night French onion soup is given at the end of the reception before guests leave, and this often takes place between the hours of 4 and 5 in the morning.
10 of 16 A Repas de Noces that Lasts All Night
As has been alluded to on multiple occasions, the reception, also known as the “wedding meal” in French, is known as repas de noces. It is a really enjoyable time. The number of people who show up ranges anywhere from 200 to 300, and their primary objective is to have a good time. The dinner is served late, and the dance begins about midnight and typically continues until as late as seven o’clock the next morning! In most cases, the reception will take place at a stunning chateau or some other huge event venue. According to Monnet, you will also see a lot of sophisticated styling, as French couples are paying more attention to decoration these days.
11 of 16 Father-Daughter Dance Opener
It is customary in the United States for the newlyweds to kick off the reception with their very first dance as a married couple. This dance is performed by the newlyweds. The father-daughter dance, which is also a customary part of the ritual, is performed much later on. However, Mylène and Geoffrey say that when it comes to French weddings, “It is a tradition that the bride and her father open the ball.” After that, “the father gives the bride away to the groom during this first dance,” and the bride and groom finish it together.
12 of 16 Une Fontaine de Champagne
At French weddings, you can expect an endless supply of bubbly Champagne. The Champagne tower, also known as the fontaine de Champagne, is the most popular type of custom. The Champagne tower is made up of flutes or coupes that have been skillfully stacked in the shape of a pyramid (obviously by a trained professional). Champagne is served by first filling the cup at the very top of the stack, then allowing it to slowly trickle down into the cups below. Because of its widespread appeal, the Champagne tower has become a standard feature at weddings all around the world.
13 of 16 La Coupe de Mariage
The coupe de mariage is a shallow silver cup with two handles that has been engraved with the couple’s initials and is considered a family heirloom. It is customary for the newlyweds to use this cup to make their first toast to each other after getting married. It is still a common wedding gift because the pair can engrave it with their wedding date and, in the future, other important dates, like as the birth of a child, although contemporary brides and grooms are less likely to toast with it during the wedding itself. These days, “Couples usually just toast with regular Champagne glasses,” remark Mylène and Geoffrey.
14 Wedding guests admiring fireworks, 14 of 16 in the Over-the-Top Entertainment category
Mylène and Geoffrey both agree that the entertainment has taken on an increasingly vital role. A wedding in France is one of those few occasions where it is physically impossible to feel bored. White Eden Weddings, for their part, has arranged for aquatic displays, live food demos, and sketch artists to be present at the event. In addition, it is customary practice for the married couple’s closest friends and family members to put on a tailored performance for the pair at their reception. Even though Monnet has witnessed guests transform into everything from slideshow prompters to magicians to musicians, at the couple’s wedding, the groom’s best friend played guitar, and the night concluded with a fireworks show.
Croquembouche number 15 of a total of 16
The classic French wedding dessert is a pyramid of profiteroles wrapped in caramel and filled with cream, and you can still find it served at a lot of weddings nowadays. The croquembouche, which dates back to the 1700s and roughly translates to “crunch in the mouth,” is now available in a wide variety of flavors. Croquembouche dates back to the 1700s. It is not a cake that can be cut into pieces and served; rather, each guest takes three or four cream puffs, and the height of the pyramid is determined by the number of attendees at the wedding. After it has been brought out at the reception, French couples will feed each other a few bites of the croquembouche. This custom is very similar to the American tradition of the couple feeding each other bites of cake after the cake has been cut. Croquembouche is becoming increasingly popular as a substitute for wedding cakes in countries all over the world, including the United States. Mylène and Geoffrey receive a lot of requests for the dessert from couples who are married in France but choose to have their reception in another country.
16 of 16 The Dragées and Other Delicious Favors to Serve
According to Mylène and Geoffrey, two of the most popular items to give as party favors are individualized candles or miniature versions of regional specialties, such as a bottle of olive oil or dried lavender. According to Monnet, “In our case, it was little lavender bags as a symbol of Provence,” but she has also seen miniature pots of honey, local trinkets, and biscuits as a symbol of the region. Les dragées are a type of traditional favor that you may probably come across at some point during your search. The dragée is a type of candy that consists of an almond that has been candy-coated (often in chocolate) and is a highly popular sweet that is handed to guests in little pouches at French weddings. Mylène and Geoffrey both believe that this is still active. “At weddings, they are typically presented to guests in sets of five, with each dragée serving as a symbol of the couple’s health, happiness, longevity, fertility, and wealth.”