Whether you're thinking of a romantic French wedding, have been invited to a wedding in France or are planning to incorporate French elements in your big day, it's always interesting to look back at traditions to bring a certain je ne sais quoi to your special day. France has become a popular wedding destination thanks to its beautiful array of vistas, locations, cuisine, weather and venues. So, here's some of our favourite traditions you might encounter if you're heading across the channel for impending nuptials.
At French weddings, the bride is not the center of attention. Instead, the focus is on the two families coming together. From the get-go, French weddings tend to be less gendered: when the girl gets her ring, she typically gives the groom a nice watch. The bride and groom each have a mix of male and female witnesses, all of whom contribute to the planning of the day. So, whilst the bridezilla exists in every culture, of course, in France she's a rare breed.
On the day of the wedding, it's customary for the groom to collect his bride-to-be from her home prior to the ceremony. The procession is led by musicians and the bride with her father. This is the bit we love... on their way to the chapel, children block their path with white ribbons, stretching them across the road. The bride must cut the ribbons as she passes, proving that she's able to overcome obstacles married life might throw at her.
Trousseau & Wedding Armoire
The word “trousseau” comes from the French word “trousse”, literally meaning a bundle of linens and clothing. The bundle would contain dresses, lingerie and linens for the bride's married future and new home. These beautiful items, hand chosen and embroidered by the bride and her mother with her married initials, would then be kept in a Wedding Armoire or Hope Chest - traditionally carved by the bride's father. Perhaps a more modern take on this is gifting the bride with French bed linen for her home to be kept in a beautiful French Armoire.
No Bridesmaids or Best Man
Nope, no bridesmaids or best man - the French don't even have a word for them. The nearest equivalent the French have for best friends to take part are the witnesses. The bride and groom can have one or two witnesses each for the ceremony. They do, however, have children leading the way for the bride - the equivalent of flower girls and ring barers.
More a legal obligation than a tradition, the marriage ceremony must be performed by the mayor at the town hall. It is meant to be a ‘public’ event and the doors of the room have to stay open. This is traditionally to allow somebody who wants to oppose the marriage to do so. There is no other way to be legally married in France. French couples often choose to have a religious ceremony as well after this more formal affair, though this is purely spiritual.
Once all the guests are seated, the groom will walk down the aisle with his mother followed by the bridal party - flower girls scattering petals, boys carrying the ring and the bride accompanied by her father. The couple will then be seated on red velvet chairs to exchange their vows.
The French don't have wedding cakes, well, not as we know them. Instead they have what is called a croquembouche - essentially a pyramid of vanilla cream filled, balls of goodness! This custom stems from the mid ages, where wedding guests would each bring a small cake to the wedding to be piled high. The profiterole style cake is sometimes replaced with an alternative conical offering - maybe macrons or other French pastries. Either way, we're not complaining!
One from the Napoleonic era is Sabrage. A bottle of champagne is opened using a sabre - incredibly swash-buckling and romantic in a Darcy kind of way. It certainly has Wow factor but definitely not one to try with a shaky hand! Another champagne related custom is the French masterpiece which has been adopted all over the world - the champagne pyramide.
Perhaps in the UK these are far too often associated with 90s weddings, but in France the gifting of pretty sugar coated almonds has more significance than giving the attending children a treasure hunt to see how many they can eat! French wedding custom is to give 5 dragée’s to each guest symbolising health, wealth, happiness, longevity, and fertility.
La Soupe a la Oignon
Onion soup is at the core of French cuisine, no wonder that on the wedding day (wedding night is more accurate) it takes a special place. It is served in the early hours of the morning to help recover from a long night of partying, as French weddings tend to finish around 5-7am!
So what's not to love about French weddings? New bed linen, beautiful locations, all night partying and family and friends coming together over lots and lots of Champagne.
Are you thinking of getting married? Know someone getting married? Just dreaming? We offer a bespoke wedding list service to compile all your favourite French Bedroom Company goodies for your guests to gift you on your special day. Please contact our Wedding List Co-Coordinator, Alice on 01444 415430 or [email protected] for more information.