There are few times in life when you drop your plans and head to France. This time my reason was for a family wedding. And while France is amazing and Paris is delightful, I absolutely love spending time with my French relatives, cousins, and extended family.
Friends and loved ones flocked from all over the world to the suburbs of Paris to witness Martine and Eric wed. My parents, Mark, and I were so excited to experience a true, French wedding! French weddings are a little different from American weddings – from the multiple ceremonies to the 2am dance party. I must say, the French know how to throw a wedding.
In France, it is customary to have two ceremonies, one legal and the other religious. Traditionally the wedding festivities start at the courthouse where a civil ceremony takes place.
After the civil courthouse ceremony, we gathered into the town’s intimate Catholic Church for the second religious ceremony. The church’s vaulted ceilings curved from wall to wall and the marbled stone kept the church nice and cozy, keeping out the chilly spring air. Before the ceremony began, everyone exchanged hugs and kisses, giving the Groom well wishes.
Traditionally, the french weddings don’t have bridesmaids or groomsmen – only flower girls and ring bearers, which was the job of their two younger children who took their job very seriously.
After the religious ceremony, we filed out of the church, threw rose petals, and exchanged even more hugs and kisses. I was loving all of the French fashion with lady-like hats, fur coats and leather gloves.
We then hurried off to the reception dinner in a line of cars that seemingly wrapped around the town’s square. Every crooked one-way street was blocked with a honking wedding parade.
After arriving at the reception restaurant, overlooking the famous Seine River, we were greeted with champagne and canapés (hors d’oeuvres).
The intricate hors d’oeuvres were almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. We enjoyed champagne, champagne, some wine, and even more champagne.
After chatting and mingling for a bit, it was time to start the dinner feast.
The first thing you might noticed in the picture below is that there are missing bread plates and the mini baguettes are placed right on the table. This is typically seen throughout France and parts of Europe. The idea is that the tablecloth is so clean, you can eat off of it. If you are in someone’s home or out at a nice French restaurant and you place your bread on your plate, you are basically saying you don’t think that their table cloth is clean. Eeek, how rude!
Then the first course started – half lobster flambé with cognac. Next was Duck confit with potatoes and provencal tomatoes (cooked tomatoes topped with bread crumbs). Not pictured were the next two courses, which included a ‘peasant’ salad and an assortment of cheeses – cut fresh off the block.
Then, it was time for cake. And to call this dessert anything less than grand is an understatement! After the sparklers died down, it was then time for the champagne fountain toast. It was such a magical moment!
The Eiffel Tower cake was made out of a nut brittle with whimsical cream puffs. Mmm, I can still taste the stickily, delicious desserts now! We also munched on les dragée, sugar coated almond candies, which are a staple take-away wedding candy.
A few more notes about traditional French weddings. It is common to be invited to specific parts of the wedding ceremony or reception. You could get an invitation to only the hor d’oeuvres and after dinner dance party. Or you could only be invited to the ceremony but not the dinner – and it’s totally fine! (Usually) No one is offended if they are only invited to one and not the other. Naturally, the closer you are to the couple, the more wedding events you get invited to.
Also, typical French weddings last until 2am and sometimes later. After 11pm, dinner is usually wrapping up and everyone is hitting the dance floor, dancing to the classic wedding songs – including the YMCA. And no French wedding is complete without a small off-leash dog. This tiny pooch wandered everywhere from the kitchen to the kids table getting a front row seat to the best party in town!
The Saturday wedding reception rolled into the following day where the wedding festivities kept on going. The bride and groom hosted a beautiful Sunday brunch where under a blooming cherry tree we enjoyed warm, cheesy pizza baked out of a food truck parked in their drive way. The bride’s bouquet was on display along with her bridal gown and groom’s suit.
The pizza brunch was so relaxing. It was nice to catch up with everyone you saw shaking it on the dance floor the night before. After washing everything down with even more champagne, we toasted one last time wishing Martine and Eric continued success and love in the next (married) chapter of life.
What are some interesting wedding traditions you have experienced? What are some of your favorite American wedding traditions? I would love to read about some of your experiences!