Posts Tagged ‘French wedding traditions’

If your other half is French and you aren’t, this post should give you a crash course in French wedding traditions so that you are fully up to speed before you begin talking details with your respective families. If neither you or your partner is French, you might like to think about incorporating some French traditions into your wedding on the French Riviera. Here is a brief explanation of the main French wedding traditions but I am sure there are loads more specific to each region…

  • The civil service: In France, the only legally recognised wedding is a civil ceremony which is held at the town hall closest to either one of the couple’s place of residence. An application should turned into the town hall anything up to 12 months before the desired wedding date. The mayor’s office will then reply confirming the date and alloted time for your wedding. The number of people invited to the civil ceremony depends on the number of seats available, big families can overflow outside into the corridor. Generally however only close family and friends participate in the civil ceremony.
  • The religious ceremony: Catholicism is the number one religion in France. Even if a family are not particularly big church goers, they will more often than not expect their children to have a church ceremony to accompany the civil ceremony. It is common to have different witnesses for the civil and religious ceremonies depending on their religious persuasion.
  • ‘Le Lancer de riz’: The French traditionally throw rice (le riz) over the newly weds as they leave either the town hall, the church / synagogue / temple / mosque etc. The act of throwing rice or any other confetti in France is, as in other occidental cultures, to promote fertility and to warn off evil spirits.
Le Lancer de Riz

Le Lancer de Riz

  • Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue: This Anglo-Saxon tradition made its way to france from England at the end of the 19th century but is still not practiced as religiously in France as it is in the UK and USA.
  • ‘Le Vin d’Honneur’: Traditionally, the ‘vin d’honour’, literally translated as ‘wine of honour’,  is a mini-reception that takes place directly following the civil or church ceremony either in the same place as the main reception venue or in another venue near to the place where the ceremony has taken place. The ‘Vin d’Honneur’ normally lasts a few hours and is an opportunuty to relax after the high emotions of th wedding ceremony and for the married couple to invite those with whom they would like to share a part of their special day but who they will not necessarily invite to the main wedding dinner and party. Often older guests such as friends of the parents’ or grandparents’ will be invited to the ‘vin d’honneur’ as well as work colleagues or neighbours. Champagne, wine and cocktails such as the ‘Kir Royal’ are commonly the drink of choice at the ‘vin d’honneur’.
Kir Royal Champagne Cocktail

Kir Royal Champagne Cocktail

  • Beeping of car horns: It is customary in France for the cars following the wedding car to the reception venue to beep their horns all the way. The tradition began as a way to warn off evil spirits and the devil but today it’s really just a way to draw attention to the bide and groom and to celebrate in a festive, fun way.
  • ‘L’Apéritif’: The aperitif or ‘apero’ for short, is pre-dinner drinks (champagne usually) accompanied by savoury canapés and ‘verrines’. The aperitif takes place after the ‘vin d’honneur’ and before the wedding breakfast (Anglo-Saxon term for the wedding dinner – traditionally the bride and groom fasted before their wedding therefore the celebratory dinner was their first meal of the day, hence the term ‘wedding breakfast’).
Smoked Salmon & Avocado Verrine

Salmon and Avocado Verrine

  • ‘La Pièce Montée’: The ‘pièce montée’ is the French wedding cake. The ‘pièce montée’ is brought out in an extremely ceremonial way after dessert and once guests have had a chance to dance a little and is served with Champagne. The ‘pièce montée’ is traditionally a ‘Croqenbouche’, a delicious cone-shaped cake made from piling up cream filled profiteroles with hard caramel all round the outside, decorated with spun sugar shapes, flowers or ribbons. The more American / English inspired multi tiered cake does also feature quite heavily at French weddings. The French version of the Anglo-Saxon classic wedding cake uses lighter, more mouse like sponge, cream instead of frosting and often contains fruit such as strawberries.


  • ‘le Jeu de la Jarretière’: The ‘Jeu de la Jarretière’ or Garter Game in English is an auction which takes place at the wedding reception to win the bride’s garter. The ‘Jeu de la Jarretière’ was popular before wedding lists became common place and is a way of raising money to help pay for the wedding, however today the tradition is not as prevalent as it once was. Traditionally, the bride places her foot up on a chair or stands on a chair ready to hitch up her skirt and show the guests her garter. An auction is conducted by the DJ or master of ceremonies and guests can bid cash to win the bride’s garter. A pot or hat is handed round in which people place money. In some cases, each time a man bids, the bide has to hitch up her dress and the female guests bit for her to lower it. The garter either goes to the person who donates the most money or to the person who is in the process of donating money when the time limit for the auction ends. The winner either removes the garter by hand or with their teeth!
  • ‘Le Pot de chambre’: A rather strange wedding tradition in France completely unique in the world as far as i can tell is the ‘Pot de chambre’. A ‘pot de chambre’ is literally a chamber pot or potty for short and the ritual consists of the wedding party going on a hunt for the newly weds very early the morning after the wedding party or the same evening after the bride and groom have gone to bed to make them drink from a potty. There is no hard and fast rule to what the wedding party can put in the ‘pot de chambre’ but usually champagne and other alcohol, bread, cake and even chocolate spread, sausages and toilet paper (an obvious reference to you know what) are added and mixed about. The newlyweds are obliged to take a sip from the ‘pot de chambre’ starting with the bride then the groom finally the members of the wedding party present. I’ll save you a photo of this one but if you really want to see one, click here. I am warning you it is quite disgusting!

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