Whether you’re planning a romantic French wedding, want to incorporate French elements into your special day, or have been invited to a wedding in France, it is always interesting to look back at traditions to add a certain je ne sais quoi to your big day. France has become a popular wedding destination due to its stunning scenery, locations, cuisine, weather, and venues. So, here are some of our favorite traditions you might encounter if you’re planning a wedding across the channel.

What Should I Wear to a French wedding?

Most guests dress formally, with men wearing suits with or without ties depending on the level of formality. Women will wear short cocktail dresses for the wedding ceremonies and may change into long dresses for the evening party. For the daytime ceremony, some women may choose to wear a small hat or fascinator, but it is not required.

Except for the cardinal rule of not wearing the color white and not trying to upstage the bride, no color is forbidden. There should be nothing too clingy or low cut, and the makeup should be tasteful.

Should You Bring A Gift?

The French gift registry is called Liste de Mariage, but most guests now give the newlyweds money. The amount to give is typically the amount you estimate the couple spent on your invitation (food, lodging, etc.).

At the dinner reception, there will usually be a wooden box where you can slip in your envelope with a cheque and a livret d’Or for the guests to leave a note for you.

How Can You Say Wedding In French?

The French word for wedding is “Les Noces”, but you can also use “mariage” as in “Je vais au Mariage de Geneviève et Pascal”.

And now that we’ve cleared that up let’s look at what to expect at a French wedding. Allons-y!

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No Bridezilla

The bride isn’t the center of attention at a French wedding. Instead, the emphasis is on the two families reuniting. French weddings are less gendered from the start: when the girl receives her ring, she usually gives the groom a nice watch. Each bride and groom have a mix of female and male witnesses, all of whom contribute to the day’s planning. So, while the bridezilla exists in every culture, she is a rare breed in France.

Wedding Procession

It is customary for the groom to pick up his bride-to-be from her home prior to the wedding ceremony. The bride and her father lead the procession, which musicians lead. This is our favorite part: on their way to the chapel, children stretch white ribbons across the road to block their path. The bride must cut the ribbons as she passes, demonstrating her ability to overcome the challenges that married life may throw at her.

Trousseau & Wedding Armoire

Trousseau is derived from the French word “trousse,” which literally means a bundle of linens and clothing. The bundle would include dresses, lingerie, and linens for the bride’s future marriage and new home. These lovely items, hand-picked and embroidered with the bride’s and her mother’s married initials, would be kept in a Wedding Armoire or Hope Chest, which the bride’s father traditionally carved. Perhaps a more modern approach would be to give the bride French bed linen for her home, to be stored in a beautiful French Armoire.

No Bridesmaids Or Best Man

There will be no bridesmaids or best men because the French have no word for them. The witnesses are the closest thing the French have to best friends participating. The bride and groom may have one or two witnesses for the ceremony each. However, they have children leading the bride down the aisle, designated as ring bearers and flower girls.

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La Mairie

The mayor must perform the marriage ceremony at the town hall, which is more of a legal requirement than a tradition. It is a ‘public’ event, and the doors to the room must remain open. Traditionally, this is done to allow anyone who wishes to oppose the marriage to do so. In France, there is no other way to marry legally. Following this more formal affair, French couples frequently choose to have a religious ceremony, though this is purely spiritual.

Grand Entrance

The groom will walk down the aisle accompanied by his mother, followed by the bridal party – flower girls scattering petals, boys carrying the ring, and the bride accompanied by her father. After that, the couple will be seated on red velvet chairs to exchange their vows.

The Cake

Wedding cakes, at least as we know them, do not exist in France. Instead, they serve a croquembouche, which is essentially a pyramid of vanilla cream-filled balls of goodness! This tradition dates back to the Middle Ages when each wedding guest brought a small cake to be piled high. The profiterole-style cake is occasionally replaced with another conical offering, such as macrons or other French pastries. In any case, we’re not complaining!

The Champagne

Sabrage is from the Napoleonic era. A bottle of Champagne is opened with a saber, which is both swashbuckling and romantic in the Darcy sense. It has a lot of Wow factor, but it’s not one to try with a shaky hand! Another champagne-related custom is the champagne pyramid, a French masterpiece that has been adopted all over the world.

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Perhaps in the UK, these are far too often associated with 1990s weddings, but in France, giving the attending children a treasure hunt to see how many they can eat has more meaning than giving them a treasure hunt to see how many they can eat! Each guest at a French wedding is given five dragées representing health, wealth, happiness, longevity, and fertility.

La Soupe à l’ Oignon

Because onion soup is at the heart of French cuisine, it’s no surprise that it has a special place on the wedding day (or, more accurately, wedding night). It is served in the early hours of the morning to aid recovery after a long night of partying, as French weddings typically end around 5-7 am!

So, what isn’t there to love about French weddings? New bed linen, stunning locations, all-night partying, and family and friends reuniting over copious amounts of Champagne.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Not To Wear To A French Wedding?

Don’t wear white. In France —and in many other countries in the world— white and its chromatic equivalents like ivory, cream and Champagne are reserved for the bride. Sometimes an awkward match can happen when you least expect it —especially when brides are going for more colored wedding dresses.

What Do French People Give As Wedding Gifts?

Les Dragées and Other Edible Favors. A package of les dragées is a traditional favor you’re likely to come across. The dragée is a candy-coated (usually in chocolate) almond that is served to guests in small pouches at French weddings.

Who Pays For The Wedding In French Culture?

The bride’s parents typically pay for the wedding, according to a number of wedding traditions around the world. This used to be the same tradition in France, but not anymore! Currently, both the bride’s and groom’s parents split the bill.

What Do French Brides Wear?

The Wedding Dress (La Robe de Mariée). French brides usually wear a traditional white or off-white dress with an accompanying veil and train. Elegance and simplicity are key, as French brides want to look effortless, not showy.

What Color Is Not Allowed At The Wedding?

For obvious reasons—no one wants to draw attention away from the bride—white has traditionally been the only off-limits color for wedding guests. However, times are changing. Many people no longer consider wearing white to be a big deal. Some brides and grooms are perfectly fine with it.

Final Words

If you’ve decided to have a destination wedding in France, you might want to incorporate some of their traditions into your big day. They’re definitely different in their approach to weddings and perhaps more low-key and modern in parts, so if you’re looking for a more informal affair, this could be the place to go.