French Wedding Etiquette

by Claire Valenty on April 9, 2010

in Special Occasion - Weddings

wedding french etiquette

You have met a charming French man and you are going to get married. Ooh la la, you lucky thing! As French wedding etiquette is slightly different than traditional wedding etiquette, it is a good idea to check out this article first to ensure you don’t make any faux pas!

When planning your wedding, keep in mind that French wedding etiquette states that your wedding is white. And by saying, “your wedding is white”, I mean everything is white: your dress; the flowers; the decorations; the wreath of flowers is it customary for you to wear around your neck; everything. However, at the reception, you do not have to worry about centerpieces as it is common for the tables to be overflowing with flowers from the guests.

Now it’s the big day! Be prepared; French weddings take ALL day, not the normal five-six hours American weddings take, and usually end around 3 am. On the day of your wedding, before the preparations begin, you will need to take a ritual bath. This symbolizes your purification and washes away the memories of your exes (sigh; if only it was that easy). After you have been “cleansed”, your handsome future husband will meet you at your house with all of the guests. You will first go to the courthouse for the civil ceremony. Then, off to church! Children will block the entrance to the church with white ribbons they are holding. You will cut the ribbons before entering the church along with the groom and all of the guests.

The ceremony takes place under a silk canopy. When the priest gives his blessing, a “carre” (veil) is held over the both of you to ward off evil spirits.

After the wedding, you both will leave the church along the bridal path outside the church which will be covered with laurel leaves. Your guests will shower you with seeds, as it used to be common in the US, but, you will also be given three loaves of bread (score!) which it is customary to immediately give to a poor person (that’s ok; they need it and you are probably on a lo-carb diet to fit into that dress). At that reception, you and your new husband will toast each other using a two-handed cup, which will probably come from your new in-laws, as it is passed from generation to generation. As for the reception, you will start off with a cocktail reception, then a five course meal and then dancing, which usually starts between dinner courses.

Here’s the kicker: you have friends that are your besties that you want to be around all day with you to share in the festivities and you have those people that are work friends that you want to invite, but, you are not super close to them. French wedding etiquette states that your guests can be invited to the whole event or any section, or combination of sections individually! Someone can be invited just to attend dessert, which usually happens around midnight, and they will not be offended at all! Most people will be invited to the civil, religious and reception events. If your guest is special, they will also be invited to attend the dessert portion of the night. If your guest is very special, they will receive an additional card with their invitation requesting their presence at the dinner and dancing (which is the full event). This process ensures that all of your friends and family get to participate in your joyous event without sticking your parents with an enormous bill. Very civilized, right? Yeah…in France! Try that in America and see how quickly your Facebook friend’s count goes down!

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