10 French Traditions to Embrace at your Wedding

traditional french wedding

Getting married in France is a dream of many couples. This is in largely because of the many
fascinating wedding traditions that have contributed to the country’s reputation as the
epicentre of romance.

 

If, however, you are interested in not only tying the knot in France but also embracing the finest
French traditions for this most special day, here are some ideas that you may like to incorporate into
your own ceremony.

 

1. A non-bride-centric approach

To those familiar with the phenomenon of the ‘bridezilla’ – a term used in reference to brides
perceived to be self-centered and unreasonable – the comparatively little focus placed on the bride in
traditional French weddings may be surprising at first. French marriages tend to emphasise, instead,
the two families that are brought together by the union.

 

2. The wedding procession

One custom on a French wedding day is for the groom to approach his bride-to-be at her home to
‘collect’ her prior to the ceremony. As the bride, her father and musicians lead the procession,
children stretch white ribbons across the road to block their path. The bride cuts the ribbons to
allow her passage, thereby also symbolising her ability to overcome the obstacles of married life.

 

3. La mairie

This is a legal requirement that has effectively taken the form of a French marriage tradition. Those
wishing to legally marry in the country must be married by the mayor at a town hall, with the doors
remaining open to reflect the ‘public’ nature of the event and – traditionally – provide potential
objectors to the marriage with the opportunity to do so. The SmartExpat website provides more
details on the legal process of tying the knot in France.

 

4. The wedding armoire

A traditional French bride’s ‘wedding armoire’ is her cupboard or chest, which is to be filled with
linen or clothing – or to use the native term, ‘trousse’. Such items are often hand chosen and
embroidered by the bride and her mother with her married initials, and are meant to serve the
bride’s needs during her married life.

 

5. The grand entrance

It is the groom and his mother who typically walk down the aisle first to mark the big entrance after
all of the guests are seated. It is only after this that the bridal party arrives, including flower girls
scattering petals, boys carrying the ring and finally, the bride and her father. The couple then sit on
red velvet chairs for the exchange of vows.

 

6. La noce

This is a term covering all of the wedding-related festivities involving the wedding party and guests.
One tradition formerly involved the guests – or ‘noce’ – following the newlyweds to the various sites
visited on the day, such as the church, drink reception or dinner location, while making the
maximum possible amount of noise. Today, a car procession following the bridal vehicle – with the
horns blaring en route – is more typical.

 

7. La voiture balai

What can be directly translated in name as the ‘broom car’ serves the purpose of following the
bridal and guests’ cars between locations, to ensure everyone reaches the party safely. A quirkily
and unmistakably French vehicle – such as the Citroen 2CV – is often chosen for this role, and may
be heavily decorated with pans or tins that trail behind it during the journey.

 

8. The cake

Traditional French weddings do not have a wedding cake as such, but instead what is known as a
croquembouche, which essentially takes the form of a pyramid of balls or choux buns filled with
vanilla cream or custard, and held together with toffee. Alternative offerings may be chosen, such as
conical creations consisting of macrons or other French pastries. Paris-based wedding planner
Kimberley Petyt has provided further information on what you need to know for your own French
wedding croquembouche on The Good Life France website.

 

9. The champagne tower

Few French wedding traditions are more enthusiastically embraced by those from overseas than la
fontaine à Champagne! This extravagant sight takes the form of a pyramid of flutes or coupes, with
the Champagne being poured into the top glass and subsequently filling all of the glasses below. As
you might imagine, it is best advised to entrust the construction of such a tower to capable and
experienced professionals.

 

10. The fairytale chateau venue

There can surely be no finer French wedding tradition than the backdrop on which one ties the knot,
not least because this is so often a resplendent historic chateau, such as the extraordinary Château
Bouffémont in its enchanting setting of manicured French gardens.

When you seek the most unspeakably romantic chateau to rent in France for your special day, you
could scarcely hope to make a more tasteful choice than our own aristocratic property – not least
because we are also in such close proximity to Paris, the City of Lights itself.