8 French Traditions to Embrace at Your Wedding | Château Bouffémont

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.


Wedding Plans: 8 Traditions to Embrace for Your Dream French Wedding


1. A non-bride-centric approach

In many weddings, the bride is the centre of attention, so much so that the phenomenon of the ‘bridezilla’ – a term used to refer to a woman who is obsessive and demanding while planning her wedding – gets thrown around a lot.

French weddings are traditionally less gendered. There is less focus placed on the bride and more on two families coming together. The engagement is kept secret from friends until the couple tells their families in person. The families then hold a fiançailles, or an engagement party where they spend a night or weekend to get to know one another. By this time, the bride can finally wear her engagement ring.


2. La mairie

French weddings typically consist of two ceremonies over the course of two days: a civil ceremony and a symbolic service.

The civil wedding is a legal requirement in France. Those wishing to legally marry in the country must be at a town hall in no less than 10 days and no more than a year after the authorisation to marry has been granted.

The mayor or another representative officiates the ceremony. The doors remain open to reflect the ‘public’ nature of the event and – traditionally – provide people with the option to potentially object to the marriage. The ceremony is in French, and having a translator present is recommended if either you or your spouse-to-be are not fluent in the language.


3.The symbolic wedding ceremony

The ‘real’ wedding is often held a day after the civil ceremony and is usually celebrated with only close family and guests. It can be held anywhere the couple wishes, but is usually held in a church, a quaint chateau or a resort.

Unlike American and British weddings, French wedding traditions don’t require bridesmaids and groomsmen. However, each side has one to two witnesses who will sign the registries.

After all the guests are seated, the groom and his mother are the first to walk down the aisle. The bridal party arrives next, consisting of flower girls scattering petals and boys carrying the ring. The bride and her father are the last to arrive. The couple then sit on red velvet chairs for the exchange of vows.

After the ceremony, the guests exit the venue while the witnesses and newlyweds sign the registers. The newlyweds leave the venue last, and people will throw rice, confetti or flower petals as they make their exit.


4. La voiture balai

La voiture balai is directly translated as the ‘broom car’. It 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 maybe heavily decorated with pans or tins that trail behind it during the journey. This can be customised into scooters or horse carriages, depending on the couple’s preference.


5. 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.


6. The reception dinner

Invitations to the reception dinner are given only to a select few guests, usually close family members and friends. An RSVP is required so the couple or the organisers can plan the catering accordingly.

Some food and drink elements you will find in the reception dinner of a traditional French wedding include:

  • Croquembouche

At a traditional French wedding, you won’t see the customary tiered wedding cake. Instead, you’ll encounter the croquembouche, which is made up 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 macarons or other French pastries.

  • Dragées

Dragées, candy-coated or chocolate-coated almonds, are a popular sweet at French weddings. Traditionally, each guest receives five pieces to symbolise the fertility, happiness, health, longevity and wealth of the couple.

  • The champagne tower

Naturally, champagne is flowing in French weddings. Few French wedding traditions are more enthusiastically embraced by those from overseas than la fontaina 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.


7. Entertainment

Some wedding traditions in France are staples at weddings in other countries. For example, the bride and her father open the ball with a dance. Single females stand in line to catch the bride’s bouquet that is supposedly a sign that they are the next to marry. Family members or witnesses make speeches before everyone makes a toast to the newlyweds.

In many countries, wedding celebrations usually end around midnight. For the French, parties can go all night up to early in the morning. Guests are usually invited to eat a late breakfast or lunch the next day.


8. Special wedding traditions

Other wedding traditions were previously exclusive to certain parts of France. You can incorporate them into your wedding to make your special day more memorable.

  • La coupe de mariage

Literally translated to “the wedding cup,” it is usually an engraved, two-handled cup passed down to the newlyweds. Instead of toasting with regular champagne glasses, opt for a personalised la coupe de mariage to celebrate your new life as a married couple.

  • 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.

  • White ribbon-cutting

A custom in small French villages, the groom approaches 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 her path. The bride cuts the ribbons to allow her passage, thereby also symbolising her ability to pass through the obstacles of married life. In modern times, the ritual has evolved into the couple passing through a white sheet cut with a heart.

Your Dream French Wedding with Château Bouffémont

There can surely be no finer French wedding tradition than the backdrop of a resplendent historic chateau, such as the extraordinary Château Bouffémont in its enchanting setting of manicured French gardens, in which to tie the knot.

When you seek the most romantic chateau to rent in France for your special day, you could scarcely hope to make a more tasteful choice. We are in close proximity to Paris, the City of Lights itself, making it easy for you to travel to and from the city for your civil wedding and back to the chateau.

Let us help you organise the French wedding you deserve. For enquiries on how we can elevate your special day, call us on +33 (0) 1 39 91 20 94 or fill out our contact form here: https://www.chateaubouffemont.com/contact.