Cultural Traditions: Je t'aime, France
Exploring French wedding ceremony and reception customs and rituals
There’s elegance and chic sophistication that exudes from most things the French do.
Melanie and I are both Francophiles at heart — Melanie’s obsession being slightly larger than mine (Melanie here: This is a gross understatement!) — which led to the naming of this very blog in homage to the last French queen, the infamous Marie Antoinette.
But, we realized recently that we’ve never done a deep dive into the wedding rituals of the culture that inspired the name of the “Let Them Eat Cake,” blog (we know, we know, she never said it).
The French wedding is not completely removed from the traditions here in the states. But we do have a few favorites out of what differs between us and our French counterparts.
First, they too sign official documents to “legalize” their marriage, as we do, however, their official documents hold more meaning to the couple. The document is a “Livret de Famille” booklet. The booklet, per our research, was apparently introduced in 1877 to give couples and families official documentation of their civil status. The booklet is issued at a couple’s wedding, as our marriage license is here in the U.S., but in it are also recorded births of the couple’s children, any premature deaths of children and the deaths of the parents.
Another favorite of ours is the Le Vin D'honneur – which translates roughly to “wine of honor.” Essentially, this time after the ceremony is complete is the equivalent to our cocktail hour. However, they take this time seriously, as the “hour” lasts anywhere from three to four hours long. The time includes tasty food and drinks and, of course, wine. Cocktail hour, not related to a wedding celebration, is a New Orleanian’s favorite hour of the day. This is a tradition we can fully support.
For those couples who would prefer to not have a typical wedding cake, maybe a French Croquembouche is the way to go. This traditional French wedding dessert consists of caramel-covered profiteroles (think a cream puff) stacked into a pyramid shape. It’s perfect for sharing with your guests, as everyone can get their own individual piece straight from the cake, no cutting required.
Also, a tradition that has somewhat been modernized is the white ribbon cutting. Brides.com reports:
“It used to be customary in small French villages for the groom to collect his bride-to-be from her home prior to the ceremony with a sort of a caravan. The procession was led by musicians and the bride with her father, while the groom and his mother followed at the very back. Before entering the chapel, children would stretch out white ribbons to block the bride's path, forcing her to cut them to pass through. The tradition was supposed to symbolize the bride overcoming obstacles married life might send her way. In contemporary times, it is speculated that the ritual may have evolved into the cutting of a heart in a white sheet for the bride and groom to go through together.”
Finally, the French are of course all pro when it comes to champagne. After all, they invented it. We of course endorse bubbly as an any and every day of the week beverage, but there is no better suited place for it than a wedding. Cheers to that and vive la France!