Every country has it’s own way of celebrating a wedding. This happy occasion is celebrated in different ways all over the world, but what are the specific ways of celebrating in France when a couple get married?
Before the wedding, it used to be tradition that only the groom would have a stag party which is called in French ‘Enterrement de Vie de Garçon’ (burial of your boy life!) and that the bride wouldn’t have a celebration like a Hen Party with her friends. However times have changed and while hen parties aren’t as popular or as extravagant as in other countries, they are also now more commonplace.
Everyone in France must get married in the local town hall (Mairie). If you wish to get married in a church, then this is always in addition to the official legal ceremony at the town hall. Some people decide to get married first at the Mairie and then go on to the church and some do it in the opposite order. Some get married at the Mairie earlier in the week and then just do the church ceremony on their ‘Wedding Day’.
In France, brides don’t have friends of their own age as bridesmaids like in many English-speaking countries. They have children, usually girls but also boys as flower girls and page boys and these are the ‘Demoiselles d’Honneur’. The couple choose witnesses for the official ceremony at the Mairie and these are the ‘témoins’. It is considered bad luck for the groom to see the brides’ dress before the wedding day, like in many other countries.
After the ceremony, French people always do a ‘Vin d’honneur’. This is where people come and toast the happy couple and have a drink to celebrate their union. This is the moment when colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances are also invited in addition to family and close friends. Everyone shares a drink and some canapés, has a chat and children play games. Like in many other countries, champagne is the drink of choice!
After the ‘Vin d’Honneur’, family and close friends go to the place where the main meal and evening party will be held. There is usually a sit down formal dinner followed by drinks and dancing. The wedding cake in France is traditionally a ‘Pièce Montée’ made with profiteroles filled with cream and made into a tower stuck together with caramel and decorated to make it look pretty.
At any point in the day when the wedding party and friends are moving from one location to another in cars, the cars will go in procession and beep their horns as they parade through the streets. Often people on the street will clap and cheer as the married couple drive past!
After the meal and the cake, there is usually dancing into the early hours of the morning!
There is also an old tradition which is slightly old-fashioned nowadays and some couples choose not to do this….but to financially help the young couple who were getting married, the bride would wear a garter that she puts around her ankle. As people give money, she moves the garter slowly up her leg up (a little like an auction) to its usually place on her thigh. By this point people have given quite a lot of money and the young couple can put this towards their honeymoon or their new home!
Before the wedding, the future bride and groom make a wedding list in a shop and wedding guests can go to the shop to choose their gifts from the list. After the wedding, the couple usually go away on a honeymoon like in most countries around the world.
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