This summer I had the pleasure of attending my very first French wedding! It was a beautiful affair from start to finish, despite the threatening rain, and my French getting put to the test. The event was interesting to me on many levels, one of which being the ability for me to observe differences in ceremonies and traditions that exist between French and American weddings.
In no particular order, I present to you the 10 wedding things that French and American couples do differently (in my experience):
- Although the United States also asks couples to officially marry in a clerical setting, such as a court house or town hall, very rarely does it happen on the same day as the wedding and reception, with guests piled into some official room. In France, the civic proceedings happen just before any other ceremony or reception is to take place. At this wedding, as many friends and family members as possible were crammed into the tiny room, though I’ve been told that sometimes it’s just the bride, groom, and witnesses, and everyone else joins for the reception.
- Speaking of witnesses, that’s what the bridal party is called here. There is no maid of honor, best man, bridesmaids or groomsmen. There is usually one person (sometimes two) for the bride and one (or two) for the groom to act as witnesses to the marriage.
- The witnesses do not usually coordinate clothing or colors to match the bride, groom or any wedding theme.
- A bouquet is thrown, but a garter is not.
- There is no cake or cake-cutting ceremony.
- There is no father-daughter or mother-son dance.
- I also don’t recall seeing the couple’s first dance, but this may have been around the point where things got hazy.
- Speaking of hazy, the reception (aka when dinner was served) started around 9pm, with drinks and dancing intended to last until around 5am.
- Since there is often no outright “ceremony,” there is no rehearsal the night before the wedding (although in this case, there was actually a ceremony at a church that included a choir, who held a rehearsal at the church, which preceded a barbecue).
- Instead of a brunch the morning after, there is often an all-day event where food and drinks are served.
So there you have it! And if there are any international brides/grooms or wedding crashers out there, please share some interesting traditions you’ve seen (or missed)!