French Wedding Traditions and Customs
A traditional French wedding is a celebration with varied customs that are symbolic of the various aspects of marriage.
Weddings may be a universal celebration, but traditions vary depending on culture and country. France has always been synonymous with love and romance, and a French wedding reflects the same through its customs and ceremonies.French has many unique traditional customs that make your wedding day special and memorable. All the customs and rituals in a traditional French wedding symbolize the many important aspects of marriage. In ancient French wedding traditions the social and economic standing of the bride and the groom were important considerations for any marriage contract. This way most of the marriages were convenience marriages. The marriage laws too, reflect this concern with the financial and economic status of the parties.
In French wedding traditions the marriage contract was referred to as marital regimes. A marital regime impacts the way in which property is divided before and after marriage or in the case of divorce. It is also important in the determination of inheritance rights and taxes. Even today, in instances where the marriage has taken place outside France and no specific marital regime has been selected, the French couple need to select a marital regime before they can divide property (in France or worldwide) in the event of divorce. Choice of marital regimes can be changed after a minimum prescribed waiting period, provided both parties to the marriage contract agree.
croquembouche – The traditional layered wedding cake originated in France, but another common cake is called the croquembouche, which is essentially a pyramid of crème-filled pastry puffs covered in a caramel glaze. These cakes probably originated from the Middle Ages when guests would bring small cakes or pastries and stack them in a pile. If the bride and groom could kiss over the cakes without knocking them over, then supposedly they would have a lifetime of prosperity.
La Coupe de Marriage – Another fun tradition involves La Coupe de Marriage, which is an engraved two-handled cup (usually a family heirloom) from which the newlyweds toast each other. One interesting tradition which might be fun to incorporate is the beheading of a bottle of champagne. Skilled horse-back riders under Napoleon’s command would use special sabres to strike the bottles which ladies would hold up. The practice became a way to celebrate special occasions and even now it’s possible to buy replicas of the original sabres.
Trousseau and Wedding Armoire
Some of you might already be familiar with the french word “trousseau” which comes from the french word “trousse”, literally meaning a bundle of linens and clothing. It would contain things like Sunday wear, day dresses, lingerie and linens that the bride or the mother of the bride to-be would have embroidered with the initials of her future family. The wedding armoire or a hope chest was used for a bride’s trousseau and would have been hand carved with symbols of wealth and prosperity by the father of the bride when she was a child. This would have been given to her in her teenage years to fill with important pieces that she could take with her to hew new home. In the 18th century, wedding armoires were also manufactured by craftsmen and given to a newly married couple as their gift.
Catholicism is the number one religion in France. Even if a family are not particularly big church goers, they will more often than not expect their children to have a church ceremony to accompany the civil ceremony. It is common to have different witnesses for the civil and religious ceremonies depending on their religious persuasion.
At the reception, guests bring along small cakes and pile them together at a considerable height at the center of the table. If the couple is able to kiss without knocking out the pile, it symbolizes lifelong prosperity. The couple then raise a toast to each other from an engraved cup known as the ‘La coupe de marriage’. Traditional food, French wine, and the cake are the highlights of the reception. The cake is known as ‘Croquembouche’ which means ‘crunching in one’s mouth’. It is made of cones of cream puffs which is filled with pastry cream and coated with caramelized sugar. It is decorated with marzipan flowers and drizzled with chocolate.
Other French Traditions Include the Following:
- Guests at a traditional French wedding, bring the flowers and floral decorations with them to the ceremony.
- The bride usually wears a wreath of flowers on her wedding.
- As the bride and groom leave the church, they are showered with wheat or seed and the bride offered three loaves of bread.
- As a very old tradition of French wedding, guests used to bring small cakes to the reception and pile them in the middle of a table, one on top of the other. The bride and groom would have to kiss over the top of them, to symbolize a long life together.
- Chiverie (La Charivari) it is a big tradition in French wedding. On the wedding night friends of each side gather and bang pots and pans on their windows symbolizing long time joy and happiness. The friends are invited over for a drinks party.