I often have questions about traditions in France. And as I went to a wedding this summer, I brought you a present. Answers to be fully ready when you are invited to a wedding in France.
You are notified of the wedding day by a faire-part: an invitation. It tells you where and when the wedding will take place and to what part you are invited to: mairie, church, apéritif, dinner… Or all 4.
It tells you if there is une liste de mariage where you can choose a gift from. If not, it means that you can give money.
It’s time to find your perfect robe, and un costume for your husband. Including une cravate or a noeud pap’.
Some time before the wedding, the groom will have son enterrement de vie de garçon and the maid son enterrement de vie de jeune fille.
La mairie is the town hall. You HAVE to go to get married, they won’t come to you. Le maire or l’adjoint au maire will welcome you and read the textes de loi. He will marry you in front of les témoins, by pronouncing THE phrase “Au nom de la loi, je vous déclare mari et femme“.
Le maire gives le livret de famille to the happy couple. It is an official document proving you are married and your children’s details will be written there too. They usually offer you the pen you signed your wedding documents with. Le contrat de mariage (prenup) is not mandatory in France.
You can go to church only AFTER you are married at la mairie. By law. Not every couple gets married at church (or temple, synagog, etc) nowadays in France. It’s up to you. Le mariage at church can either be une bénédiction (=short) or une messe (=long). The couple went to la préparation au mariage, before getting married at church so le prêtre knows why they wish to get married.
Leaving the church, people shout “vive les mariés” and throw flowers, rice, bubbles of soap (easier to clean than rice)… After thousands of pictures, all the cars make un cortège and honk all the way to la réception.
Le vin d’honneur
Le vin d’honneur (or la réception) is like a BIG super posh apéro. It lasts for hours before le dîner. It can be the time to take thousands of photos de famille, ask for news of all your friends and relax before la soirée. Some people who are not very close to the couple can be invited only to the vin d’honneur. It is very common to invite neighbours and distant friends only to the vin d’honneur for example.
La soirée is made of a loooooong dîner and a dancing time. During le dîner, friends and family will present des jeux et des animations like a powerpoint, games with the married couple etc. The témoins will faire un discours et porter un toast.
At the end of (or sometimes during) le dîner, you will go to dance. It starts with “la valse des mariés“. 80% of the music is common to all French weddings. It’s the perfect occasion to brush up your knowledge of dead and/or has-been French singers.
There is no end time to the party. It depends on who owns the place and the stereo.
On the next day, while no guest can figure out what happened between 5 and 6 AM, everybody gets up for un brunch. Great way to speak one last time with your friends before going home.
Then, the married couple va partir en lune de miel. And you can celebrate their first anniversaire de mariage, one year later.
Tell me: if you’ve already been to a wedding in France how it was. What was different from what you were used to see? What did you like?
I’d love to know.