A French Wedding in 6 Steps

Coucou !

According to the thousands of foreigners getting married in Versailles, Paris, Provence… A wedding in France is a dream come true for happy couples.

But very few French newlyweds get their picture taken in front of the Tour Eiffel or a lavender field.

That’s normal. Your country is not as exotic to you than it is to a foreigner. 🙂

Mariage civil, cérémonie, vin d’honneur, endless dinners, dawn to dusk parties… Maybe you’ve been invited to a wedding in France and would like to know what to expect!

What happens at a French wedding? It’s always the same.

Et toi ?
Have you ever been to a French wedding?
How different was it from a wedding in your country?
If you’re going to a wedding soon in France, what are your expectations?

Weddings are always a great source of wonderful anecdotes and cross-cultural stories.
Allez, share yours in the comments below so it can benefit the community!



Join the conversation!

  • Geraldine, Thank you so much for this as I begin to plan my wedding (in the USA) to my Frenchman!!!

    But I have a sad question. Will you make a short video about how to give condolences or how to attend a funeral or wake in France?

    Thanks for everything!

  • Bon jour, Geraldine,
    J’etais tres fortunee etre invite au mariage de ma cousine francaise. Le mariage a commence dans le Marie de Toulouse. Il etait suive par la ceremonie chez eux. Puis un recepcion fantastique a L’hotel de Ville en Carcassonne. Le jour prochain nous ons allee a la maison de ses parents pour la brunch. Fantastique!!!

    Pouvez vous corriger mon ecriture, s’il vous plait, quand vous avez un moment? Merci!

  • Thank you Geraldine. I’m going to a wedding near Crest this weekend and your video is very helpful. I went on a school exchange when I was 15 and we are still friends. It is the wedding of my French friend’s daughter, so I’m very excited. From the invitation, it looks as though it is following the format you describe, although there is also a picnic on the second evening! I’m watching all your videos so I’ll have something to say to the other guests as I’m going on my own. Thanks

    • Hi Jo,

      Yes, it doesn’t surprise me. 🙂 We like to extend the party (including eating) a long as we can!

      Have a wonderful time at your French friend’s daughter’s wedding.

  • I accidentally stumbled on this site which is actually great, and I have a question. Getting married at the marie is it customary to wear a white dress or wedding dress or even is it required? Would it be odd to wear a different color or frowned upon?

    • Bonjour Heather,


      Wearing a white dress or even a dress is not mandatory at all. My aunt got married in jeans. 🙂
      But 95% of women do. It’s completely up to your tastes and wishes.

  • Does the bride throw her bouquet of flowers backwards to her female témoins célibataires (bridesmaids) like they do in the US? Does she have a bouquet?? The one who catches it will be the next to marry.

  • Bonjour

    Nous avons une deuxième maison dans un petit hameau en France. L’année dernière, notre voisin nous a invité à leur mariage, j’étais un peu confus par l’invitation, FIRT je n’étais pas sûr si nous sommes invités pour des choses entières ou juste pour la réception, je suis heureux que je ne leur ai demandé, nous venons d’avoir une bonne estimation sur le don et juste leur a donné l’argent, mais la le vin d’honneur dernier à jamais, nous ne savions pas quoi faire et où aller. Je souhaite que je savais que je pouvais avant et se détendre un peu plus. Je pensais qu’il y avait quelque chose qui ne va pas avec le plan de mariage!
    mais la belle chose que le lendemain du mariée et le marié est venu à nous avec quelques bouteilles de leur vino de mariage et un seau de fleurs à nous remercie pour notre cadeau. J’ai pensé que c’était si beau .. so French!!

  • My husband and I married in a small village in Cantal last year. We are both English. We were married by the Maire and did not have any other ceremony. We were given a full Gendarmerie Guard D’Honor with them wearing a uniform reserved for State Occasions (bizarre but true) and we then had a simple apero and lunch at a restaurant for around 30 English and French guests. At the time we had no idea how many rules we had broken … we have had a good laugh at ourselves having read your rules! Our French friends have had the good grace not to enlighten us 🙂

    • Hi Osyth,

      Wahou ! La garde d’honneur de la Gendarmerie ! Wonderful!
      About the rules: obviously, as long as you’re happy… Who cares about the “rules”?! 😀
      I’m glad to read this!

  • Coucou Geraldine!

    Thank you so much for this video – it seems French weddings are very different to English ones! I’m going to my first French wedding next month and I have no idea what to wear! Are there any rules – can you wear black? Do all girls wear hats?


    • Bonjour Kim,
      Have a great wedding then!
      You can wear black. About the hats, depends on the wedding. Best ask your friend. 🙂

  • I attended the wedding of a french cousin over 40 years ago. We were the only english family there and we were invited for the whole day, starting off at my aunt’s home near Dunkirk for champagne, followed by the mairie and church then the rest of the day eating, drinking and dancing. After the church , there was a coach which took us all to a place somewhere in the countryside where there was one of those beautiful old fairground organs and there was lots of dancing. The evening meal went on all evening and between each course we all got up and danced. I was a teenager at the time, but have such strong and happy memories of this day. Sadly I have lost touch with all my french cousins now but still feel very emotional when I travel through the Dunkirk area.

  • Hi Geraldine
    I went to a friend’s wedding about 30 years ago, near Marseille. As you describe, there was first of all the ceremony at the Mairie and since my friend married a Buddhist, then a Buddhist ceremony. Later we went to the parent’s country house for le vin d’honneur and then to a grand house for le diner. As a single woman I was assigned ‘un cavalier’ (a cousin of the bride), to sit next to me at dinner. The dinner was a test of endurance, with course after course. I was exhausted at the end, but what memories!

  • I went to a wedding in France about eight years ago. There were a lot of people there from the UK, France & Portugal. The event was spread out over four days! The civil ceremony at the Mairie was on the 2nd day & the church service on the 3rd day. I did the wedding video. Everyone drank lots of champagne, especially me & I nearly got run over after passing out on a country road near where the reception was held. Luckily the driver saw me at the last second & took me back to the venue. The bride & groom were very angry with me the next day at the brunch!

  • I’ve been to a couple weddings in France and I married my own Frenchman here in France too. Everything that you said was exactly right! For my marriage (the first I went to in France), at the reception, I kept asking my husband, “Should the apero last this long?” or “Shouldn’t we start dancing now?” when dinner had just started to be served at 10 at night! I found that the other weddings I’ve been to followed the same format. Great fun but definitely rest up the day before if possible!

  • I went to a wedding in France about 20 years ago. The biggest surprises for me were the civil ceremony at the Mairie and the brunch the next day, where the couple opened their gifts. Most people in North America leave on their honeymoon right after the wedding and open their gifts in private. Also, my friends and I sat at the same table and right across from the bride and groom at the reception! I would have thought they’d sit with their family. Oh, and one more thing, haha, no bridesmaids or groomsmen. (et j’aime bien ta robe, Geraldine, c’est tres jolie! Aussi tes cheveux a la fin 🙂 )

    • I’ve only seen 1 French couple leaving for their honeymoon right after the wedding. And it was after the Brunch so they enjoyed both days.

  • Merci, Geraldine. C’est parfait, votre video!

    We are going to a wedding in the Nord Pas de Calais, and your video is perfect. We had a vague outline of what a French wedding would be like, but you de-mystified everything for us.

    You videos are wonderful little lessons on French life.

      • Salut, Geraldine,
        The wedding was so much fun, and it was very close to your description. Because the bride and groom are like our French family, the day before we helped set up the salle de fête for the vin d’honneur and the dinner and dance after, and we partied until 2 am (though the dancing lasted until 4 am).

        For the following day, we planned to help clean up , and the bride said to come to the salle at 1 p.m. There we saw so many people there to help, so we thought. Super! The bride’s mother told us we should have come to her house for croissants and café earlier that morning.

        Then guess what? We weren’t there to help take down decorations but to eat and visit again! This time with only the large extended family family and a few friends like us. I was confused…..and then I remembered your video. Ah, this is the brunch Geraldine spoke of…..the brunch was not the croissants and coffee.

        Nous nous sommes bien amusés et les mariés étaient ravissants! Merci à vous encore pour la leçon.

  • Murky buckets (my accent needs improvement my fiancée says. ), i’m a bit clearer now on the procedure. It’s next year for us. Having heard the list of papers i need being a foreigner, (Northern Irish), translated by Govt approved translator, in quadruplicate, of course, and listened to Madame in l’Hotel de Ville give me the speech on what procedure to go through, before, during and after the ceremony, i nearly fell asleep. I suspect the family and French friends want me to make a speech at the reception, in French of course. Three years and i’m still ungrammatical, my accent is terrible, and conversation is dotted with Ch’ti dialect, and habit of course of calling everyone biloute. It will probably still be me who cries first at wedding as belovéd becomes Madame Robinson (used to being called Monseiur Rabiso now), and Pascale is going to be forever driven crazy with everyone singing “Here’s to you Mrs Robinson”. I’m a bit clearer now. Of course knowing the local northern Ch’tis in the 59, they will have their own little twist.

  • How timely! In a couple of weeks we go to Marseille for our son’s wedding to a beautiful, wonderful French woman (they live and work in Marseille). I think their wedding will not be as elaborate as what you describe, though. The invitation we received suggests the Mairie and a long evening at a restaurant with karaoke and dancing.

  • Hi Geraldine, I have been to a French wedding at Chartres (and yes, the couple had been previously married by the mairie) a few days before. There were two vin d’honnour: one in Paris; and one in the Loire countryside. I was ‘amazed’ at the extraordinary hats women wore. Is that the norm? Then the cocktail hours, then the reception for hours. It was very special and I kept pinching myself to be sure it wasn’t a dream! Many of us stayed at the chateau as well. It was quite something!

  • If you have access to French tv there is a program called “quatre mariages et une lune de miel”. (Tf1) It is on about 5 pm French time. The basic prinicipal is that 4 women judge each other’s weddings, dresses, etc, best one wins an exotic honeymoon.Although it is probably edited and a bit sensational, it probably gives you an overall insight into various French marriages. I don’t know how anyone could submit themselves to such judgement on the “best day of their lives”

    • Bonjour Yvonne,

      Great idea! Like you, I’m not sure I’d like to have people judge my wedding…
      But it’s a great way to have a look at French weddings. 🙂

  • Hi Geraldine,
    Thanks so much for that! I lived in Paris for 3 years , 10 years ago and am about to move there again, yet I’ve never been to a French wedding. Very interesting and useful to know the terminology and what’s expected.

    • Hi Geraldine – We’ve been to two French weddings of neighbours in Josselin, Brittany where we have our maison secondaire. We didn’t know what the rules were regarding gifts, so we bought a present for the first couple, wrapped it up prettily – and were slightly confused when we arrived at the vin d’honneur to see a box for cash gifts, with our lonely, prettily-wrapped present alongside! How much do you think is the right sum to give as a present to French acquaintainces and neighbours?

      • Bonjour Richard,

        The gifts depend on the couple. The best is usually to ask what the couple wants.
        I’m sure the couple loved your gift so no worries. 🙂
        Sometimes, couples prefer “une cagnotte” (pool?) so they can spend the money on your honeymoon.

        Again, about the money, it depends on the couple and your budget.
        As they invite you to their wedding, I’d go for more than 50€.

  • Hi Geraldine
    I have only been to a marriage of British people here in France, all my French friends are married or pacs’d already. But I was really surprised how short, formal and un emotional the service at the Mairie was. It was literally a list of their names, ex’s and a agreement to car for each other. The whole thing was over in about 20 minutes and as there wasn’t many chairs most if us guests just stood up around the room. A lot less emotive than a British Marriage.

    • Bonjour Donna,
      Yes, it can be pretty administrative and not very emotional. Mainly depends on the mayor.
      (PACS are the worst)
      For example, I was at a wedding last Saturday and the mayor took some time to read the texts and talk to the newlyweds and the family.
      Hope you go to another one soon. 😉

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