Wedding in French Style

May 25, 2013
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending yet another French wedding- this time the wedding bells were ringing for one of the many cousins of Denis. So many months, weeks, days and hours of planning, preparation and also probably a decent amount of stress had gone into this wedding that I think it’s safe to say that everyone was just so happy to finally sit back and enjoy the big day. Here come the highlights of the wedding:

The Morning Preparations

Just like in many southern families, the grandparents’ house in this one is the most central meeting point. Thus, we were expecting the bride to arrive here around noon to get dressed and photographed before heading out to the civil ceremony. We were lucky enough to get to sleep pretty long, and just after waking up we headed to the cute Provencal Saturday morning market to pick up some fresh croissants for our breakfast. As we sipped our morning coffee, everyone around us had started to get ready for the wedding; hairstylist occupied the kitchen, the salon was all beautifully set for the bride and the rest of the family kept popping in and out of the house finalizing all the details. In between all the hassle, it was a beautiful day (although tiny bit windy) and we all chilled on the sunny terrace while the bride was getting ready in the next room…;)

Bridal dressing room

At two o’clock everyone was there and we all got in our decorated cars and headed loudly (yes, all of us honking!) to the mayor’s place for the civil ceremony…

The Civil Ceremony

Unlike in Finland, the actual or official wedding license is occupied at the mayor’s place just before the religious ceremony, which takes place right after in a nearby church. Everyone gathered around the bride’s hometown mayor place, and once they arrived we all welcomed them with open arms! The ceremony itself started off with the tunes of the famous wedding march as the bride was accompanied inside to meet the groom who was already waiting for her. A few moments of random French words later, they were announced as husband and wife

The Church

We all then moved up to the church that was literally just a few steps away. The home village of the bride, Les Mees, is known for its gorgeous rock formations, which served as a gorgeous backdrop for the occasion! The ceremony itself was pretty short and to the point (again lots of words unknown to me) and as the newlyweds got out of church, they were welcomed with glitter rain and paper hearts- what a magical moment! In France, this is often the time, when people go and congratulate the couple before heading over to the further celebrations.

The newlyweds outside the church

The Photo Shoot

The cars were lined up again and headed for the next stop- the photo shoot session. They had chosen this beautiful location for their wedding photos: a little stone chapel right in the middle of typical Provencal olive groves and vineyards. As we all got there, the photographers started calling out names to join the newlyweds for a photo (in the other wedding this was literally one photo / guest family, but here it was bigger groups to shorten the process a bit). Although we had clear blue skies all day, the wind started to blow so hard that everyone was getting little chilly- very odd for this time of the year in southern France! What else can you say except thankfully the messy hairdos are in!

The photo shoot in Pierrevert

The Actual Celebration

Now, this is the part of the wedding that everyone had been waiting for! Set up usually in places like hotels etc., where the interior as well as the exterior is decorated beautifully for the party. It all kicks off with aperitif that starts the evening- all kinds of starter foods and drinks are set out in buffet style. This normally goes on from about 7 till 9, followed by moving to the assigned tables and getting ready for dinner. Every single guest has their own spot with name on it and the tables are grouped so that everyone in the table usually knows each other (by families, relatives, friends etc.). We were assigned to the table right next to the bridal table, and represented the table of all first cousins and their partners- so much fun having such a big family with cousins around the same age! We knew it would be a lot of fun!

All the decorations of the main hall including the smallest details on each table were so beautifully done, and I was impressed by how they even made this table for kids with all kinds of fun stuff to keep them busy, from coloring books to little treats of candy!

It was time to get started with the first course of the menu. In some weddings the menu is served just like in restaurants, or it can be showcased and served as a buffet- depends how they have chosen to do it.  Here they had chosen to make the first course as a buffet, the main course as a plate, and the dessert and cheese as a pick-up again. But before getting your hands on the food, we had to play a game that went something like this: we had to choose a representative for our table and he/she had to answer questions, guess songs and do all kinds of assignments in order to beat the other reps, and get our table the green card for the buffet! That was plenty fun, although I’m sure the last tables got pretty hungry in the meanwhile…

As for the first course they had all kinds of cold cuts and salads, and for drinks they served rose and red wine from the region (Luberon). After all the tables finally had finished their first course and the second round, there were few more games before the main course was set; Magret de Canard (duck breast) with creamy mushroom sauce, vegetables in this crunchy baked pocket, and some potato gratin and tomatoes. Absolutely delicious!

Everyone on their best behaviour...

After this we watched a video that the newlyweds had prepared of their journey, featuring photos of them and most of the guests, too! A moment of joy, tears and laughter. Speaking of which, I think the biggest difference between the French- and the Finnish wedding is that in Finland there are more traditional games that are played throughout the evening, sort of pre-planned program, whereas the French weddings are more about relaxed mingling and socializing without much of a formal program. Also, the starting time for the wedding in general is much earlier in Finland than in France, but I’m used to the later rhythm by now…

Finally it was time for dessert and cheese (usually the cheese is the last course of the menu, but it was now served with dessert), and they brought out all kinds of tarts and different cheeses- yum! But by no means this would be the last treat of the night, no! Sometime way past midnight they made a grand entry for this traditional wedding cake masterpiece what they call croquembouche or simply pièce montée - a massive assembly of crème-filled puff pastries (called choux) piled on top of each other and glazed with caramelized sugar to make it crunchy. The crème inside of the pastries can be in various flavors such as raspberry, vanilla or chocolate, and the finishing touch is given by the personal decoration of the cake.

From here on out, the DJ was pretty much in charge for the rest of the night as the lights went off and the dancing commenced! Even the smallest kids stayed up dancing till two in the morning, where as the rest of us continued conquering the dance floor till the early morning hours. 

The best thing is that no matter how many ways there are to celebrate weddings around the world, the one thing (and the most important thing) always is the same no matter where you attend this special day- the fact that everyone is having an absolute blast!

An Alternative Path

I never really dreamt of my own big day or being the center of the attention in a white princess gown, in other words, I was never really too much into weddings (except as a guest, of course)! Last December though, we did what is called pacte civil de solidarité or in short PACS- a type of a civil union. In France, it’s more and more popular option within young couples that don’t necessarily want or want yet to get married. But why shouldn’t that be as much celebrated though? For us, it was as much of a commitment of a life together, and our chosen way to legalize it.

Our Day On 12/12/12

A great choice of a day, don’t you think? Yes, although not chosen by us, but by the administrative people down at the city hall. How romantic! Let me quickly walk you through our ‘big’ day that started after Denis got out of work (just like any other Wednesday). I wasn’t really sure how the procedure would be like, and didn’t have much expectation for it. I had heard from friends that they had walked into this with their grocery bags, so that sort of cleared it out for me! As we got down to the city hall of Puteaux, we surely didn’t use the fancy main entrance but followed a sign, which probably said something like all-the-uninteresting-bureaucracies and lead us to a crappy backstreet with another entrance next to the outdoor garbage dumb. Then we were sitting and waiting in a lounge that looked super out dated (imagine how happy I was not to wear anything out of ordinary!), until a woman picked us up. We followed her to her office, and sat down across her table. Now what? She explained the process, we signed the papers, she chatted a while with us, telling what nationalities she had been pacsing lately, and then walked us out. We were done- hallelujah! Talking about a low-key process! Afterwards we headed down to a Christmas market and then straight home to prepare a nice romantic dinner, with good bottle(s) of wine and surely Champagne. Couldn’t have been more us

iPhone snap shot after getting the PACS @ Christmas market

I constantly do find myself planning or dreaming about this special party where we could invite all closest people and celebrate, well, everything (admittedly, I should probably rather be a wedding planner than have a wedding!). As we never really got to do this with our friends & family (at least officially), maybe one day we can rent a small chateau in the middle of vineyards somewhere or an alpine cottage somewhere we both love, or who knows maybe a nice place by a Finnish lakeside, and throw a good party- perhaps on one of our anniversaries? J

Where have you been to a wedding? How was it? We would love to hear from other traditions and ways to celebrate this happy event! Share with us!


  • Lil said...

    Hey, I was just at a French wedding a couple of weeks ago too - F's cousin's - but that was my first French wedding, if you discount one of my best friend in Ireland's who's half-French, half-Irish who married an Irish :)

    F and I got Pacs'ed last year too but in November, with a lot of tricky paperwork hoops to jump. And even more amazingly, despite friends saying it's a 10 minutes thing, our greffiere kept us for 2 hours! We had a small low-key celebration a few days later with our friends though ;)

  • Emma said...

    Cool! And also congrats for the pacs! :)

    Wow- 2 hours sure is a long time! We took about half an hour or so, the lady was really nice and chatty, too. We never had A party arranged just for that, but did celebrate with family & friends around Christmas time :) Still, I like the idea of arranging a real party one day... who knows...

    Plus the best gift of all probably came from Denis' work- 6 days of extra holidays + 2.5month salary net, merci France!!!!! ;D

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