Weddings in France
Summer is without doubt the "wedding season" in France. and Saturday is the usual day for the event. Visitors are intrigued by cavalcades of cars, bedecked with flowers, balloons and streamers with drivers sounding the horns wildly. These vehicles follow the bridal car which is often decorated with such items as dolls dressed as bride and groom, brooms and flowers. I have seen some unusual variations of this such as the couple sitting in a rowing boat, covered in flowers, being towed behind the car!
When asked to a French wedding be prepared - you are going to need stamina! All the weddings I have attended have commenced with gathering at the Marie (townhall) for the civil wedding, then moving on to the Church for the religious ceremony. The party travel from location to location in the cars - sounding horns steadily.
My advice to anyone going to a summer wedding is to wear plenty of sun screen, keep a bottle of water handy in the car and lady's hats are better with wide brims in order to protect the wearer from the sun. The photograph taking is very important and quite protracted. If lucky there may be a Vin d'honeur prior to the photograph taking but more often than not this will follow the photographs. When there is not you will be glad of the water in the car as the the amount of standing around in the summer sun without having had a drink for a few hours is quite dehydrating.
Time and time again, I have balanced on a huge contraption brought in by the photographer. This is towed behind his car and expands upwards to provide up to five tiers on which the whole wedding party stand upon in one group. This is alarmingly unstable in appearance and holds a huge number of people! However I have never known any accidents to happen! The bridge and groom are photographed in a number of poses, the parents are then photographed with the bride and groom then the guests are photographed with the bride and groom.
Eventually everyone jumps into their cars and continues merrily on to the location of the Vin d'honeur, if this has not taken place already, and the Wedding dinner and party. The Vin d'honeur consists of being served food such as canapes and alcohol which can be champagne or perhaps Kir (white wine and cassis). I have known Kir Breton to be served which is cider and cassis. There is usually a break between Vin d'honeur and the dinner. During one of these breaks at an absolutely fantastic wedding I attended, the whole party jumped in their cars and commenced their horn hooting and went down to the nearby beach where many, including the bride with long dress lifted up to her knees, paddled and some guests even stripped down to undies and swam! All the guests go to the Vin d'honeur but sometimes those going on to the dinner and party are only the closest guests.
The wedding party can be held in a restaurant which the party takes over or at a Salle de Fete. The guests all sit at tables and the dinner consists of several courses followed up by the wedding cake which is nothing like an English cake being usually a much decorated pyramid of choux pastry puffs. The eating and drinking is interspersed with game playing and songs. There will be music, sometimes there will be a band or otherwise a D.J. Be warned this party lasts all night! As at New Year onion soup will be served prior to everyone going home at Dawn! Children are included and fall asleep on the floor. I have known there to be mattresses put on the floor of an adjacent room for the exhausted "tinies".
On the Sunday, it is “the return”. It is less conventional than the Saturday. It is just a chance eat a little bit and continue the socialising and celebraint but at a more moderate pace. Then, the newlyweds leave for honey moon.
Katell Robino has provided us with some more information about Wedding Traditions . . . . .
On the day of the wedding, the bride should respect traditions in order to have a successful union. She has to wear 4 specifics items and this is actually similar to the English tradition of "something old, something borrowed, something new and something blue".
One of these items must be old (it is often a family jewel)
The other one must be brand new
The next one must be borrowed
And the last one has to be blue.
The meaning of this tradition is the following:
The old element characterizes the family link of the bride and her life until the wedding.
The brand new element characterizes the success for the life which is beginning.
The borrowed element symbolizes luck and happiness for the couple.
The blue element symbolizes fidelity and pureness in the couple.
It is usual that the bride should stay on the left of her future husband during all the steps of the wedding. This tradition is very old. It comes from the time when the man put a cloth on the head of the woman he choose to kidnap her. Sometimes, he had to fight with sword against the men of the woman’s family. So he kept the woman’s hand in his left hand, and fought with the right one.
Nowadays, there are two possibilities for the guests. It depends on the newlywed’s choice. Either they buy a present in a shop where the couple has made a weeding list or they don’t buy any present but they pay for their meal. But the more useful thing is the wedding list and the gift.
A funny tradition
This tradition is totally French but is not use a lot nowadays. This tradition originates in Aveyron, but was also popular in Brittany and Savoy. "On their wedding day the newlyweds are transported in a cart drawn by a donkey, and they hold a chamber pot to announce the ceremony to the villagers (this ride was called “The donkey dance”). The day after, very early in the morning, the villagers had to hunt for for the newlyweds to give them the chamber pot (this was called “The running after newlyweds”). The running was a success when the villagers had found the couple. As soon as they were found, they had to drink the contents of the chamber pot, the bride first, then the groom and finally, the villagers. The content of the chamber pot had to give vigour to the couple after the wedding night.
The content of the chamber pot changes in function depending on the region and can contain bananas, alcohol, chocolate, spices, bread…
Katell - I have chased after the newly weds in St. Ouen in Jersey many years ago and helped make an "apple pie" or would we say in Jersey a "bordelot" bed! Then out came the chamber pot . . . . . That was many years ago and the groom was half French and half Jersey and the bride from France.
Hen and stag party
It is the same in every country, the hen and stag party is the occasion to have a good evening before the wedding, It is the bride’s or the groom’s witness who has to organise the evening. The bride and the groom don’t have to pay anything.
In France, there are many possibilities. (And they sound very adventurous Katel! - Comment from Channel France) The more frequent are the forfeits. The future bride and groom have to go in the street, disguised, and ask people in the street to show their navel for example, and take some photos. But now, you can also take part in extreme sports like bungee jumping or parachuting. What is also very fashionable now is to spend a whole day in a Turkish bath centre. It is very relaxing for the bride and good to be between girl friends.
It is in fact the occasion to celebrate the end of the single life