If you are lucky enough to have been invited to a wedding in France, or are planning to get married here, there are a few wedding traditions you might not have seen before.
Every region in France has its own set of wedding customs and modern couples may not include them in their day or may change them slightly, but with a country as diverse as France, is it any wonder there’s so much difference?
Le Vin d’Honneur
Immediately following the wedding ceremony there may be a vin d’honneur, a kind of mini-reception usually close to the location of the ceremony, such as a church garden, or sometimes held in the same place as the main reception. The vin d’honneur can last for a couple of hours while canapés and cocktails are served and the bride and groom meet their guests post-ceremony. This time allows the newly married couple to relax, as well as meet those guests who are not invited to the wedding reception, like work colleagues or neighbours. Champagne, wine and cocktails (the Kir Royal) are often the drink of choice at the vin d’honneur.
A croquembouche or croque-en-bouche is a dessert often served in France and Italy at weddings, baptisms and first communions. Photo: Gavin TappInstead of a tiered wedding cake at a French wedding you might see a croquembouche – an outrageously delicious pyramid of caramel covered profiteroles! Choux pastry puffs are filled with vanilla pastry cream, coated in a thin crust of crispy caramel and “glued” together with melted chocolate or toffee ganache. These towering pyramids are often covered with webs of spun sugar but can also be decorated with fresh flowers, chocolate and sugar roses, cake toppers, chocolate drizzles or fresh fruit.
The bride and groom traditionally cut off the top with a sword while the bridesmaids hold up the corners of the table-cloth to catch the pieces!
One sweet tradition is to have prettily wrapped candy-covered almond favours called dragées to hand out to guests as a wedding keepsake. Some couples prefer to change this tradition slightly to reflect their preferences and offer a whole range of sweet-treats including chocolate bonbons, mini macaroons, truffles, local specialities or even jelly beans instead of sugared almonds.
La Danse de la Brioche
Regional traditions vary. If you’re at a wedding in the Vendée in the Pays-de-la-Loire region, you might be lucky enough to see a very special dance with a rather large brioche. The bride and groom are presented with a giant brioche, often weighing more than 9 kilos, on a platter, which they and their guests must hold aloft as they dance to prove their strength!
Pot de Chambre
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 “The running after newlyweds”, a hunt to give them the chamber pot. 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 was intended to give vigour to the couple after the wedding night. This tradition started in the Aveyron and, depending on the region, can contain bananas, alcohol, chocolate, spices, bread …