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CultureClassic French Wedding

In a classic French wedding two ceremonies take place, one a civil ceremony at the town or city hall that acts as a private wedding, only open to those close to the bride and groom. The second ceremony, a religious one, is public and open to all. After the religious ceremony there is a reception, called a Vin d'honneur in French that is open to all, it acts as a public reception. Following this is a dinner that like the first ceremony is only for close friends and family.

The civil ceremony is very short, it lasts less than fifteen minuets. The mayor will read a section from the French constitution that lists the responsibilities that the couple will need to fulfill in their marriage. The mayor then ask the bride and groom individually if they accept the other in marriage and then they are declared husband and wife. Of the two ceremonies in a classic French wedding, the civil one is the only one that is legal.

Between the civil ceremony and the religious one, there can be if the wedding is in a small town or village a precession from the town hall to the church.

The religious ceremony is very flexible and can last anywhere from a half hour to an hour and a half. It has no legality and can only take place after a civil ceremony. It is meant to be the ceremony before god. After the religious ceremony all guests are invited to the reception.

At the reception there is wine and other drinks along with finger food, there is not a sit down meal. There are often no speeches or toasts but there can be entertainment.

During the dinner there are often skits or some type of entertainment about the bride and groom. These take place in between the dinner courses and can make the dinner last into the morning hours. The last classic French wedding I went to did not serve the wedding cake until 3 in the morning.

Classic French wedding schedule:

  • 4:30 pm - Civil ceremony at the city or town hall (Only for family and close friends)
  • 5:00 pm - Religious ceremony (Open to extended family and friends)
  • 6:30 pm - Reception (Open to extended family and friends)
  • 8:30 pm - Dinner celebration (Only for family and close friends)

Typical dinner menu usually starts with a buffet or some other type of appetizer, followed sometimes by a Pause Glacée (Ice-cream with alcohol) that is meant to reinvigorate your appetite. Then the main meal is served, after this is cheese and then the wedding cake.

Here are the menus of two weddings I have been to.

Menu one

Menu two

  • Délice du Périgord - Périgord duck liver
  • Assiette du Pêcheur - Fisherman's plate
  • Halte du Vigneron - Sorbet with Brandy topping
  • Traditiion de Thanksgiving - Thanksgiving plate
  • Croquante du jardin - Garden salad
  • Délice du Berger - Shepherds cheese
  • Gâteau des Mariés - Wedding cake made of cream-filled pastry puffs piled in a pyramid
  • Café- Coffee

The next day there is often a lunch where the leftovers are eaten and the hall where the dinner took place gets cleaned.

Related Article:
Professional Advice on Choosing a Wedding Venue

Consulting and Organizing French Weddings

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