French Language Blog

French Wedding Traditions Posted by on Aug 15, 2009 in Culture

I was doing a wedding menu (menu mariage) translation today and I came across the word pièce montée, otherwise known as croquembouche.  I have to say that I hadn’t specifically remembered this dessert from the French wedding I attended back in the summer of 2003, but it is all sort of a blur now anyway.  I do remember however how the wedding took place in the city hall; then they held a separate, short ceremony right after that at the local church and then everyone moved on to a château some miles away for the reception and dinner.

The city hall ceremony is required in France as the church and state are strictly separated.  The wedding vows at these ceremonies have been set in stone by the government since Napoleon times.  A typical French wedding often lasts all day with the ceremonies, cocktails, four and five course meals, late night snacks and into the next with a day-after breakfast, a Sunday brunch or even continue on until Sunday lunch.

Just like the wedding I attended, many couples choose to hold their reception at one of France’s many, many beautiful chateaux.  The staffs at these castles prepare everything from the appetizers, to the meal, to the cake, to the photographer and much, much more.   Often times, these events include caricature artists who create and give guests free caricatures, gypsy dancers, magicians, children’s entertainment with babysitters, clowns, fairies and even videos and of course the dance entertainment may be provided by DJs, live orchestras or jazz musicians, just to name a few.  The dancing often begins between the meal courses so guests can work up an appetite for the next course.

Finally, the bride and groom can choose to have a traditional wedding cake or a pièce montée, which is a cream puff pastry that takes the form of a pyramid, basket, horn of plenty or dishes.  Bride and groom figurines are placed on top.  Some of them even feature lighted sparklers.  Tradition goes that the bride is to cut the first piece.  She can be assisted by her groom if she chooses.  The story goes that if this tradition was not kept, the bride would not be able to have children.  Also, it is supposedly bad luck if the figurines fall down.

Pièce montée

Reportedly, Eva Longoria had her pièce montée flown in to her Paris wedding from Los Angeles in first class accompanied by a body guard for just over $15,000.

Have any of you ever been to a French wedding?  We would love for you to share your experiences with us by writing a comment!

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  1. Leah:

    I’ve been to two French weddings. One that took place in Nantes and the other in Le Mans. Like the article mentions, I was surprised and a bit dismayed that the couple had to be legally married at the City Hall in order for the marriage to be legitimized.

    Regarding the reception, I loved the “animations” that took place throughout the evening where friends and family would give a performance through a song, a dance, telling jokes, or showing a home video from the bride or groom’s past. All of these gave the feeling that the couple was being celebrated by their guests.

    The wedding receptions were an all night affair! After a five-course meal, animations, and speeches, the dancing would go on until 3 or 4 a.m.; only for everyone to return the next morning at 9:30 a.m. for breakfast!

    I was surprised to see how much the French celebrate this occasion because, culturally, I don’t really view the French as very festive or ceremonial like Americans are when it comes to celebrations. It was a lot of fun, though!

  2. Chanda:

    Salut Leah! Thanks so much for sharing your French wedding experience. I enjoyed reading about it!

  3. Kim @ parisian party:

    Hi! I’m an American wedding planner living and working in Paris, so I’ve been to lots of French weddings. One of the things that I write about a lot on my blog is the differences between French and American weddings. Here’s one post that talks about the different expectations of French and American guests once they receive their invitation to a French wedding:

  4. vidhyaplv:

    though i have not been to french weddings, i enjoyed reading and knowing about the french wedding and the interesting traditional facts.

  5. Chanda:

    I’m pleased that you enjoyed the article, vidhyaplv!

  6. vidhyaplv:

    The French Yule Log
    Recently, I read an article about the Yule Log. During those days in France and other European countries,a large log chosen from the pile of woods in the house and burnt .It was lit by the youngest member of the family and it would burn from 24th december upto the first day of the new year.

    It gave hope about the oncoming year to the people. When the log was brought into the house, songs were sung .They prayed for the family’s health and good harvest. There were also many superstitious belief about the log. For example, if the log made lots of sparks, the harvest would be good the following year, and if the log casts shadows on the wall, some family member would die within a year.

    After the 20th century, slowly the tradition began to end . The log was replaced by a cake roll called “Buche de Noel” resembling the yule log.

    I have posted this in French on Facebook also.
    I found it interesting when i read about this. So, i thought i should share another french tradition with all of you.

  7. vidhyaplv:

    i wanted to upload a picture of the yule log cake, but dint know where to upload it
    the image location is

    chanda, please load it if u can

  8. Chanda:

    Hmmm…I’m not sure how to upload your image in a comment vidhya, sorry! But, everyone can see it with the wonderful link you gave us! Merci encore une fois for your interest and involvement in the blog!

  9. wedd:

    Hi guy’s i want to share this just visit ^_^

  10. Jeeves:

    Nice article. I just recently attended my first French wedding ceremony last weekend and I really enjoyed it. It was exhausting, as we danced into the morning Sunday morning and then got up and had an afternoon picnic at La Foret de Fontainebleau, but it was a great experience. I wrote a lengthy article myself about it if anyone is interested.

  11. ApoteoSurprise:

    Nice informations, but don’t forget that in France, and especially in Paris, we have a also a tradition in setting up creative and romantic marriage proposals.