{French} Wedding Crasher

This past weekend in Lille I not only attended my first French wedding, I also crashed it (well, sort of). I had not met bride nor groom (nor their families) until the day before their big day. It could have made for a messy scene, but instead it was fabulous all around, and by the end of it I felt like an honorary member of the family. How often does one get to spend the night before and morning of a wedding with a bride anyway? As it was my first French event of this kind, I thought I’d write up a few of notable – and favorite differences – from the weddings I’ve been to in the US.

  1. Faucets in France may as well replace water with champagne. I still only rarely see the French drink water, but I think I hit a new record of champagne consumed within a 24-hour period this weekend.
  2. Children are very involved in the wedding, and I could not believe how independent they were, only rarely (and for the younger ones) needing their parents. It was a long day – and some were still dancing at 2 or 3am – and no one lost it.
  3. French women wear hats – and fabulous ones at that – to weddings.
  4. Church hymns are really pretty in French.
  5. There tend to be 2 receptions. One for all the guests, and one for “special” guests (all 200 of them).
  6. The French have lots of cousins. Just because you invite one, doesn’t mean you have to invite the entire clan.
  7. Receptions tend to be held in reception halls. (In the US I’ve been to weddings in museums, schools, architectural salvage yards, at vineyards, etc.). The good news is that it means the party can go very late.
  8. When the couple is announced at the reception and walks to their table, everyone takes their napkin and twirls it around like it’s a helicopter while they cheer.
  9. Expect a LONG dinner. We sat down to eat around 9pm. The cheese course was served at midnight. Dessert came later – complete with fireworks. [See below].
  10. The dance floor starts with a father-daughter dance. The first group dance is typically a long, classical waltz. It’s pretty cool to see all ages doing it.
  11. The French really like American music.
  12. On the dance floor Frenchmen like to spin you like you’re a top. I must have been spun in different directions 50 times in a given song. Great fun, but exhausting too!
  13. The party goes late. Like 4 / 5/ 6 am! Expect to dance ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

Disclaimer: I wouldn’t expect fireworks with the 20+ different desserts – not to mention chocolate fountain and cotton candy machine – at every wedding!


  • How interesting! I love hearing about the wedding traditions in other cultures. I think it’d be a blast to photograph a French wedding. Although I wonder – what does the photographer shoot for the long dinner? Or are they not there the whole time?

  • Anni, I didn’t see the photographer after the church (photos happened before). In fact he was so present at the church he was standing around the alter taking pictures – think he thought he was divine and invisible to the rest of us ;)

    Amber, I’m friends with the groom (and his wife) who got an extra set of tickets.

    Susan, I could have danced until the bitter end (alas, I didn’t want to have to walk home).

    Bronwyn, it was very cool to be a part of – especially being around the family for the day.

    Lindsey, I’m sure those exist! :)


  • You’re so lucky! A French wedding, haven’t done that yet and this one sounds elegant and fun at the same time. Good on you and congratulations to the bride and groom!

  • Sounds so fun! Were there skits/games between courses? At the French wedding that I went to, there were funny skits, etc. between each course – and all the toasts/serious stuff were near the beginning before people got too drunk. xo Amy :)

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