French wedding traditions: Clothing, flowers, food and decorations
The traditional French wedding is full of traditions that have been passed on to other cultures.
France is a country known for love, and along with love, goes marriage. The traditional French wedding is full of history and customs, some of which are still practice today.
The traditional French wedding begins with the bride preparing her bridal trousseau. The trousseau, which means bundle, has been passed to some cultures as the hope chest. This is the tradition of the bride packing her belongings from her father’s home, to be taken to her new husband’s home. In the past, the trousseau was simply a bundle of the bride’s clothing, however today; many other possessions are included in the bride’s hope chest.
On the morning of the wedding, the groom will call on his bride and escort her to the church. It is tradition for the children of the town to stretch white ribbons across the road for the bride to cut along the way. This symbolizes their joint path through life’s many difficulties. This custom is still performed today in some of the smaller towns throughout France.
Right before the ceremony begins, the groom will escort his mother down the aisle. Then, during the ceremony the bride and groom sit under a silk canopy, which is called a carre. A simpler version of the carre is a small square piece of fabric. The priest holds this type of carre over the couple’s heads as he gives the final blessing. A carre is believed to shelter the couple from evil. The carre is kept for later use at the baptisms of their children.
As they leave the church, laurel leaves are scattered in their path, or in some regions, wheat may be tossed at the newlyweds. Traditionally, orange blossoms are used in many French weddings as a symbol of purity, prosperity, and fertility. Other fragrant flowers are used throughout the ceremony as well. Fragrant flowers are thought to fend off the evil spirits.
At the wedding reception, a toast is made using the “Coupe de Mariage”. This is a goblet, usually with two handles, that has been passed down through the generations. The couple drinks from this family heirloom as husband and wife. The practice of toasting originated from the tradition of dropping a piece of toasted bread into the glass of wine for a healthy life.
Each of the wedding guests brings a small cake to the reception. These cakes are stacked in the middle of a table and the bride and groom must attempt to kiss over the top of the pile. If the bride and groom are able to do so, without disrupting the stack of cakes, it means they have years of prosperity ahead of them.
In most traditional French weddings, a croquembouche is served in place of a wedding cake. This is a dessert made of crème filled pastry puffs that are stacked in a pyramid. Caramel is drizzled over the puffs to hold them in place and roasted almonds are commonly added as a finishing touch.
Unfortunately, the end of the reception is not always the end of the night for the bride and groom. It is tradition for their friends to show up in the middle of the night banging on pots and pans and singing lively tunes. The bride and groom are expected to appear in their wedding attire and provide drinks and snacks for their friends.
It may make for a long day, but the traditional French wedding demonstrates the love that the culture is known for.