French wedding traditions

14th May 2011

After having seen a bit of everything on the Internet, from an apparently old tradition where the French bride cuts off some white ribbon before entering church, to the kitsch idea that the French newly weds drink from an engraved double handled goblet during the reception to symbolise their union, I thought it might be interesting to you to list the REAL french wedding traditions…


– The groom walks her mother down the aisle before the bride makes her appearance with her father.

– Bridesmaids are replaced by page boys and flower girls, usually aged 4 to 8. The children enter Chuch before the bride.

– Only the bride should wear white. Guests should not wear white or cream unless stated as a “white wedding theme” on the invitation.

Vin d’honneur

– After church the bride and groom’s parents’ (in modern weddings) or the bride’s parents’ (at more traditional weddings) invite the guests for the vin d’honneur, which is now a cocktail reception with champagne and canapés.

– The Vin d’honneur can also be an opportunity for the guests invited to Church to congratulate the bride and groom. (In France, guests are either invited to Church + Vin d’honneur, or to Church + Vin d’honneur + dinner reception, never to after dinner party only)

Cocktails reception

– The guests are served canapés and champagne before they are called for dinner.


– The dinner is usually served from 8pm onwards. French people eat a bit later than British people.

– Before the dinner is served, the father of the bride makes his speach, followed by the father of the groom. Brothers, sisters and friends can also make speeches during dinner time, in between courses.

– The first dance is a waltz. The bride dances with her father, then (after a few minutes) the groom joins the dance floor and dances with his mother. At the middle of the waltz, the father of the bride takes her to her new husband, and the bride and groom dance together (while the father of the bride dances with the mother of the groom). This tradition is a very nice symbol of the “transmission” of the bride from her father to her husband.

– The cake is brought to the bride and groom after the first dance, usually with festive music and firework candles.

Evening party

– The party starts and can last until the sun rises.

– Some guests who have been invited to Church + Vin d’honneur can also be invited to the evening party, from 11pm (or from when you expect the dinner to be finished).


– On the following day, the guests can be invited to a brunch. The brunch is usually organised for the guests coming from far, but you can of course invite all of your guests regardless if you would like.

For more details about French style weddings and French wedding traditions, email Anne-Laure on or take inspiration from our portfolio.