One of the most fun tasks when it comes to wedding planning, is the food and drink and so today our resident wedding planning expert Fabienne Slater owner of Elian Concept Weddings and Events and member of UK Alliance of Wedding Planners, is sharing her insights when it comes to a typical French wedding menu.
A Typical French Wedding Menu
Whether you have already found your ideal wedding venue or you are in the process of doing so, the next most important task will be to decide on the food. Couples often refer it as an essential part of their day. Good food and drinks are a must-have to please their guests.
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In my Guide to getting married in France, I recommend starting to look for a caterer at least 9 months before the date, though if you have very specific desires, or you want a particular type of food it may be wise to start before, even as soon as you are searching for your wedding venue. Your food requirements may dictate your choice of locations. In this instance use a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything.
However France’s gastronomic reputation means that most couples choosing to celebrate their wedding in France, want typical French cuisine to be served and this should be a piece of cake to arrange. Still, when discussing with potential venues, if they offer catering services pay attention to suggested menus and the flexibility of the Chef. It will save time and later tears.
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Now let’s explore what is characteristic of a French wedding menu. It usually includes the most festive ingredients the French food repertoire has to offer and most, if not all caterers across the country will have these on their “Carte” either in their simple form or in more sophisticated versions with creative twists and regional adaptations depending on the standing of the restaurant or the caterer.
Unless you are keen to go for a full gastronomic menu, i.e. a larger selection of dishes in smaller sample portions, the traditional meal has a starter, a main dish and a dessert that, depending on the budget, can be the Croquembouche, the famous French wedding cake.
Source: Wedding Chicks
It is worth mentioning that some of the common options can prove challenging for non-French guests but can easily be accommodated.
Another difficulty you may encounter lies in the inventive names of the courses. They would have been carefully chosen to inspire but can be confusing for the uninitiated destination bride, especially if they have not been translated. As a wedding planner, it is often down to me to explain them to my clients and even as a French native I am sometimes puzzled. Of course, some are culinary or regional terms, therefore impossible to translate and to help further I normally provide a glossary, which describes the most common ones.
To keep it simple, I will only refer to the main ingredients found in a typical French wedding feast.
(often translated as ‘liver pâté’)
Main dish (meat)
Medallion of Veal
(all best served rare or ‘pink’)
Pigeon or quail
Main dish (fish)
Fresh fruit ‘soup’
French pastries such as eclair, tart, millefeuille etc.
(often served as a selection of mini portions)
Photo credit: Anneli Marinovich
There are potentially two additional items on the menu: the ‘Trou normand’ (palate cleanser), a fruit sorbet in alcohol that was usually served between the two main dishes in a four course meal. Although, even with only three courses some couples like to include it as a French touch.
Did I forget something? The cheese may be? Bien sur, it is an essential part of the wedding dinner, either served at the table (individual plate of a pre-chosen selection or platter) or as a buffet for the evening reception. What to watch out for here is about pasteurized versus unpasteurized cheeses in particular if there are pregnant women amongst your guests, though there are so many choices that it is easy to please everyone.
I mentioned earlier the challenging aspects of the typical French wedding menu. Amongst them are choices ‘not vegetarian friendly’, which was once hard to overcome, but nowadays most restaurants and caterers will have vegetarian options though you may find some quite basic.
Some of your guests may not be keen to eat foie gras, veal or quail. If you are aware of that, it is easy to avoid. If you want more adventurous guests to experience these types of food, they can be included in your cocktail reception, as canapés or food station particularly suitable for the foie-gras. For the ‘pink’ or rare cooking of beef, duck and lamb, it could be difficult for the caterer to accommodate individual tastes, especially if you have a large number of guests. Therefore it will be best to discuss the matter in advance with them to avoid it becoming an issue on the day.
A French wedding meal would not be complete without breads, or any French meal for that matter. Coming in so many varieties, you can turn it into a feature on your table or even into a favour.
Finally I will treat you with a recipe of a very typical French dessert, ‘le clafoutis’. Enjoy!
Fabienne is owner of Elian Concept Weddings and Events, who is a bi-lingual wedding planner who is available for weddings throughout France. For more information visit: www.elianconceptweddings.com