French Wedding Traditions

french wedding traditions

Weddings in France are always associated with glamourous shoots by the Seine with a stunning dress, or perhaps a more relaxed Provence wedding surrounded by lavender fields and sunshine. And then of course all the other possible weddings in between throughout this gorgeous country.

But France remains a country full of funny French people, and is proud of its local traditions. Weddings are no exceptions, with very special traditions of their own!  French bride Fiona, who is planning her wedding in 2015 in France, shares some traditions.


La Soupe a l’Oignon (Onion Soup)

Legend has it that the famous French onion soup was invented by Louis XV, one night where the only provisions he had were onions, butter and champagne. From these, he prepared a soup, thereby inviting one of France’s most delicious dishes.

french onion soupSource: Pinterest

From this day on, onion soup became popular with the French, and eventually appeared in weddings until it became a tradition. Indeed, it is now traditionally eaten towards the end of the night (or occasionally in the early hours of the morning!), in order to regain some energy after an emotional filled day and hours of dancing! It makes a nice way to end the night, sharing a lovely bowl of warm soup with grated Gruyere and croutons. Mmmm…

La Voiture Balai (Broom Wagon… or literally Broom Car)

This term is usually reserved for cycling, where the broom car would sweep up any one unable to make it to the finish of the race within the time permitted. In the wedding world, when the wedding cortege goes from the ceremony to the venue for the reception, the Voiture Balai plays a similar role. Namely making sure that none of the guests get lost along the way.

In order to make sure that the Voiture Balai is easily recognisable, a collection of accessories are normally attached to it, including but not limited to saucepans, brooms, “just married” signs, balloons, and toilette paper. Suffice to say that’s better to choose a car that can take a few scratches… and to have a confident driver who knows the area should they have to pursue some straggling guests!

Le Pot de Chambre

Now this is a very French tradition… Initially, the aim of this ritual was meant to provide the newlyweds with energy and strength after the meal, just before the wedding night (wink, wink). Intrigued? Here’s what to do:

A the end of the meal, the guests gift a brand new chamber pot to the newlyweds. Yes, that’s right. A Chamber Pot.

chamber pot

Just before they go off to bed, the newlyweds will need to eat a dish in the chamber pot, made from the leftovers of the alcohol from the wedding. This is supposedly meant to give them energy and strength for the night! Some also say that by drinking the remnants of alcohol it would also symbolise the end of the party and the start of married life!

However the pot is not simply handed over the newlyweds for them to take to bed. That would be far too easy and they might simply pretend to drink it (the horror!). Instead, the witnesses and close friends would normally go searching for the newlyweds, and cause chaos in their bedroom until the whole pot is drunk!

An alternative to the above “recipe” consists of placing bananas in the bottom of the pot, covered with melted chocolate and champagne. Some will even go as far as placing some bits of toilet paper on top… Just in case the visual wasn’t enough! But it’s done in good spirits and for a good laugh.

There are also some other lesser known traditions across the country:

In Vendee – the Brioche Dance:

Around midnight, after the meal, the newlyweds offer a large round brioche to their guests on a platter. Accompanied by some fast paced music, the guests then dance around it, as well as going underneath the platter held by the newlyweds, until everyone has been underneath the platter.

brioche danceSource: via Flickr

Brittany and Pays de la Loire – the umbrella dance :

This usually carried out either at the beginning or at the end of the dancing. The newlyweds would start off dancing under a large umbrella. The groom holds it while guests throw paper streamers at them. Again, this is a bit of fun while also allowing a few moments for the newlyweds together.

Pays Basque – le paquito :

This is a musical animation, famous in the South West of France. The guests all sit down behind each other on the floor, and sway from front to back with the music. Then each person will be carried at arm’s length one after the other along the human chain. This usually leads to some great laughs!

North – the wheelbarrow game :

Guests would bring a tin of food to the wedding, having previously removed the label indicating its contents. The newlyweds would then go amongst the guests with a wheelbarrow, collecting all the tins. They would then have a an element of surprise in the food to eat in the first months of their marriage.

Who said the French didn’t have a sense of humour? All of the above are all made to ensure the night ends up in laughter and in good spirits!

Any other French wedding traditions that we have missed, please leave a comment below.

Fiona xx

Leave a Comment

1 Comment