When people ask me what it is about France I most appreciate, I often don’t know where to begin. I have fallen deeply in love with France, not simply because Paris is famously known as the City of Love.
Maybe it’s the way the French speak, their intricately delicate language, and their effortless style and sophistication. Perhaps it’s their refined culture and appreciation for the arts and literature, incredible history and grand architecture, romantic coastlines, and natural beauty. Maybe it’s a bit of everything that makes it all too easy for me to lose myself in the magic and wonderment of this enchanting country.
But maybe this observation more than all the others: the shared heart and intentionality behind what we create – the time invested and all the different ways of self-expression. So, as I find myself wanting to learn more about the French culture, I thought to start at the place that truly captivates my heart: the celebration of weddings. And whilst nuptials are not often seen as a priority by the French, when they do say yes, their wedding celebrations are refined; a memorable occasion to behold, celebrating two families coming together.
Beautiful Australian bride and groom Jason and Tessa at their French Riviera wedding, created by Stephanie from Nomad Republic
Today, I have decided to invite my friend, Stephanie, the owner and creative director of Nomad Republic to give insight into what authentic French weddings are truly like. If you are dreaming of France as the location of your fairytale wedding, Stephanie’s piece below which highlights the South of France region, might just get you rather smitten and inspired.
Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque
Counting numerous stunning settings, from manicured gardens, historical Belle Epoque villas, stylish country houses and beautiful Chateaux, France is considered by many couples as the nation of romance and love. As for many international lovebirds, Provence is one of the most sought-after destinations to honour the most special moment in life: a wedding celebration with family and friends.
The exquisite architecture, the exceptional cuisine and wine, the graceful fountains and the seemingly eternal sunshine make it an idyllic backdrop for a romantic celebration under the stars. The destination is perfect for couples looking to experience the French «joie de vivre», all the while exploring the natural beauty of the region. As is often the case, if you have your guests traveling for your destination wedding, they will probably want to make a vacation out of it and Provence will offer them an experience of a lifetime.
Of all the Provencal areas, the Luberon is by far our favorite region. Famous for its picturesque hilltop villages, year-round markets, sprawling vineyards and lavender fields, there is probably no setting more authentic and picture-perfect than this. We love it for its timeless elegance and exceptional golden light, softly diffused over the landscape prior to sunset.
The region also offers a myriad of distractions to satisfy both the young and old. Among our couples’ favourite activities, a visit to the market in Lourmarin followed by an authentic French cooking class, is always a big hit. A bike ride from one hilltop village to another, taking scenic routes and pausing at café terraces with a view, is also very popular. Depending on the season, you can admire fields of lavender or poppies in full bloom, vineyards or cherry orchards and stop at wine estates for a tasting. Canoeing down the Sorgue, antique hunting and hiking in the gorges are some of the many activities that can be enjoyed by your guests.
Gorges Du Verdon
Speaking about food: it is common knowledge that the French take this subject very seriously! A 4 or 5-course meal is not unusual and includes local delicacies and specialties. In Provence, lamb (served rare) is a traditional dish as well as an institution. Therefore, I highly recommend checking your guests’ dietary requirement before giving your caterer «carte blanche». And don’t be surprised if the latter asks you if you’re planning a «Vin d’Honneur» (cocktail hour), another French tradition that takes place after the ceremony and before dinner. This is a lovely occasion for the couple’s friends, neighbours and distant relatives to gather around drinks (Champagne or wine) and canapés (either tray-passed or served buffet-style).
A destination French fairy tale wedding reception by Nomad Republic
The most magical backdrop, photographed from Villa Ephrussi
When it comes to the ceremony, French people have two of them. The civil ceremony is the one that makes the marriage official. It can be held on the same day as the reception – this is usually the case when couples marry in the region where they reside or were born – or the day before, which is more practical as this ceremony is not much of a celebration. It is usually held between the close family and the couple’s «témoins» (witnesses), who will sign the wedding registry. The second ceremony is either symbolic (often the case) or religious and takes place the day after. For a Provencal touch, one can replace the rose petals or rice thrown to the couple when exiting their ceremony with lavender buds.
In French celebrations, not all the guests are invited to the dinner reception. When that’s the case, they are expected to slip away (they will know what portion of the wedding they are invited to, based on the invitation they received) before the remaining guests make their way to the dinner area.
When it comes to Champagne, one of the most renowned French traditions that has been adopted by couples from all over the world is the «Fontaine de Champagne». This a big crowd pleaser and a must to any classical weddings. Assembled in a pyramid shape by the caterer, the Champagne tower usually follows the Croquembouche, the traditional French dessert which I’m sure you are familiar with, and which can be swapped for a wedding cake or a dessert buffet (miniature cakes and tartlets).
Destination Wedding Reception of Jason and Tessa at Villa Ephrussi
Dinner is served late at French weddings (the celebration often taking place between June and September when the weather is most pleasant) and can last up to 4 hours. It is followed by a dance party that usually ends the next morning. At the end of the night, all guests are treated to an onion soup before leaving, a dish that is supposed to help them regain their strength and recover from an evening of wine and Champagne.
Villa Ephrussi at night
Now to some recommendations; there are many incredible venues around the South of France, including one of our favourites: the luxury hotel La Bastide de Gordes. Located in one of the most beautiful villages of France, we love it for its effortless sophistication, impeccable service and incomparable views over the valley. The simple yet chic Bastide de Marie in Menerbes is another site that sits on top of our curated list of extraordinary celebration locations for more intimate weddings with an authentic feel. Nestling among 57 acres of vines, the 18th-century stone house provides a charming and intimate setting for a wedding, between vineyards and lavender fields.
If you are planning your fairytale wedding and are unsure on how to find your dream venue, we highly recommend working with an experienced planner whose expertise lies in the region of your choosing, and whose mission is to make your fairytale wedding come to life.
To conclude, it is a great idea for couples intending a destination wedding to embrace the full culture and heart of the place, to try something out of the ordinary, adding layers of intentionality to the celebration – making it both memorable and meaningful. Once you find your perfect wedding venue, don’t be afraid to embrace the history, its design and surroundings and showcase the unique elements of their local food, culture, or entertainment.
Now that I have shared a glimpse of an authentic French wedding, which one of these has inspired you most to have an enchanted wedding celebration that is truly you and truly French?
See more of Jason and Tessa’s destination wedding created by Stephanie on this feature on Style Me Pretty.
All travel photographs are taken by Amelia Soegijono.