A typical American wedding is made up of a ceremony (be it civil, religious, symbolic or otherwise), a cocktail hour and a lunch or dinner reception. All together this might be something like 5 hours, much of which is filled with photography sessions for the bridal party and family, and the lengthy toasts that often follow. So there is not a lot of time to spend with guests, many often just seeing the couple for a few minutes in a receiving line. When you’re invited to an American wedding, you’re either invited to the ceremony and reception.
A typical French wedding on the other hand, lasts all day and into the next. It starts with a civil ceremony at City Hall in the morning, and is followed by a religious ceremony, then a vin d’honneur (a small cocktail reception), followed by a 4 or 5-course meal, and then dancing. The dancing often starts between dinner courses, in order to give guests a chance to work up more of an appetite! A typical French wedding doesn’t end until 3:00 or 4:00AM, or even later. And for our French wedding, there was a lunch at the Garange and a hunt in the middle of the day. Most of the guest stayed the whole weekend at the Chateau.
Now, here’s the best part of the deal: A guest in France can be invited to all, or only part of the wedding festivities, some just for drinks or dessert around midnight, and none are offended by this model.
And one has to have the traditional French wedding cake.