Okay Okay, I know everyone’s thinking “what’s the big deal, it’s just a wedding,” right?
The reason I am so excited to write about this is because I genuinely never thought it would occur. I never imagined I’d receive an invitation to a wedding here in France, let alone one in a church!
This is for two reasons:
Reason No. 1: Getting Married in The Church Takes Devotion
Religious weddings are on the decline here since so few people believe in, or practice, any religion.
A country known for its laicism, France practices a firm separation between church and state. This means, in order to be in a legally recognized marriage, couples must have their ceremony performed by the mayor of the town in which they reside.
The (in)direct effect of laicism is also reflected in the number of people who consider themselves to be believers in, or practitioners of, any religion. According to a 2019 study ordered by l’Observatoire de la laïcité, 37% of respondents considered themselves to be “believers”. However, only 14% of them practice their religion once or more per month. Interestingly, out of the 37% identifying as “believers,” 48% of them associated themselves with Catholicism.
Despite Catholicism being the predominant religion in France, Catholic marriages are on the decline according to l’Eglise Catholique en France. For instance, between 2008 and 2018, the Catholic Church in France saw a nearly 45% decrease in marriages.
With this in mind, you can imagine my surprise when I received an invitation to a Catholic wedding here in France! Hopefully, you can now better understand my excitement to talk about it.
Reason No. 2: Marriage Isn’t Cool Anymore
Everyone that I know here, including my husband’s siblings, either live under what we call “Pacs,” or in “concubinage”. They have no intention whatsoever to get married.
As some of you may recall from my post about my own ceremony, more and more people in France are straying away from traditional forms of marriage (legal and religious). Instead, many are opting for “le pacte civil de solidarité” or, in short, “Pacs.”
What Is Pacs?
Pacs is a government-recognized civil solidarity pact very similar to marriage in that it effects social and fiscal rights. The big difference is that each partner retains ownership of their property held before, and acquired during, their time Pacs’d. They are also responsible for any personal debts they have or may accrue during, or prior to, this time.
For the sake of their privacy, I will call the bride and groom “A&M”.
A&M invited us to their wedding taking place August 15th in Charente-Maritime. Not only does August 15th happen to be the day of the Assumption, it just so happens to be the day with THE WORST traffic in France as it marks the beginning of the summer holidays (great choice, guys!). Obviously, it is a choice made due to its religious meaning as well as its personal significance to the couple.
The blushing bride wore an extravagant satin and lace white gown with train and an equally long and lacey veil. I genuinely was in shock when I saw her because I always view her as refined and minimalistic, never did I think she would wear such a princess gown (totally lost the bet on that one)! As for the groom, he wore a tailored suit in pine green with yellow bowtie. This was absolutely no shock to me knowing his personality. I redeemed myself by winning the bet on this one.
The Catholic Ceremony
I have never attended a Catholic mass in French, let alone a marriage, so this was new and absolutely intriguing to me! A&M chose to have a full mass along with their marriage ceremony in the lovely little hilltop church of Saint-Savinien.
Baptized and raised with the beliefs of the Roman Catholic church as a child back in the States— though I am no longer a believer or practitioner— I was somewhat familiar with everything occurring during the ceremony. A&M included lots of choral portions in their ceremony in lieu of, or in between, prayers; the hymns were provided, but not the prayers, so I was a wee bit lost since they were in French and Latin. Ironically, the non-native French speaker (me) was on point that day because my husband and his friend (both native Frenchmen) hadn’t the slightest idea of what was happening or where we even were in the program. I guess religion really is universal!
The ceremony took the form of three main parts with the first being the liturgy of the word of God. A&M incorporated a lot of singing in lieu of readings in order to render their ceremony livelier and more interactive, which I think worked really well. Following this was the sacrament of marriage in which the couple and their witnesses signed the marriage contract. They also exchanged their vows as well as their rings at this time. Lastly, the liturgy of the Eucharist, nuptial benediction (pictured below), communion and a whole lot more singing brought closure to the ceremony. It was a long one, but beautiful and filled with joyous sounds! All in all, I could really feel all of the Catholic marriage traditions come to life.
Cocktail Hour & Reception
This is where we get to the fun part because what is a wedding without a reception?! And boy did A&M go ALL OUT for this one! I mean, LOOK. AT. THAT. CHATEAU (they don’t look so bad themselves either!)
A&M held their reception at the Château de la Roche Courbon (fancy stuff).
The evening started off to the beat of some chilled out lo-fi music with cocktail hour held in the verdant gardens. And what is a cocktail hour without a mad dash to the champagne and hors d’oeuvres?! Certainly a dull one.
Once they obtained some snacks and some drinks, guests strolled leisurly through the gardens with their flutes as if royalty for the night. Attempting to maintain our composure, we were all asked to take part in a group photo with the happy couple.
After this, we were escorted into a reception hall for dinner. This consisted of an appetizer, a luxurious main of Coquilles Saint Jacques (great scallops) and the customary cheese platter with, if you didn’t guess it, more bread and lots more wine! For dessert, a giant and delicious cake with the customary glass of champagne (because French are fancy like that). Overall, a delicious and filling meal!
An Unforgettable Night
This was an unforgettable wedding. I’m not saying that just to say it, I honestly mean it. And it’s not because of the church or the château, it’s because of the rain.
By the time we finished dessert, there was a massive thunderstorm. The rain was so intense that the roof of the reception hall began pouring down water and many tried to seek refuge in the dance hall (in a different building). Unfortunately, this was to no avail because that building was also experiencing an ingress of water.
Trapped between a rock and a hard place, I thought the wedding was finished, but with some insistance and with the help of some brooms and mops, the party was able to get started after all!
I just want take a moment to thank A&M for allowing me to use them as an example and to write about their special day. I would also like to wish them all the best in their marriage.
N.B. This marriage took place August 15, 2020.
Have you been to a wedding in France? How did it go? Let me know in the comments.