Tag Archive for 'wedding etiquette'

parisian events in le style digital magazine

le-style-magazine-kim-petyt-french-wedding-expertLe Style is a gorgeous digital magazine out of Melbourne, Australia that showcases French style and news from around the world. Launched earlier this year, each quarterly issue features stunning photos and insightful content on French lifestyle, culture, travel and fashion trends. The latest issue is also  an interactive version-  smartphone and tablet friendly, accompanied by instant click-on videos and useful links.

I spoke with Sha Anderson, Director and Editor-in-Chief of Le Style Digital Magazine, about planning weddings in Paris, as well as my thoughts on what it is exactly that seems to attract brides from around the globe to the French wedding style. Here’s an excerpt:

sha anderson, le style: Our readers love French style and many would love to have a French-inspired wedding.  What do you think makes French weddings so special?

kim petyt, parisian events: I think the thing that sets French weddings apart is their inherently refined elegance. I’m American, and we Americans tend to like our weddings BIG:  tall centerpieces strung with Swarovsky crystals, layered table linens, gobos splashing our monogram around the room, etc. etc. Elegant, yes- but BIG.  French weddings are a lot more subtle, with the emphasis more on the guests around the table, rather than the drama on the table.  Keep in mind that a French wedding dinner can last upwards of 5 hours long.  So rather than draw the attention away from the guests with an over-the-top, elaborate table center, a French bride will typically choose centerpieces that can be talked over, made of tasteful, carefully selected floral compositions in a classic vase, for example.  As expected, more importance will be put on the meal itself – with attention to paring not just the wines, but also the cheese and even the bread with the meal.

In France, personalization isn’t just about custom name-tags on water bottles, it’s about choosing a venue that has a history with the couple or their families. Many wedding vendors in France are also often chosen this way.  For years, a family will have used the same stationer for all of their formal stationery needs- from birth announcements to calling cards. So when it’s time for her wedding, a bride will turn to a stationer that knows her family on a personal level, and maybe even choose an invitation design that was used for her parents or grandparents wedding. I think this attention to the finer details is what makes French weddings so special.  Fortunately, it’s something that can be brought to French-inspired celebrations anywhere, and for any budget.

For the rest of our interview, be sure to check out the current issue of Le Style Digital Magazine, released earlier this week and available for viewing at lestyle.org. And a big “MERCI” to Sha and the Le Style team for letting me share my love of Paris weddings with their readers.

french wedding traditions: bread tastings

baguette-tradition-paris

Attention Bridezilla’s! I’ve just found a new wedding stresser for you, and it’s a doozie!  So, you and your planner have just left the final meeting with your catering manager. The meal has been dutifully pre-tasted and modified to your liking.  You’ve confirmed the lighting and decor of the dining room, made sure that the flowers will be vibrant and open (but not too open too early), the cake will be moist (but not too moist), the champagne will be cool and crisp and served in 6 oz champagne flutes (and not the 4 oz. ) but…what about the bread? My GAWD, WHAT-ABOUT-THE-BREAD????

At American weddings, not much fuss is made about the bread served with dinner.  It’s pretty much the same basket of rolls that you get in finer restaurants from coast to coast. But in France, where NO meal is complete without a baguette, it’s kind of a big deal. Big enough to warrant fairly detailed guidelines for choosing correctly when selecting your wedding menu, as outlined in this article on MarieClaire.fr. Here’s my translated recap. Who knew?:

Wedding Bread

“The bread served during a wedding dinner is often practical, but is unfortunately not always of good quality. For a successful dinner, take care that the bread that you offer compliments the meal. To make sure that everything goes smoothly during your wedding dinner, pay attention to even the smallest of details, which are, despite everything, very important- including… The Bread” (emphasis is mine).

“Indeed, each dish has its bread of reference, and the dish will taste differently whether you serve it with pain de campagne, rye bread or leavened bread…”

The choice of the bread

“It’s normally up to the caterer to decide which bread will be served with a meal. Usually, they will propose a more french-heart-breadobvious choice, like baguettes or bastards (huh? I swear it says that! What does that mean???) Ask your caterer if you can taste all of the breads that he is proposing: keeping in mind that just because a bread is called “pain de campagne” doesn’t mean that it will have the taste and quality of a pain de campagne….If you’re not happy with your caterers choice of bread, you can always order a different one yourself elsewhere.”

“If you want a specialty bread, like a fougasse aux gratons, originating in the Languedoc region, or Bretzels, from the Alsatian area, know that certain bakers will make them especially for you, if you order a large enough quantity of it. Don’t hesitate to flip through caterer or bakery brochures to get an idea of what types of breads they provide.”

And then the article goes on to describe the different breads: “Pain de Mie: Easy to slice, used for aperitifs, toasts and canapés. Pain de Seigle: Goes well with marinated fish, seafood, soft cheeses… Le Baguette or Batard (which does mean bastard, right?): Accompanies cold-cuts, red meats and raw veggies. Best seller in France, baguettes (or flutes, depending on what region you’re in) is indispensable in any meal…)”

I found this article so funny and so charming because it illustrates another subtle cultural difference between French and American weddings.  I’m imagining a French bride in New Jersey asking her American caterer to do a “bread tasting”…she’d probably be met with the same reaction as the American bride in Paris gets when she presents her French photographer with her “Wedding Photography Shot List” (a perfectly acceptable thing to provide in the States, but completely frowned upon by photographers in France.).  Ah, well. Vive les differences!

- parisian events, May 2007

(flashback) french wedding menus demystified: the aperitif

hemingway-at-paris-cafe My first apéritif took place about 3 weeks into my second trip to France. I had just met this cute French guy (who went on to become my husband) who invited me to meet some of his friends at a café. Wanting  desperately to blend in, I had luckily seen enough French films to know to order a “kir, s’il vous plait” when the waiter came to take our drinks order. When he arrived back at our table with a small bowl of olives and a hodge-podge of beverages, I was still in “America-mode” and slammed my dainty little kir back like a shot of Cuervo while I stared mesmerized by the days’ specials scrawled on the chalkboard next to the door. I methodically repeated my order to myself so that my French would be flawless by the time he made it round to take my food order. 5 minutes later I looked up to find the waiter gone, and the rest of the table settled back in their seats, chit-chatting and occasionally (v-e-r-y occasionally) taking tiny, bird-like sips at their drinks. And so it remained for what seemed like 12 hours: Talk-Talk-Talk. Teeny-tiny sip. Talk-Talk-Talk. Teeny-tiny sip. Every once in a while someone would go all wild and help themselves to an olive, but then they’d come back to their senses and resume the talking. And the sipping.  All the while I sat there growing hungrier and thirstier, not understanding a word of what was being said, and desperately trying to catch the eye of the waiter so that I could order another kir or an ASS-YET-french-aperitifDA-FREETS. I never did manage to get his attention. That was my introduction to the French apéro.

Wikipedia describes an apéritif (Fr.), or aperitivo (It.) as “an alcoholic drink usually enjoyed as an appetizer before a large meal. It is often served with something small to eat, like olives or crackers.”  If you’re planning a wedding or event in France, and you’re looking at catering menus, you’ll notice that there are several drink standards that are almost always on offer during an apéritif, (or apéro as it’s casually known as)- with some modifications being made depending on the region of France that you’re in. I’ve taken the liberty to sample quite a few of these over the years, and now give you my rather girlie definition of the following:

Kir: A sweet little cocktail made with creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and topped with white wine. Kir can also be ordered in peach, strawberry or blackberry.  I think they’re delicious and very girlie (even though French men drink them all the time (but they also wear their sweaters tied around their shoulders even though it’s not 1986 nor are they on the tennis court. AND they proudly walk those itty-bitty Paris Hilton-type dogs in public. Just saying.) A Kir Royale takes it up a notch by being made with sparkling wine or champagne instead of wine.

Pastis: A strong, cloudy-yellow, licorice-flavored alcohol that’s popular in the South of France. When you order a Pastis, you get served a tall, thin glass with about 2 inches of alcohol with an iced-tea spoon and a small pitcher of water on the side. You pour the water into the Pastis to dilute it to your taste. I remember my first sip of Pastis tasting a tad bit better than Everclear, but around 4 sips in- hmm, not so bad!

Ricard: Honestly, I don’t know the difference between the two. I think Ricard may be cloudy white as opposed to Pastis being yellow- but perhaps someone can post a comment to enlighten me.

Martini (rouge or blanc): This isn’t a martini martini (of the “shaken not stirred” variety) but straight vermouth poured over the rocks. This is my father-in-law’s preferred apéro, and it really isn’t so bad. Order this one to impress your visiting friends and relatives with your Frenchiness (every tourist knows about the kir thing by now!)

Muscat: A yummy sweet white wine that’s served a bit cold. A very refreshing alternative here in this “Land O’ No Ice”.

Port: Port is the same as in the U.S., but in France they drink it before dinner instead of after.

Coupe de Champagne: Most apéritif menus will offer a coupe de champagne to kick off the celebration, which really needs french-wedding-appetizerno explanation, it’s just that the term “coupe de champagne” is a pet-peeve of mine. For some reason the term cheapens the whole idea to me- Like calling a flute of Veuve Clicquot a “Cup O’ Champers”, blegh.

In addition to the alcoholic beverages, an aperitif menu will also include boissons non alcoolisées (non-alcoholic beverages), called “softs” in French. This includes orange juice, coke/diet coke, water (both fizzy and not), etc.

Next to the drinks, an apéritif menu will also often offer “amuse bouches” - literally “mouth amuser” [bouche = mouth; amuser = to amuse, to please]. There usually isn’t much of an explanation of the amuse bouches on the menu because it depends on what you select as your starter and/or main course. The price of the amuse bouches is typically included in the price of the apéro, and there isn’t a selection- everyone gets the same thing. It could be as simple as olives, or something a bit more elaborate like mozzarella stuffed tomatoes or melon wrapped with a jambon cru.

One thing that is kind of confusing about French wedding menus are the differences between a “vin d’honneur”, a “cocktail” and an “apéritif”. The three terms seem to be used interchangeably, but there can be subtle differences. This goes back to the whole level thing that I was talking about with French weddings. Directly following a typical French wedding ceremony, you will be invited to a vin d’honneur, usually in or nearby the ceremony venue. There you’ll be served champagne to drink, but more than likely there will also be the above apéritif standards on hand.  At the vin d’honneur, you’ll have a chance to snack on small amuse bouches, and simple, sweet hors d’oeuvres.  Later on at the reception venue,  there is often an apéritif or “cocktail” before dinner- more standard cocktail drinks than champagne this time, lighter on the amuse bouches and more substantial hors d’hoevres (both sweet and salty).  After guests are seated, they will then be served their starter.

You don’t need much to bring the French apéro to your Parisian themed wedding or party, but here are a a couple of French amuse bouche recipes to get you started, made by a Girl Cook in Paris. Tchin-Tchin!

- from parisian party, march, 10, 2008