what to wear to a wedding in france?

French Wedding Hat

So, you’ve just received an invitation to your first French wedding. Your initial thought (”How exciting!”) is quickly replaced by, “OMG, what am I going to wear??” Fear not, Your American Wedding Planner in Paris is here to guide you. First, you should know that typically, people in France don’t tend to dress up for weddings as much as they do in the States. (I’ll never forget the friend of my husband who wore overalls to our wedding. But that’s another post…) At Franco-American weddings, you can always pick out the American guests by their clothes and by their smiles. I, personally, find this absolutely refreshing- I mean, if you can’t dress up for a wedding, when can you dress up? This isn’t to say that the French never dress for weddings. If the wedding is between families of a certain background, of course you will dress up. Unfortunately, in most cases you only know one half of the couple, and don’t know anything about their family’s background.

So how do you decide what to wear? The most obvious clue is the invitation. Is it a classic cream or ivory card stock with formal text and titles? Or is it a more contemporary design, with a touch of color and modern text? A formal invitation doesn’t always mean a formal wedding, but it’s a pretty good clue.

French wedding Invitation

French wedding Invitation

The second hint is the address of the city hall, church and/or reception. Like most places, there are tonier sides and less tonier sides of every town in France. If the wedding is in Paris, and is being held in the Mairie (City Hall) and church in the 16th arrondissement with the reception at the Hotel Crillon, it’s safe to say that you should dress up. If the civil ceremony takes place in the city hall of the 13th arrondissement, with no church ceremony, but a reception dinner cruise on the Seine, then you will catherine-varnier1probably be more comfortable in a more casual outfit. If you don’t live in the area where the wedding is being held, a few minutes on Google Maps should help clear up most location questions.

One important bit of information to know is that when you’re shopping for your French wedding outfit, you’re actually shopping for two outfits! Like I’ve mentioned before, French weddings last all day long, and most guests will change outfits sometime between the morning ceremony and evening reception, with the evening look typically more casual than the morning’s. Again, look to the location of the venue to help you with this.

So, just how “dressy” and how “casual” is acceptable at a French wedding? For a standard formal French wedding ceremony, think “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, but a little less “British madness” with the hat. A beautiful day suit or ensemble by Catherine Varnier, for example, with or without a stylish chapeau should do the trick. Try Les Chapeaux de Béa in Paris for a gorgeous selection of wedding hats. For a more casual wedding, a chic and classic look by Tara Jarmon paired with this season’s bold accessories should help you fit right in with the rest of the Parisian invitées.

tara-jarmon-paris1

If you plan to attend the religious ceremony, be aware that it is a respectful gesture for women to cover their shoulders in church- so if you choose a sleeveless number, be sure to bring a jacket or pashmina with you for the ceremony. Also, in France as in the US, it is typically interdit for any woman other than the bride to wear white.

Many French wedding magazines and websites will have sections devoted to clothes and accessories for the wedding guests. Called tenues d’invitées in French, Madame.LeFigaro.fr has a great list that is updated often. Happy Shopping!

16 Responses to “what to wear to a wedding in france?”


  1. 1 Kathleen Trenske

    Great idea for a post! Lots of great insight, as always!! Love the casual looks, they look comfortable and chic.

  2. 2 Dawn

    Great post! I probably would have been stumpted as to what to wear. Now…I just need to find a friend who is getting married in Paris.

  3. 3 jonnifer

    Thanks for the tip about covering shoulders in church! In two days that advice would have come too late.

  4. 4 Pamela Poole

    Hey Kim! Check out this video of a French “royal” wedding just the other day!

    http://www.lepost.fr/article/2009/05/04/1521167_les-royalistes-sont-toujours-debout.html#xtor=RSS-37

  5. 5 Lupita

    Oh, thank God for you and your post! I am going to a wedding in Paris this July and needed your advice as to what to wear! Thank you!!

  6. 6 kristin

    I just emailed about hose. But after reading this I have a couple more questions. My dress is white with bold black and grey floral pattern. Is that ok or is even a white background a no-no?

  7. 7 FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com

    Thanks for the email! This was very helpful for sure, and I think my choice in dress will be perfect

  8. 8 Katie

    Hi Kim - I love your website!

    I came across your site the other day when researching a wedding gift to bring to an American wedding in Paris for two new friends. For an experiential gift that will show them a bit of the city, I found an affordable 4-hour cooking workshop at the Ritz Hotel (in case anyone is on the market for a gift)!

    Ironically, today I just bought myself a new Tara Jarmon dress, as I agree with you that they are a safe and flirty bet, however I am confused by the event’s dress code… tomorrow night is a welcome dinner at a fancy hotel for traveling guests which asks for “elegant cocktail attire” and for the reception aboard a yacht Monday evening “festive cocktail attire.”

    Does this mean the sparkly black taffeta is more appropriate for Sunday’s event, and the silk-floral Tara Jarmon for Monday? As it’s a very traditional American couple throwing the bash(s), I wasn’t sure how to tell the different between the two dress-codes.

    Je suis a votre disposition!

  9. 9 meaghan

    what about a french wedding in the winter? I’m going at christmas. Reception is at a castle. Are pants acceptable as I plan on backpacking afterward and must be able to fit my wedding outfit into my backpack

  10. 10 bg

    Hi Kim,

    I have just find out about your website! I have pretty similar questions actually: For a ceremony at church at 2 pm and apéro and dinner at a castle, I bought two cocktail dresses. the first one is more formal with a little hat. I am worried about the second one for the chateau. Should I wear a long gawn or is it OK to wear a knee-length silk cocktail dress?

    Thanks a lot!

    BG

  11. 11 Amanda

    Any thoughts on an afternoon / evening wedding in Saint Germain-en-Laye? We know both the bride and groom (Groom’s American / Bride’s French from a pretty affluent family). I hate to bother them on such frivolous things as to what I should wear, but I would love some advice.

    Kind Regards,

    A

  12. 12 Natalie

    Fantastic post! I have a wedding in France next October but it’s never too early to start planning your outfit!

  13. 13 Sophie

    Wow,thank you so much for the advice. What about a wedding at Versailles Palace? Cannot believe we have been invited, sounds like a good excuse for dressing up?

  14. 14 Mary

    Great article, Kim. I am always so amazed by the variety at any given wedding, from formal to jeans.

  15. 15 Janice

    Thank you
    My boyfriends sister is to be married in July. I keep asking him to ask several questions, but that’s typical of an man. Just have to do my own thing. When my daughter was married, most of the guests wore white how polite were they, I thought it was funny at the time. Still you live and learn

  16. 16 helen

    I am going to a wedding in Paris in June. Can I wear a longish pink silk jacket with off- white palazzo pants? Can women wear pants to a church wedding and could they be black if the jacket is bright? thanks!

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