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.
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 probably 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.
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!