Parisians can be a notoriously tight-lipped group—just try to pry the names of their favorite bistros and boites from them. But when it comes to weddings, Parisian brides are like any other: glad to share the details of their special day. Just don’t try to bond with them over bridal boot camp. “The French bride will pay attention to her diet,” says Anne Mulvihill, founder of Fête in France. “But, she would be much less likely to work out.” Instead, brides-to-be put in overtime at local spas, booking routine facials at hot spots like Orlane and The Peninsula Paris.
After all, glowing skin is key in a culture that embraces laid-back beauty. “Just like their everyday looks, Parisian brides like to keep things simple, minimal, and effortlessly chic,” says Caroline Greyl, president of Leonor Greyl Paris. Though some wear elegant buns inspired by Grace Kelly and Alexandre de Paris, “most brides go for a bohemian vibe, as seen on It girls like Jeanne Damas, Lou Doillon, or Sonia Sieff,” Greyl says.
Makeup is applied with a light touch, and brides oftentimes leave their hair down or swept into a side fishtail braid—hold the hair spray, please. “For French brides, a few bits of hair falling around your face is no big deal,” says Anne-Flore Chapellier, editorial director of My Little Paris. “If anything, it adds to the romance.”
This fresh, free-spirited look complements the dresses from in-demand designers like Rime Arodaky, Delphine Manivet, and Laure de Sagazan. “The popular silhouette is relatively unstructured, and much more flowy than what you see in U.S. bridal fashion,” Mulvihill says.
This less-structured aesthetic also applies to bridal-party fashion. Groomsmen do wear matching cravats, ascots, or bow ties. “Cinabre is the trendy Parisian brand for men’s [wedding] accessories,” Chapellier says. “But, it kind of goes without saying that matching bridesmaid outfits are a Parisian wedding no-no.”
It’s no wonder, then, that mismatched plates and other touches of bohemia are enduringly popular in décor. Mulvihill says that loose, wild floral arrangements, long tables, and table runners made of greenery are seeing a spike, as are vintage place settings. Chapellier can attest to that: “I spent an entire year scouring flea markets from Paris to Normandy to find 500 vintage plates, which we ended up using for a reception dinner,” she says.
Tropical décor is also in style. At Chapellier’s wedding, the groom and groomsmen wore ties made from vintage Hawaiian shirts; table runners were made from tropical leaves; and palms and pineapples further spruced up the space. Note: That wasn’t the work of a team of 20 designers. “Parisian weddings tend to be very DIY compared to American weddings,” says ClémentineHerzhaft, wedding and events planner at The Peninsula Paris. And Chapellier adds that it’s “rare to have a wedding planner in France.”
But for the brides who do enlist professional help, the planning process isn’t typically overwrought. According to Herzhaft, “more and more, it’s getting trendy to plan last-minute weddings and feel the excitement and rush of the unexpected.”
However, pitch-perfect food and wine—those sacraments of Parisian culture—are something that every couple and wedding guest expect. “The French love their cocktail hour, which can oftentimes be two or three hours in length,” Mulvihill says. “Of course, there is foie gras in at least one form, and plenty of Champagne.” Other appetiz-
ers may include oysters, smoked salmon, and caviar. Then, it’s on to a seated dinner, which is typically served at around nine o’clock and comprises a main course and a cheese course.
And who could forget the sweets? “The famous French pièce montée is the traditional cake served at weddings, and everybody is always curious to [see] the magnificent dessert,” Herzhaft says. And while Chapellier says that French weddings in general are more about “closeness and family than glitz and glam,” there is a bit of glitz in the sparklers that accompany the dessert’s presentation.
Not every French couple goes for the croquembouche, mind you. “The traditional American wedding cake has risen in popularity in recent years, and many couples have wholeheartedly embraced the gateau à l’américain,” Mulvihill says. Chapellier notices a trend toward smaller, quick-to-eat confections like choux a la crème and mignardises. “Basically, we want to get dessert done with as fast as possible so we can start dancing,” she says.
Regardless of what’s for dessert, there’s much more on the menu the next day. While French couples don’t host a rehearsal, and hence don’t have rehearsal dinners, they take the morning-after brunch seriously. The affairs tend to last for around four hours, Mulvihill says, and—no surprise here—they “involve a good amount of rosé.”