Weddings for all!
What could be more wonderful? A beautiful venue, delicious food and wine, and the love of your life, right here in South West France.
In this feature article we look at making the most of your special day. For more inspiration you can also see our ‘Preparing for the Big Day’ feature in the May/June 2022 issue of your Local Buzz Magazine.
Whether you are single, divorced, widowed, same-sex or heterosexual, multi-racial or multi or non-religious, there are more ways to form a committed relationship here in France than there are colours in a box of confetti.
Weddings for all: Marriage
French weddings can go on for days, starting with the civil marriage at the Mairie, then the ceremonial wedding which might follow a day later to include a religious or non-secular service.
Of course, there’s criteria to be met and, if you can’t, you may have to reside in the commune where you are to be married for at least 30 days. It could be worse! Think of all the fun you can have planning, shopping and preparing for the big day!
Or maybe you can just deal with the paperwork and, as you might expect, there’s quite a lot of it. As well as the usual justicatifs (passport, birth certificate and electricity bill if you live here), you will need details of your witnesses and the contrat de mariage (often called the prenuptual agreement), complete with Certificate du Notaire.
If you aren’t French you may also be asked for a Certificate de Célibat to confirm you are free to marry and a Certificat de Coutume from your home country to say that you can be married legally. Anyone divorced or widowed will, obviously, have to provide relevant proof.
Weddings for all: The contract
The contract is a very important aspect of a French marriage. In fact, even when married couples move here many choose to “marry again” at a notaire to ensure the right terms for their own circumstances.
French law offers a number of contracts. The Régime Légal de Communauté Réduite aux Acquêts is where whatever you owned before marriage or which you inherit during the marriage remains yours, and anything acquired during the marriage is owned jointly. The Communauté Universelle ensures that everything before and after marriage is jointly owned and goes directly to the spouse. The Séparation de Biens means each spouse retains their own assets separately. A visit to a notaire will sort out which is right for you.
Weddings for all: PACS
More and more unmarried couples are choosing the Pacs (Pacte Civil de Solidarité) as a legally binding way to show their commitment. Originally designed to suit the needs of same sex couples, Pacs is now very popular amongst heterosexuals too.
Favoured by many divorcees, widowers and young people, it doesn’t affect the inheritance rights of dependents, yet allows for inclusion in the couples taxation system, for example, and is easier to dissolve than a civil marriage.
Interestingly around 40% of cancelled Pacs are because couples have decided to marry, an event which automatically dissolves the Pacs agreement.
Weddings for all: Non-secular or multi-faith
“If you consider yourself to be more spiritual than religious or are looking for a beautiful fusion ceremony that incorporates elements of two different faiths, then an interfaith minister/celebrant would be an ideal choice” says Akasha Lonsdale-Deighton, Interfaith Minister/Celebrant at Simply Divine Ceremonies.
“Each bespoke ceremony can be carefully crafted to reflect your uniqueness as a couple. It is also the perfect option if one partner wants to include a religious element (perhaps to please family!) Whatever the reason, the ceremony will be infused with spirituality and conducted with great warmth and professionalism. A legal marriage is still required but vows and rings can be exchanged at your special ceremony.”
Weddings for all: Let’s Celebrate!
Following the official Mairie wedding, there are a host of options for the celebrations, from châteaux and vineyards to salle des fêtes and even taking over a gîte complex for a complete weekend.
For some brides, organising the wedding is all part of the fun. For others, they prefer the ease that comes with a wedding planner.
Many salle des fêtes and some châteaux provide nothing but the venue, and wedding planners really do come into their own with knowledge about venues and suppliers, as well as customs, traditions and, of course, the language! They will know their industry inside out and may well save you money and disappointment as a result.
For instance, did you know that many wedding dresses are hired rather than bought, and will you know which flowers are best for both the venue and the temperatures at that time of year?
Weddings for all: Budgets, Venues and Flowers
Given her years of experience, we asked Sarah Thomas of And Then We Got Married and MAISON PETALI about planning a destination wedding. She also gave us some great insights into floral considerations.
“The absolute first thing to do is set your budget; even before you’ve decided on the location”, she advises. “Every single planning decision made after this point should be made with your budget in mind.
“We’ve worked a lot with couples wanting a wedding in a private property and, often, they’re surprised that the total spend for their DIY location usually exceeds what we’d calculate for an established wedding venue.
“The reason is simple: a private property isn’t equipped for events. As a minimum, you need to consider sanitary facilities (we work on a minimum ratio of one toilet to 50 guests), a generator, marquees in case of bad weather, and a prep area for the caterer. You also need to think about lighting as well as other logistics such as parking, signage etc. Once this initial work is complete and the venue has been selected, we can get on with the fun part, safe in the knowledge that there won’t be any financial stress later on.
“One of my favourite areas of the planning process is the décor and florals”, she enthuses. “The first thing to consider is seasonality. You can, sometimes, obtain floral varieties outside of their natural season. However, do consider why they bloom naturally at a certain time of year. Anemone, for example, is a popular choice but put this fragile spring flower into the harsh summer sun and it won’t last long!
“Even some summer varieties can struggle; hydrangeas are abundant in the summer but they prefer a shady spot. Once cut and placed in a bouquet or floral arch with no constant water source, they start looking sad very quickly. The same goes for the beautiful but fragile sweet pea; these would be a disaster in a bouquet or boutonnière on a hot day!
“Certain key blooms are virtually impossible to find out of season. Peonies, for example, are very tricky to find in France post July. However, there are excellent alternatives to peonies, such as David Austin roses, and only a flower connoisseur will know the difference!
“If you’re planning on doing your wedding florals yourself” she concludes, “I’d advise taking some time to fully research your favourite florals, taking into account these key points, to avoid disappointment on the big day.”
Weddings for all: Making Memories
Making Memories (with wedding photo of Jeff from July 2018)
Jeff Ross,(pictured above), professional photographer at JeffandDebz Photography, gives us this insight into the history of wedding photography. “Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were probably the most famous to issue the first wedding photos, having recreated their event 14 years after the 1840 ceremony. The photo went global and the relatively new studio portrait industry found a ready supply of couples wanting to pose for a wedding carte de visit or cabinet card albumen print.”
He adds, “In the mid-1940’s, enthusiastic amateurs and demobbed military photographers, now armed with roll film, smallish cameras and flashbulbs, turned up at churches and registry offices, taking and selling photos to the happy couple. The static studio specialists had no option but to join them at the ceremonies and the professional wedding photographic industry was born.
“As film became cheaper and more readily available, more elements were captured, first in monochrome and then colour. To the already popular formal group and portraits, the professional added the now standard bride arriving, bridesmaids, dress, flowers, signing the register, aisle procession, the departure and cake cutting, all produced and placed in order in the ubiquitous album.
“However”, Jeff explains, “for an industry whose income was directly linked to prints sold, there still weren’t enough shots and it wasn’t long before at home, soft focus, overlays and gimmick shots, as well as portable studios for the reception were created. By the 1980’s studios were producing sets of 80-100 prints for a tiny booking fee, earning their money from large sales of prints, reprints, frames and albums.
“Soon there was a swing to more informal wedding coverage and, with the advent of SLR, capturing the wedding in a documentary, photo-journalistic style became popular. The pictures had more life, action and mood about them, even more so now we have digital photography. Available in colour, monochrome and spot colour, hundreds of pictures are delivered on a memory stick, allowing those happy memories to be shared via the internet.
“Without doubt,” he says, “you will have a wish list of shots for your wedding day and it’s important to itemise these thoroughly. Your photographer should have some brilliant, innovative ideas too!”
If you would like to improve your own photography skills, take a look at Jeff’s article in the July/August 2018 issue of The Local Buzz
First published in the March/April 2020 issue of The Local Buzz
Images: Akasha Lonsdale-Deighton, Sarah Thomas, Jeff Ross and Shutterstock