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Touches of France cap the romance of a wedding. From adopting French wedding traditions to decorating so guests feel as if they're celebrating in a bistro, Paris or the French countryside, sources of French inspiration abound. An eye for detail can give your wedding the style and elegance associated with France.
Get married the French way by having two ceremonies: a civil ceremony, followed by a religious ceremony. Make it a weekend-long affair with ceremonies, cocktails and reception on Saturday, and a Sunday lunch or brunch gathering. Use a special, engraved cup with two handles known as a "coupe de marriage" for toasts, and open bottles of Champagne "sabrage"-style by sliding a sword up the side of the bottle so that the collar and cork break off when it hits the lip. Keep the French tradition of giving guests at least five chocolate-covered almonds known as "draguées" to symbolize happiness, fertility, wealth, longevity and health. Instead of a cake table at the reception, have your caterer wheel out the French version of a wedding cake at dessert time: a sparkler-dressed confection of caramel- or toffee-glazed cream puffs stacked in a cone shape called a "croquembouche."
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Table names help create the French ambiance you want. For example, by labeling each table after a metro stop, such as Madeleine or Châtelet, your table cards can resemble Parisian subway signs, and escort cards can be tickets. You can capture the flavor of France with signs made to look like classic Parisian street signs for tables named after famous streets, such as Avenue des Champs Elysées, Rue Saint Honoré and Boulevard Haussman. Let your favorite French cities or landmarks inspire your table nomenclature, then incorporate silver-framed photos of them with your centerpieces to guide guests to their seats. Table names associated with your interests also support your theme and help guests get to know you better. If you love art, assign tables to French artists and use postcards of their paintings as escort cards. If you ski, name tables after French ski resorts such as Chamonix and Val d'Isère. If you're wine enthusiasts, seat guests at tables named after grape varieties or French vineyards and use corks to hold their escort cards.
Café and Bistro Themes
A café or bistro theme suits an informal, or small wedding reception or cocktail party. Wrought iron chairs and round tables decked with simple flower centerpieces, or candles and baskets of French bread turn a room into a Parisian cafe. Vintage French posters, French books and menus on chalkboards enhance the ambiance. Entertain your guests with French music performed live by a roaming accordion or violin player, or with recordings of French singers such as Jacques Brel and ZAZ. Have a caricaturist on hand to create guest portraits. Holding your reception in a bistro or small restaurant is another option. Coordinate your event's formality and color scheme with the venue, making sure the centerpiece height encourages across-the-table conversation.
Rustic or Country French Style
Flowers and the warm shades of reds and yellows associated with rustic France invite guests to step into the relaxed country lifestyle the French enjoy. Set the stage by marking your reception entryways and filling corners of the room with large floral arrangements. Continue your rustic French theme with tablecloths or napkins made from fabrics featuring the floral patterns associated with the Provence region of France. Dress tables with simple centerpieces, such as flowers in jars or ceramic bottles, or candles in ceramic holders or white candelabras. Substituting red goblets for Champagne flutes, having carafes of water on hand and accenting place settings with sprigs of lavender tied to place cards with color-coordinating ribbon also enhance a rustic French theme.
French beverages and dishes belong at a French-themed wedding. Consider offering kir royales -- cocktails made with Champagne and black current liqueur -- as your signature drink. Have a selection of cheeses, canapés and wines on hand. Give your guests menus written in French with English translations to prepare them for their taste of France. Start the meal with quiche or escargots, then serve a classic French dish such as beef bourguignon or coq au vin as the main course. No French meal is complete without bread, so include baskets of baguettes at each table. To make the meal truly French, serve the salad after the main course and place forks on the table, prongs down.
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