French-Canadian weddings? Wedding traditions in general?

I’m getting married next year, and I want to include some special French-Canadian stuff, since that’s the culture I’m leaving behind when I make Maryland my official home turf. The problem is, although it’s my background, I’ve never been to any French-Canadian weddings. All my friends from school who got married were from various other backgrounds, and included their own traditions instead.

I’m asking my family, of course, but I figured maybe the few Canadian dopers would be able to toss some ideas at me. The only one my mother has come up with so far is the dollar dance, but I feel like it’s a little tacky and I’m not sure how the American side of the wedding will take it.

Does anyone have ideas?

What neat stuff did you include in your wedding, whatever your background?

I’m not French-Canadian, but perhaps you could look to having some traditional French-Canadian folk music played at some point. My wife and I had a musical friend play a few Irish and Scottish traditional tunes on his fiddle during our wedding, and it gave it a nice touch, and was a link to our backgrounds also.

Well, there’s the sock dancing thing. All of your unmarried older brothers and sisters dance in socks, and people throw money at them. Does anyone else know what I’m talking about?

Well, you could always have the wedding out at a cabin somewhere in the woods, serve breakfast foods, get stinking drunk and eat frozen sirop d’erable. Or have some guest dress up as the bonhomme carnivale. Tourtiere, anyone?

You all have to dance to this. No wedding in Québec is complete without it. :smiley: Alternatively, this is also acceptable.

The French wedding’s I’ve been to have been Catholic, so lots of sitting and standing and even the bride and groom get a chair while they get ignored in favour of talking about Jesus and God for an hour. Receptions vary based upon the families/guests, and I can’t think of anything in particular that is specifically Québecois at the moment.

We had our wedding in both languages; the officiant who married us (civil wedding) spoke passable English even with a strong accent, it was still wonderful for us to be married in the two languages that have helped define us and our relationship. In our case, we wrote our own ceremony (based largely on texts our officiant had already written, and translated/modified/expanded for us) and instead of prayers or Bible readings, we had one guest read a poem my great-grandfather had written, and my aunt read a text/message that she herself penned for us. It was beautiful.

One thing that I think I’ve only seen at francophone weddings was honouring other couples either during the ceremony or the reception; in our case, my parents were at about 35 years, my husband’s grandparents had been married 50… we just thought it was nice to have these types of examples for us, and mentioned them specifically. My husband’s cousin even included certain people into their ceremony - one couple that was 1 year married, another 10, another 30 (I think) and another at 60 years of marriage… it was awesome.

Do French-Canadian brides place their bouquets at the statue of the Virgin Mary after the ceremony? I’ve seen that happen at French weddings.

That’s very cool.

I’ve got nothing to contribute to the French-Canadian aspect, but one neat thing we did at our wedding was follow the Quaker tradition of having all of the guests sign a marriage certificate. (This isn’t the same thing as the legal certificate that you file at the courthouse.) Ours reads, “On xxx date in xxx town, Left Hand of Dorkness and burundi took each other by the hand, promising to be unto each other a faithful and loving husband and wife, in plenty and want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and health as long as we both shall live. In celebration of the bonds of friendship, love and marriage, we hereunto set our hands…And we, their friends and loved ones gathered here, as witnesses and in support of their union, hereunto set our hands…” Traditionally, I imagine such certificates were fairly plain and simple, but now it’s pretty common to have them in calligraphy on pretty paper.

Typically, couples hang the certificate up in their homes after the wedding. Ours is over the mantle, and it makes me smile every time I see it.

It’s not unheard of in America. I’ve been to several weddings in the American Midwest that had dollar dances. Yeah, it seems a bit tacky to me, too.

My husband’s brother married a girl from Pittsburgh, and they had a cookie table. Basically, her aunts, etc. got together and made hundreds and hundreds of cookies, which were piled on this table, and guests got to eat them throughout the night (and take them home in pretty little bags). This was in addition to the cake. I thought that was pretty neat.

I didn’t, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it happen either.

Since someone mentioned the dollar dance, I didn’t see that one until I came to the US, and I certainly didn’t do it at my reception.

A French-Canadian wedding will almost assuredly be Catholic, as that is the religion of most members of the group, both in and out of Quebec. Since such a wedding will require some time with a priest beforehand anyways (be prepared to grin and bear it a little), you could probably ask him about traditions while you’re at it. Traditions will probably be more regionally based than anything else, and I can’t think of anything in particular that came up for us.

I don’t know much about other religions, but there’s usually a reading or two done by friends of the couple. You might want to think about who you want to ask to do those (we didn’t find out about that until a couple days before)

My mother did that at ours as well, much to the embarassment of her brothers and sisters.

Well, while I was raised Catholic, I’m not practicing and I haven’t been to church in years except for other people’s weddings or baptisms and such. I still have my beliefs, but I would feel like a hypocrite getting married in a Catholic ceremony. So, much to my mother’s dismay (despite the fact she hasn’t been to church in years either) we’re having a not-very-religious ceremony in a garden.

Looking through the thread, I like the idea of honoring couples who’ve stuck it out, but there would be a problem. My parents are divorced. It was not an amicable split, and Dad’s now remarried. I’m not sure how to honor the married couples among our friends and family without feeling like I’m sort of sticking it to the divorced folks. I’m planning on finding out the first dance songs of the couples who mean a lot to us, and playing them during the reception so they have a chance to dance to them again. But to make it into an official thing and announce why I’m playing which song… how do I not be insulting to everyone else?

burundi, I love the marriage certificate idea and I will be using it. We’ll design our own, I think. The most meaningful part of the wedding, in my opinion, and the biggest reason why we’re not just going to city hall or Vegas, is having our friends and family there to witness our promises to each other, so they can remind us of those promises if ever times get tough. So this certificate is a wonderful way to capture that sentiment. Thank you!

And it would be doubly cool if you put both English and French on it.

I’ve been to a number of weddings in Quebec, but I’m coming up blank with anything that was particularly French-Canadian about them (other than the obvious being-in-French thing). If you’re still looking for suggestions, I could email a few couples I know and ask them if there’s anything they would consider Quebecois.

My Dear Antigen,

I’ve been to about 5 French Canadian weddings, (cousins and friends), was the groom in one, and have heard my Mom talk to me at length about her own wedding in 1959. (I grew up French in Montreal), but I would be hard pressed to identify any specific tradition beyond the Catholic marriage mass. Most had the “usual” elements, speeches, first dance, cake cutting, bouquet toss, garter removal & toss (which we ruled out), etc. etc. but nothing that I could identify as a specific French Canadian tradition. I did note the parties after the main ceremonial bits of the reception were done were a lot wilder, and lasted a lot later, with French weddings, than more staid Ontario & Alberta weddings, where everybody goes home after the first slow dance, it seems. If you have a lot of French guests, you may want to include a midnight buffet in your reception.

I wish I had more to offer you …<scratches head>… [lame] maple deserts? [/lame]

I haven’t a clue about French-Canadian wedding traditions either. The dollar dance is unfortunately familiar in these parts, but the sock thing I’ve never heard of before. I’m all for opportunities to embarrass siblings though, I’d like to hear more.

I’m getting married later this year and have spent a lot of time on some alternative wedding sites, offbeat bride has a large forum membership and you might be able to find some good answers to your question there.

While there are astoundingly few divorces in our families, my husband’s cousin’s parents had a mean divorce, and while both are in new relationships, they can barely stand to be in the same room together. They both agreed to put their differences aside, and behaved very well, and there were no problems whatsoever. I think they were both just so damn proud of their daughter (they also have 2 sons, neither are married) and the fact that at the start of the ceremony, they made the announcement to everyone that they were pregnant (after having lost the first pregnancy a year before)… the chance to be grandparents overwhelmed everything, I think. And no, the Catholic minister didn’t bat an eye, and in fact blessed the child because it was going to be loved, and that was the most important.

Anyways, after that sidetrack, the thing with honouring the couples who have been married a long time was not to call each and every one out by name, but rather to pick ones who had reached a major milestone within that year. I think the 60-years couple at her wedding were her maternal grandparents, and they actually shared a wedding day! That way, the divorced couples aren’t mentioned, but neither are a bunch of the married ones, too!

This is really common, possibly in the north? My fiancee’s family is from Mont Laurier and they’ve all been talking about it.

I’ve been to about 3 weddings in Québec, and things happen mostly the same way as what we see in movies from the States.

There’s no “If somebody here objects, let him speak now…” thing in the ceremony. Also, I haven’t seen anybody do the “something old, something new, something borrowed, etc.” thing here.

I’m not sure if it happens elsewhere, but there is a standard practice, during dinner, for the guests to hit their glasses with their spoons and persist in making such unpleasant noise until such time as the bride and groom have kissed. Repeat every few minutes.

At my sister’s wedding, the wedding cake was cut and served pretty late during the evening reception, like 11 PM. I think something else had been served as dessert for the dinner. Don’t know if that’s the norm.

I’ve never heard of socks or dollar dances.

One thing we’ve had for a couple of decades is that we’ve dropped the name change for the wife. Alice Tremblay marries Jean-Claude Gagnon, but her name remains Alice Tremblay, unless she goes through the legal procedure to change her name (which nobody does).

I’m an American married to a French-Canadian. I’ve only been to 4 weddings in Quebec - but I’m pretty knowledgeable about weddings in the US (since I’m female, married, and at 30 have been through a few years of the “EVERYONE GET MARRIED NOW” thing).

South of the border we do the clinking spoons thing, the shoe game, the “honoring people married x years” thing. The dollar dance allegedly exists in parts of the US, but I haven’t seen it in person or heard of anyone who has. Same with the sock thing!

I saw something at a Canadian wedding reception that my husband explained as an old tradition… so ding ding ding. The couple left by playing a game where everyone stood in a line facing a partner with their arms upstretched, making an arch, and each two people in turn would run through the row of arches and take their place at the front of the line of arches. The game ended when the bride and groom ran through the arches, and kept going, running out the door. I hope that gives you enough to go on.