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With engagement season in full swing and couples starting their wedding venue search, it was the perfect time for the next installment in our series “How to plan a wedding in France”: How to find your wedding venue in France.

How to find your wedding venue in France

The wedding venue is the cornerstone of planning your wedding in France. Venue search and selection is the very first wedding planning topic we work on with our couples, and we have learned a lot about how to guide you to finding just the right setting for your celebration.

French château and gardens

We’ve planned weddings in many, many, many(!) different areas of France and we love being able to provide such a broad array of options to our couples. After all, the perfect wedding venue is only perfect if it’s right for your vision!

Paris Wedding Venues

Paris is always a good idea, and many of our couples are completely in love with the city (we can’t blame them!) Our favorite Paris wedding venues are private mansions or luxury hotels.

Private mansion in Paris wedding planned by Fête in France Paris wedding floral decoration planned by Fête in France

Pros of a Paris wedding

  • Our favorite venues in Paris offer the best of the Parisian ideal: exceptional interiors with soaring ceilings, ornate chandeliers, marble fireplaces, gilt detailing; and sophisticated, elegant food and wine.
  • Paris is a major tourist destination and many major cities offer direct flights at least once a day.
  • There are plentiful hotels and apartment rental properties, offering accommodation for all levels of budget.
  • You won’t need to worry about occupying your guests outside of the wedding festivities – Paris has an incredible variety of activities and sights to enjoy.

Cons of a Paris wedding

  • Paris is a beautiful city, but it is a city. The wedding venues we love tend to be havens of peace, but once you’re outside, there can be crowds, traffic, noise….
  • If your vision is for an outdoor or garden wedding, it’s best to look outside of Paris.
  • A Paris wedding isn’t particularly more expensive than a wedding outside of Paris, but it does tend to have fewer events & activities. If you’re interested in a wedding weekend and lots of together time with your guests, you might prefer a venue outside of Paris.
  • Our favorite Paris wedding venues tend to be best for up to 120 guests. If you’re expecting a large guestcount a château or countryside venue might be the better choice.

Château, Villa and other French countryside Wedding Venues

France is not a huge country, but it is incredibly varied in its landscapes. Scattered around the country are the famous winemaking regions of Champagne, Bordeaux, and Burgundy, as well as lesser known winemaking regions in the Loire Valley, Provence, and Côtes du Rhone just to name a few. There are some areas that are flat expanses, but much of the French countryside terrain features lovely, rolling hills. And of course there are the mountain regions of the Alps and the Pyrénées. There is extensive coastline, ranging from the rocky cliffs of Normandy and Brittany, to the surf beaches of southwestern France, to the chic boardwalks of the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera).

With all of this choice, how do you even narrow in on where to focus your search? One starting point is to think about the ambiance and feel of the day. Are you planning a formal affair, or a more laid-back atmosphere? Is dining under the stars high on your wish-list? Is there a particular type of activity you’d like to organize for your guests?

Before going into some of the specifics about the different types of countryside venues, a bit of insight into their pros and cons:

Pros of a French countryside wedding

  • French countryside wedding venues lend themselves to wedding weekend festivities. If the venue has three distinct areas for the rehearsal (or welcome) event, the wedding day, and the brunch, so much the better! If not, we suggest keeping the wedding venue a surprise for the wedding day, and finding an offsite venue for the rehearsal (or welcome) event.
  • The countryside venues we favor have accommodation on site, the more the better. That said, unless you’re having an intimate wedding, it’s unlikely that all guests will be able to stay on site.
  • Countryside wedding venues usually allow you to pick your own caterer. This give you the flexibility to pick a classic caterer or a specialty caterer, as formal or laid back as you prefer.

Cons of a French countryside wedding

  • Logistics are the main downside of a countryside wedding. We tend to recommend venues that are reasonably easy to get to, but even “easy” can mean multiple means of transport (planes, trains and automobiles!)
  • Even if there is accommodation on site, in most cases some guests will have to stay off site. So there are also the logistics between the wedding venue and local accommodations to think about.
  • A countryside wedding usually means there’s more thought that goes into what happens outside the wedding festivities. Some couples feel more of an obligation to plan additional meals and events to keep guests occupied and entertained.

French Château Wedding Venues

Classic Loire Valley château

Château wedding venues can range from exceptional venues such as the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, to other historic properties such as this former Cistercian Abbey, to classic venues such as this Loire Valley château. Château venues come in different shapes and sizes, from different periods in history, with different amounts of accommodation on site.

French château venues are usually located on extensive grounds. The setting is perfect for a beautiful outdoor ceremony followed by a cocktail hour in the gardens. French châteaux also have large indoor reception spaces with beautiful high ceilings and other lovely architectural details.

If there is a particular historical period you prefer, your search may lead you to certain areas of France. For example, the romantic châteaux of the Loire Valley date from the Renaissance onwards. If you prefer the medieval period, you might like the château fortresses of the Rhone Valley.

French Villa Wedding Venues

Historic provence villa French wedding venue

French villa wedding venues are typically located in what we broadly refer to as “the South of France”. The villa style can be very elegant but tends to be more of a laid-back refinement. One example is this lovely villa near Aix-en-Provence.

Villa venues usuall have up to 10 guestrooms on property. This allows the immediate family or your wedding party to stay on site with you. Villa venues also have lovely green spaces, however they often do not have indoor reception spaces. In this case, a tent is usually required as a backup in case of inclement weather.

French Countryside Wedding Venues

French countryside wedding venues can be located anywhere in France, and can loosely be described as manors or estates. They can be located in the middle of vineyards in the Southwest such as this wine estate in Gascony, or amid the rolling pastures of Normandy such as this Normandy manor.

The properties can range in size, accommodation capacity, and reception configuration. They can offer great value for money, but in general these venues can be considered “off the beaten path”. That said, they are worth the trouble of getting to!

How to find your wedding venue in France

For more tips on how to find your wedding venue in France get in touch! We’d love to help you find your French wedding venue!

Looking for a wedding planner in France to guide you through your wedding planning journey? Tell us about your vision!

Postscript:  I was delighted to have a recent chat with our past bride, Leslie. Her personal blog has gotten traction among couples embarking on their own wedding planning journeys. A recent post of hers gave a bit of insight on planning a wedding in France, with input from yours truly.

It’s always a treat when we hear from past clients. Our bride Leslie, whose wedding in Normandy took place in a beautiful garden (pictured above), recently got in touch. She has created some excellent content about her own wedding planning journey on her personal blog. The idea was to recount her experience of planning a wedding in France to share with family and friends. But she’s actually been contacted by brides and grooms embarking on their own planning journey who have come across her posts.

Leslie reached out to see if we would be interested to share some insight on planning a wedding in France. We’ll be contributing to a future post on her blog, and it was also just the motivation we needed to start up a series on our blog we’re calling “How to plan a wedding in France”. To kick things off, we’ll start with how to plan a wedding ceremony in France.

Planning a wedding ceremony in France: Can foreigners get married in France?

If you’re thinking about planning your wedding in France, one of the first questions will be about your wedding ceremony. But can foreigners get married in France? The short answer is “yes”! There is of course a “but” to think about.

When first speaking with our couples, we usually draw a distinction between getting married in France and having a wedding in France. It may seem romantic to have the “official” wedding take place in France. Or you may be accustomed to having one ceremony that fulfills your wish for a religious wedding and at the same time makes your marriage official in the eyes of the state. However it’s important to know that in France, the civil ceremony is always separate from any other type of symbolic ceremony. With all that in mind, how do you go about planning your wedding ceremony in France?

Planning a civil ceremony in France

The civil ceremony in France refers to the ceremony celebrated by the maire (mayor) or adjoint-maire (deputy mayor) which officializes your marriage in the eyes of the state.

The location of the civil ceremony is determined by where you reside in France, or in case of foreign couples, where you can establish a local tie in France. If one of the members of the couple is French, the local mairie (city hall) where their parents or family member lives could be an option. Otherwise, one member of the couple must establish residency in France and show they have been a resident for at least 1 month.

In addition to the residency question, as with most administrative processes in France, compiling the necessary documents is a cumbersome endeavor. If you are not French, there’s the added layer of complexity to obtain recent versions of documents (birth certificate, etc) and have them translated into French by an approved translator.

Given the time and effort required to pulling this off, if you are both citizens of another country we strongly advise you to have the civil ceremony in your home country.

Planning a symbolic ceremony in France

The symbolic ceremony in France refers to any religious ceremony held in a place of worship, or a secular ceremony held in a garden, ballroom, or other space. The symbolic ceremony can be conducted by a member of the clergy, a friend, or family member, and has no legal bearing.

Religious wedding ceremonies

Different faith traditions have different rules around marriage preparation, and often couples are surprised to learn the requirements that their (or their family’s) faith has around wedding ceremonies.

France is a country where all religions are freely practiced, but it has a long history with the Catholic faith, and a majority of the churches in France are Catholic churches. The Catholic Church in particular has a lengthy administrative process that rivals the process for the French civil ceremony. If you are interested in marrying in the Catholic Church, we advise you to start by reaching out to your home parish to get their blessing to marry in another parish. From there, you’ll need to find a Catholic parish in France who is open to celebrating a marriage ceremony for a non-parishoner couple. Once that is established, the remainder of the process involves compiling the different religious documents (baptismal certificate, etc) and completing your marriage preparation course.

Whatever your faith tradition, you will likely want the ceremony performed in a language you speak! It’s helpful to see if your rabbi, priest, pastor or faith leader would be open to coming to France with you.

Finally, if you plan on having a religious ceremony in a place of worship in France you will need to provide proof that your civil marriage has already taken place.

Secular wedding ceremonies

If a religious ceremony is not the right fit for you, a secular wedding ceremony will be the best route. The secular ceremony allows you to create a ceremony in your image, with readings and music that are meaningful to you. You may choose to have a non-religious celebrant create a text and officiate your ceremony, or you may prefer to have a friend or family member in this role.

The good news is that if you plan on having a secular ceremony in France, you have the choice of officializing your marriage either before or after your wedding in France.

Additional resources

For a first-hand account of the trials and tribulations of planning a civil ceremony in France, click here to read about Leslie and her French husband Arnaud’s experience.

And if you’re considering working with a wedding planner in France who can help you navigate this and all of your other questions about planning a wedding in France, we’d love to hear from you!

You’re engaged! Amid the whirlwind of all of the wedding possibilities, the idea of a wedding in France pops up: an elegant Paris wedding, or a romantic château wedding, or a relaxed countryside wedding… Then you wonder if you can really make this dream work. And you take to the internet to start looking into how to plan a wedding in France.

The search often begins with French wedding venues – the where of it seems like a good place to start. When you’re doing a first dive into venue search, it’s easy to get swept away by visuals or submerged by the daunting task of sifting through different websites, but it’s hard to know the what to really look for .

And what if the best way to the where and an understanding of the what started with the who?

After an exasperating or frustrating start to their venue search our couples often are so excited to find us. And learn that we’re native (American!) English speakers. And that we’ve been wedding planning for a while now (more than 5 years… more than 10 years…) creating close to 350 weddings of every shape and size, including some very beautiful and logistically complex celebrations. This depth and breadth of experience helps us navigate you through the planning process with ease, and allows us to keep things cool, calm and on track.

We’d love to hear from you and help you figure out the what and the where of your wedding!