This post is also available in : French
After being a wedding photographer assistant for Erica Ann, at an american wedding, I wanted to write a comparison between a French wedding and an American one, based on my experience as a wedding photographer in France, but also based on that wedding and the many conversations I had with that photographer, and with my American friends,
And then I quickly realised that it would be difficult to compare without seeming judgemental.
After a first attempt that didn’t make me happy 100%, I’ve decided to focus on the photos of that wedding, and tell you a little bit about the few main différences I’ve noticed and who seems to be common and also quite typical of these cultural différences between our 2 countries.
Let’s not forget that what matters most for me here, is to show you my photos from this wedding ! 🙂
Every wedding is different, no doubt about it, but, in some ways, talking about the cultural difference here seemed appealing for me, even if, of course, it doesn’t mean that EVERY wedding in USA are like this one, and EVERY wedding in France are like the one I’m refering. But it was the same social class, a urban wedding, “middle” size (about a hundred guests). So quite the same type of client I would have had in France, but in USA.
So here is a little sumup of that beautiful day, and the few différences I’ve noticed with a French wedding, about the way it’s organised to the photographer’s role during that day. 🙂
How the day runs :
IN FRANCE – a wedding day, for a photographer, means in general to be there at around 8.30am and at least until 1am at night… By the time you go back home it means in general a 16 hours work day.
IN USA – The evening part is usually really shorter and last generally until 10pm max. Weddings celebration happens mostly in the afternoon, and a lot less time is spent having dinner. The legal part of it (cityhall) is usually done previously and not specifically on the celebration day with all the guest (whereas in France it is )
IN FRANCE : it happens at the people’s place, bride and groom, or parents, in a very small crowd (usually groom and a guest, and maybe his parents). Maximum 4 best man (2 each) – you cannot legally have more.
IN USA : the amount of bridesmaid is much more important. And everybody gets ready in the same time, at the same place.
It is, then a much more crowdy and chatty place, helping each other and laughing all together.
Erica Ann told me that for weddings with a “Church” celebration, people get ready within the Church building.
I can understand this, since in USA, churches are really more modern than in France, and oftenly related to a public building like a school, with all the facilities available, making this part of the celebration even more easy to deal with.
For that specific wedding, indeed, every member of the close family was getting ready at the Church, and because of the huge amount of bridesmaid and family members, our role, as photographers, was way different from what I usually do in France.
From a precious helper and confident, in a very intimate part of the day, (my favorite part of a French wedding), here, the photographer was much more of an observer… No help required, and no specific contact with the bride : she was surrounded by a crowd doing that.
And let’s mention also that this crowd, of course, has cellphones and cameras too…
In France, I am usually among the rare lucky ones who gets to see the wedding gown before the Groom.
Here, I’ve discovered it surrounded by 20 other personns.
But what was great about it was the mood in that room… very girly, tweeting, chatting, laughing, some of them there were stressed, but it was definitely more animated (and less stressed) than what I’ve experimented in France 🙂
Outfits and couple photosession :
In USA, the garter thing seems to be almost a mandatory thing in the bride’s outfit, whereas in France, let’s be honnest here, it is very very very old fashion, and let’s say it : hick….
This little piece of lace made me Wonder a lot about the cultural différences from a country to another, and really make me want to learn more about the traditions from other countries 🙂
On that day, we didn’t have a specific time scheduled for a couple photo session, which kind of gave more importance to have an “engagement” photo session planned previously, whereas this is not commonly done in France. There is usually in France some time scheduled for couple to be away from the crowd of guest. (now you understand why weddings are so long in France ?) 🙂
The “first look” part was, then quite an important and emotionnal moment on that day 🙂
Church and group photos :
IN FRANCE: in general, group photos are done in front of the cityhall and/or the Church building. They eventually can be done also where the cocktail takes place (and I usually suggest to take these photos before people start to drink, so that I can manage the crowd easily) 🙂
IN USA : since the close member of the family was getting ready within the Church, this is where we took the photos, and it was before the ceremony. Best men, bridesmaid and close member of the family were there.
Here, no 300 or 1,000 years old Church, no cold and dark place. We took the photos Inside the Church (and not in front of the building, like in France)
One of the main difference in USA is that bridesmaid wear matching dresses. In terms of photography it makes a huge difference compared to France and look definitely much better in USA. I’ve seen it in every american moovie, and really, color matching makes great photos ! 🙂 🙂 🙂
And since most of the family was there during that group photo session, lots of things were happening “off” 🙂
It is tough to compare a Church ceremony with one from another country, because each Church have their own intern rules, just like each photographer proceed differently within a Church.
In terms of religion, (here I specifically mention catholicism), I have to say that in France, noone among the crowd I’ve known during my life, is a Church goer, and religion is definitely not something you can hear or see on a daily basis (whereas in USA you can strongly feel how more religious it is).
I’ve always been surprised, as a photographer, to have to celebrate so many weddings in France with a Church celebration.
Family tradition ? Trying to please parents or grandparents ? Discreet catholic education ? the dream of a white dress should include a Church ? I don’t really know actually. But at least, it’s no surprise to have a Church celebration for an american wedding, when God is refered to so often everywhere.
Most of the people I know in France who are practicant and believers or talk about it or refers to God, are not catholic but jews, buddhist, or muslim, so it always surprised me that Catholic church weddings are so common in France. Being a wedding photographer made me discover my country a little bit more and it is intersting 🙂
And then, cocktail and dinnertime
Getting out of the Church, no group photos, lots of greetings and cheering, and “goodbye” and “see you later” 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
And then, all best men, bridesmaid, bride and groom and us, 2 photographers, jumped into a limousing for some photos in the favorite places of the bride and groom… but we needed to celebrate first, and since some more bottles were required, our driver took us to a liquor store 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Whereas, in France, a wedding is usually the chance to spend more time than usual on very fancy food, and put on a great spread on détails, it seems than in USA things are more casual in that area 🙂
(French readers, when was the last time you had a “trou normand”, “foie gras poelé”, or “pièce montée”, except at a wedding celebration ?) 🙂
And even if beer can be considered as a craft, in some part of the world (especially in Portland), I never get to see beer being poured everywhere, and served in plastic cup.
And it was funny because casual !:)
And so we went to other favorite places in town, as for the bar where the bride and groom had their first date 🙂
Taking sweet photos of them while the rest of the crowd was sipping beers and cocktails outside 🙂
But everybody wanted to party, and so we reached the waterfront, and then, get some silly action going on !
Before reaching one of the most beautiful and oldest hotel in town, for some cocktail, more jokes and even more fun 🙂
About dinner :
IN FRANCE : a cocktail takes place between usually 6 and 8pm, and then a dinner from 8 until midnight, often made of 4 to 5 different dishes.
I really acknowledge how France was specific about this, when taking photos of a wedding abroad ! 🙂
Priority is given to a very elaborated and fancy food, exceptionnal wines and food, all of it being entertained by games and speach (organised by best men and bridesmaid) between each dishes, so that waiters can clean table and moove on to the next dish.
Wedding cake is served at midnight, and from then starts the dancing part later on. 🙂
IN USA : apart from the fact that americans have dinner much earlier than French (6pm , but usually 8pm in France), Relationship with food is also really different, and you can acknowledge that also when attempting a wedding 🙂
Often composed of a buffet (no foie gras or ducks !), and a cake, there is no silly games to keep busy in between courses.
People eat faster and so they also dance earlier ! 🙂
In France, as a wedding photographer dinner time is usually my less favorite thing : you have to use your flash, it takes forever until people are done eating, and it sometimes is badly structured or organised in terms of entertainement by bestmen and bridesmaid…. but also : at that time of the day, I am usually sooooo tired that I start to look like a zombie. 🙁
Things seems to be more simple and fast in USA and I do think it’s quite a good thing for contractors 🙂
—- in the end, that day was a beautiful day, full of love, precious moments, gathering, laugh, a bit stressful but lot of cute dresse, love and friendship.
Traveling helps to discover other ways to do things and to be also, not good or bad, just different, and as a photographer, if I had to keep the best of it, for me and make a French/American wedding, I would keep :
– foie gras (I am in need !), a cake, but definitely not that much time spent sitting at a table having dinner
– matching dresses, because REALLY, it looks awesome on the photos !
– an old building… I now aknowledge how Lucky I am to be a wedding photographer in France, such an old country that provides us so many magic, old historical and beautiful venues to drink and celebrate such an event 🙂
– a shorter and lighter day than in France, definitely
and after thinking a bit about it, indeed, it is maybe not that useful (for me), to be soooo fancy about everything. It usually brings a lot of stress and pressure when you add a cristal glass or a lace place mat, especially with all the money spent on this. Simplicity seems good to me
Maybe I’ll get the chance to tell you about my wedding someday… Let’s wait until I find the right personn 🙂
So, what are your thoughts about this ? What surprised you ? (did you like my photos?) 🙂