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Getting organised!

Getting organised!

How do you make your wedding reception in France special? Here, experts give their tips to Living Poitou-Charentes…

Reception in Poitou-Charentes


You can choose to use a wedding planner, but if you want to organise your own wedding reception where do you start? Unless you have a huge barn that’s crying out to be transformed into a wedding venue, it’s probably with a marquee - whether for sit-down meals or cocktails, they are a must for outdoor receptions. Models range from frame tents and traditional pole marquees to Chinese hat pagodas which can be joined to make multiple peaks, with awnings and walkways as extras. ‘When it comes to size, you need to think about the number of people attending and whether it will be a sit-down meal or standing,’ advises Marie from Tivoli-Rochelais, a company which rents out events equipment ( ‘As a general rule, you need to account for 1m2 per person for a sit-down meal.’ This falls to 0.5m2 per person if you plan to use the marquee for a cocktail or vin d’honneur, and up to 1.5m2 per person to include a dance floor.

Prices generally start from €15 per metre squared, including installation. Heating and sound equipment for the all-important speeches are provided; however interior decorations and seating arrangements are extra and you can rent these from the same company or look elsewhere. ‘For weddings with beautiful views, such as by the sea, it’s possible to have a side opening so guests can make the most of the view. You can have the marquees open or closed as needed,’ Marie adds. You also need to ensure you have enough space; and if the ground is not flat, companies can lay foundations, although will cost extra.

As for decoration, bohemian-chic is the trend at the moment and personalised weddings are all the rage. ‘At one wedding, the couple had tables which were a nod to different times of their lives; one table was about photography, another about Paris where they now live and another about the Poitou-Charentes,’ says Natacha Senges from Instants de Fêtes in the Charente-Maritime. ‘Even the presents given to guests can be linked to the theme, but the choice of meal tends to be a question of taste.’

When it comes to the wedding meal, many options are available, from the traditional buffet or formal dinner, to afternoon teas and even barbeques. Classic French menus often include an aperitif with petits fours, a starter, main course, cheese course and dessert. Traditional choices include foie gras, lobster and scallops, followed by a fish or meat dish. Popular modern entrées include terrines and salads served as a buffet, with only the main meal served at the table to avoid an over-long dinner.

For help choosing the wine-list to accompany each course, head to your nearest wine merchant for advice. It is worth going to several traiteurs - caterers - for a quote. Once you’ve decided, make sure to get your order in writing and try the types of food suggested before the big day. ‘It’s more common to get in traiteurs than go to restaurants as often restaurants don’t have the capacity,’ says wedding planner Aude Morin who is based in La Rochelle. ‘However if you do plan on eating at a local restaurant and the size of your party allows it (generally no more than 40 people), many serve different options from the menu du terroir, often made up of local delicacies, to the menu gourmet or prestige, depending on the price per head.’

And then it’s time for the pièce de resistance: the wedding cake. The traditional French wedding cake is the croquembouche, a tiered cake made from small pastries such as puff pastries, sweet breads and macaroons, often mixed in with sugared almonds and candied fruits and made into an elegant decoration. Order these from specialist patissières. However, other cakes have been in favour in recent years. ‘Many couples have seen the croquembouches at all their friends’ weddings,’ Aude says. ‘The trend now is pyramids of macaroons and American-style wedding cakes. What we’re also seeing is desserts that are composed of several little cakes.'


Words by Rebecca Lawn

Originally published in Living Poitou-Charentes Wedding Special 2011.