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Decoding 12 French Terms You'll Hear While Planning Your Wedding

Learn these words now and you'll be ahead of the game.

Contributing Writer
wedding croquembouche tower
Photography by: Katie Kett Photography

If you've ever felt confused by all the industry terms and jargon you hear while meeting with your wedding vendors, know that you're not alone. So many brides and grooms are confused by the vernacular surrounding ceremonies and receptions, and for good reason: Many of the major industry terms aren't even English words, but rather French ones. To help make sense of it all, we're decoding some of the most common French terms you'll surely come across while planning your big day

 

Related: Wedding 101s That Make Planning Way Easier

 

Force Majeure

This incredibly helpful term is a clause you'll likely see in many wedding vendor contracts. Force Majeure is a French term meaning "superior force," and a Force Majeure clause outlines what will happen if extreme or unforeseeable circumstances, such as a hurricane or blizzard, arise. 

 

Alencon

A style of intricately detailed lace, often seen in bespoke wedding dress designs, where the background has been re-embroidered to outline the pattern in the lace.

 

Bateau

A style of neckline that is often referred to as "boat neck." The silhouette extends from shoulder to shoulder creating a crisp and clean look. Loved Meghan Markle's wedding dress? She wore a gown with a bateau neckline on her big day.

 

Grosgrain

Pronounced grow-grain, this French word meaning "large grain" is a ribbed style of ribbon, which sets it apart from the smooth look of satin ribbon.

 

Ecru

Often used in reference to a traditional wedding invitation color with a warm vanilla tint, this French word means "raw" or "unbleached." If you're looking for paper that feels less modern than crisp white, then a classic ecru is right for you.

 

Amuse Bouche

A French culinary term, pronounced amuse-boosh, that means "mouth amuser." This is a one-bite style appetizer where the exact food item is usually selected by the chef.

 

Related: 11 Things You Should Know Before You Plan Your Wedding

 

Croquembouche

A French tower of decadent cream puffs, covered in threads of spun caramel, that is sometimes served in addition to or instead of a traditional wedding cake. A towering croquembouche makes for happy guests and an absolutely Instagram-worthy dessert table.

 

Crudité

This is a form of hors-d'oeuvres that is more or less made up of "veggies and dip," but sounds infinitely more refined. If your caterer mentions crudité, he or she is talking about an assortment of raw, chopped vegetables, such as carrots and radishes, served with chilled dips.

 

French Service

While this term is English, few still understand just what French service actually entails. It is a style of food service that's focused on elevating the guest experience. Plates are preset on each tables and the servers come around and serve the meal tableside. 

 

Ganache

While there is no direct English translation for ganache, what your cake baker is talking about is a thick chocolate sauce with a slight sheen. Made from tempered chocolate and heavy cream, this sweet treat is often used as icing or a filling layer in a wedding cake.

 

Hors d'oeuvres

Sure to come up during your catering tasting, this is the French term for appetizers. Whether passed or stationed, your guests will be on the lookout for hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour. What's more, your hors d'ouevres will be absolutely next level if you include a French-inspired charcuterie display of local meats and cheeses.

 

Marzipan

The jury is still out on the exact etymology of this term as there is French, Spanish, and German Marzipan, and each is made a little differently. A term you'll likely hear your wedding cake baker use, Marzipan is often used to create edible flowers. It is a paste made of ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites and can be rolled out, similar to fondant.