Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The countdown to the wedding has begun!

The original goal for C & I was to get most of the wedding planning done in May, so that we could "profite" of June and July before starting up again in August. Except the weather in June & July was crap so not much profite-ing was done, and of course now it's turned nice in August. Oh well.

One of the big things on our list was to sit down and figure out what to do for a wedding registry. This is complicated by the fact that we are having a small wedding in France, so most of the people who will want to send us gifts are in the US. But given the luggage weight limits, it would take us years to bring everything back. Not to mention that American appliances, etc wouldn't work in France.

So back to square one - what to do?

In France, it's quite common for people to give money, either towards a home purchase or the honeymoon. I started hunting around and found out there are some really nice sites out there that let you design a personalized wedding website so people can choose what the money goes towards - say "paint" for a house, or a "couples massage on the beach" for the honeymoon. So in an ideal world, that's what everyone would do - but from what I can glean from American etiquette sites, that's still sort of a faux-pas. I mean, it sounds like you can have one, but that you also need to have other options for people who are offended by just giving money.

Back to square-one again.

Then I came across the Printemps website. Printemps is one of the major department stores in Paris, and it turns out their wedding list can be in either French or English. The actual descriptions of the items themselves are in French, but the site is English and there are pictures there, so in theory, someone in the US could make a purchase and then we could go pick up the item at Printemps. We don't really need anything for our apartment, but at least it would give our guests another option. Sounds perfect right?

They had a selection of things you could add directly from their website, but it was very limited, so last Saturday, C & I headed down there to the actual store to take a look. I was really looking forward to getting one of those scanner guns and then going crazy, à la Bridezilla.

Except once we got there, we discovered they had no scanner guns. Instead, they give you a piece of paper and one of those tiny pencils, and then every time you find something you like, you have to go find a sales person and have them write the UPC plus some sort of secret code on the sheet. FOR EVERY SINGLE ITEM. Do y'all know how hard it is to find a sales person in France?

C was about ready to give up right then and there, but I persisted - we'd already come all the way down there, why not at least take a look? So we set off with our piece of paper and started walking around the store. We would both pick something up, look at the price tag, freak out, and then ever-so-gently set it back down. Like I saw a really nice wooden bowl - the kind that are as smooth as butter - but the price was almost 100€! I can't ask a guest to pay 100€ for a frickin' bowl! Same for the pots, pans, etc.

Okay, on to the linens section. Our table runner is getting stained due to C not being used to eating sauces, so why not add one of those? We found one we liked and walked over to a saleswoman to have her add it to our list. But she personally did not like that color (gray) -how about this lovely red? No thank you, I already have one like that and it's a little too Christmas-y for me. Well how about this pretty pattern? No thank you, we are really looking for something dark to hide stains.

And this is where the lady flipped out. Hide stains? What do you mean "hide the stains"? You do know you have to wash table runners every day right? Umm...sorry lady, but no. What do you mean no?? It is just what's done!

I looked to C for confirmation, but he looked just as confused as I did. We just sort backed away slowly while she gave us the evil eye and mumbled stuff about "kids these days" under her breath.

Alright, let's give bedding a try. We could use a new duvet cover and maybe a new pillow or two. We head over to the pillows and I pick up the softest pillow I have ever felt. I tell you, it was like laying on a cloud. There was no price on it (that should've been our clue right there), so after trying a few others, we flagged a saleswoman down and asked her. After giving us a ten minute spiel on the benefits of this pillow, I interrupted and asked "Excuse me, but what is the actual price of this lovely pillow?".

The damn thing cost 500€ people. 500 EUROS!!! For a pillow! My eyes just about bugged out of my head. I asked if she had an less expensive options and she brought us over to another stack. After going on for a while about the percentage of goose down vs duck down blah blah blah, she told us that this one only cost 350€. Sorry lady, still out of our price range. Okay, how about this one for 200€?

Upon seeing our faces, she finally brought us over to the discount pile, where there were two crappy little pillows for 90€ each. Now I'm telling you, these were the kinds of pillows you can buy in Carrefour for 5€. You know, all lumpy and uneven.

And that was C's breaking point. He very rarely rants, but this time it came out - Printemps was a huge rip-off, they jacked the prices up on everything, they made it extremely complicated to open a wedding list, etc. And I could only agree with him. After a few hours, we only had two things on the list - and one of them was an eye mask.

Printemps' selling point is that "It's your wedding! Go nuts!" but both of us are just too practical to do that. I cannot in good conscience ask my guests to pay out-the-nose for something they could buy in the US for a much more reasonable price. I just don't have it in me. Not to mention that the prices are in Euros, so there'd be an even bigger mark-up with the exchange rate.

So we're back to square one yet again.

Obviously I'm not the first or the last foreigner to get married in France, so I'm hoping someone out there in the blogosphere will have found THE perfect solution to this dilemma.... And if so, please leave me a comment here!



Blogger Annie said...

Bonjour Sam, essaie :
il y a aussi un n° de tél sur le site.
Bon courage ! ton post est très drôle et m'a rappelé de bons souvenirs.

August 2, 2011 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger melinda said...

we just went thru this....well, actually twice....when my daughter got married and they knew they'd be moving to france I tried asking my friends to send her a check instead of a gift, cause she wouldnt be able to take gifts across the ocean (at a reasonable pricve anyway) and only one of my firneds got the message.....the rest ended up just not sending anything.....which really pissed me off....esp after we'd sent gifts galore to various children of friends

then in the last couple of weeks we needed to send a gift to a family friend in paris but needed to charge it on an american charge card....hahaha stupid us.....first of all, we encountered the ridiculous prices at au printemps too.....there were only 4 things on their list and the minimum price was 95E for a wine glass....come on! and that was the only list they had.....i tried the 1001 thing, but no luck......sooo we ended up sending them something from Gien and had to get my daughter to use her european credit card & we paid her back since she still has an american acct....but took hours to do all this so I dont know what the solution is cause i wonder of the 1001 site will let peeps from the US use their credit cards

August 2, 2011 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger Global Librarian said...

First of all, let me start by saying that many of your guests will likely completely ignore any gift requests you have. We asked for no gifts. My family followed along. Fred's family did not -- and gave us all kinds of useless things we then had to dispose of.

But another option is Amazon (US Amazon or French Amazon). When we lived in Europe, we frequently purchased all kinds of things off Amazon in the US and had it shipped internationally. Even with the international shipment, it was frequently cheaper than purchasing it in Switzerland. You just have to make certain to read the fine print and see if that particular item will ship internationally or not.

Another option is to use a company that will forward packages to you. So it is a US address your guests would send to and then the company would package it together and ship it. May be a bit expensive for you, so you would want to research it closely. Here's a link to one of them: But there are many.

August 2, 2011 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Evolutionary Revolutionary said...

Oh honey I FEEL YA!

So here's what we did because apparently asking for money is taboo: We did it anyway. With the exception of a few people that I know won't feel comfortable giving money (my mom, she just doesn't have it to give) we have been persistent in replying to the "Where are you registered?" question with "We just want money."

For the sake of those who cannot or refuse to give money we registered for a few things on the Kohl's website which offers a 15 percent discount to the guest and to the bride and groom you get 15 percent of anything not purchased. You can do all shopping online and I BELIEVE they ship internationally (though likely not cheaply).

I feel you on the etiquette thing but you also have to remember: IT'S YOUR WEDDING. :)


August 2, 2011 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger L said...

I think I yelled "OMIGOD!" at the 500€ pillow. Who actually buys that stuff?
I second the option of Amazon too, and I just saw that they actually have wedding registries in addition to the regular wish lists. It says you will notified when you select the item if it can't be shipped internationally (since you have to put in your address when you start).

I think giving money as a gift is a younger generation thing too. My parents went to a wedding in LA were the couple were already living together (and didn't need kitchen appliances) but were asking for money for a down payment on a house. My mom thought it was really tacky and bought them a gift.

I also just saw this:

August 2, 2011 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

I had the same situation for my wisconsin wedding but my guests all gave cards with checks. I admit that The amounts were quite small (compared to what I know people spend on gifts off the wedding list) which I figured was probably due to the fact that people felt a bit weird just giving checks but I didn't get any flack about it. I DID talk about the problem of getting packages home to France with a lot of people and afterwards, in my thank you notes, I told people what I did buy with the money. I always pointed out that for me, the main gift that we received was that people made an effort to come see us so anything else was extra. I made an effort to get things like towels and blankets and china- the kind of stuff they probably would have bought off a list.

August 2, 2011 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

We had the same problem except with Galleries Lafayette! In the end we created our registry there, but people in the US couldn't buy anything with American credit cards, so we also did Amazon which was great! It was still reasonably priced and things got delivered straight to our home. Most of our French friends still gave us money or put a credit into our Gallaries account so that we could buy off our registry.
I hope it all works out!

August 2, 2011 at 5:14 PM  
Blogger L said...

Okay, I'm double commenting:

The Zankyou website actually looks pretty awesome. People can choose to pay in dollars, euros or pounds, see the website in the language they want, and you can either take the cash they give when they select something on your list, or the real object. They even have customer service reps who speak English and French.

August 2, 2011 at 5:21 PM  
Blogger TN said...


I would just keep it simple and ask for money. I don't think anyone would be offended because you live overseas. Just make sure they don't do checks (unless you have a bank acct in the US) ;-)

When we were married we lived in the US and did the registry thing. But we also had a French Wedding afterward we asked for money (or the in-laws instructed this for us). And it was the best decision ever...It paid for our Honeymoon and then some!

Just put an insert into your wedding invitations (NOT ON YOUR INVITATION but a small piece of paper) explaining the "French" tradition and that it is not easy for American's to buy gifts here (i.e. problems with using Foreign Credit Cards, lack of good online websites...websites here suck!). OR word of mouth. The exchange rate sucks too they might feel bad when they realize their $100 doesn't go far best to give cash and not see that a pillow is 500 euros!

We went to a Cyproit Wedding (Cyprus) and it is customary to give cash towards their first home together. It didn't feel weird at all...actually was better we didn't have to drag a present there or try to find a department store while on vacation.

There may be some older folks that feel weird about can discuss with them and decide together what you will buy with the money. i.e. a French Aunt wanted to buy our silverware so we used her funds to do this...

It's not so easy in the US either...we had 3 Registries!!! It was a nightmare

Good luck!

August 2, 2011 at 6:41 PM  
Blogger TreeFeathers said...

I second (or third) the Amazon suggestion. You could also have people send gifts to your parents' home in the US, and then later deal with shipping things over yourself - a few at a time, I guess, to keep shipping costs low. More of a pain for you, but much easier on your guests.

If you do decide to ask for money, my years of reading Miss Manners & Dear Abby say that you should not include that request with the invitation, in any shape or form. You tell some people (mom, aunts, BFFs, etc.) who can then spread the word verbally. Apparently it's not so rude if you do it that way.

August 2, 2011 at 7:14 PM  
Blogger Mallory said...

Hey Sam,

The last wedding we went to, they asked for cash. They did not include it in the wedding invitation but sent everyone a save the date card that included their wedding website address. here it is. As you can see, they politely asked for money for their honeymoon but included some ideas in case the old school guests absolutely wanted to get them gifts.

I don't think in this day and age, it is tacky to ask for cash. It is YOUR wedding and you are right, it is pretty complicated with the credit cards and appliances.

Most of us have been living on our own since we're 18 so we don't really need a blender and what not.

Don't worry about potentially offending others, it's your day and you don't want stuff you don't need.

I think amazon is a good idea and so is creating a simple wedding website with all the info clearly indicated in both languages.

Good Luck!

August 2, 2011 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger MilkJam said...

I like the idea of putting an explanation in the same envelope as the invitation.
Even though I prefer giving gifts I would SO much rather give you money if that's what you want than a crappy expensive gift that will just take up room!
You could do something like:

As we are confined to a xxx ftsq tiny apartment in paris (yes yours is big but to Americans its tiny!) we would prefer to think of you while enjoying our honeymoon and will appreciate each and every gift especially as it is not a physical gift but a gesture of our future life together (blah blah blah)

August 2, 2011 at 7:33 PM  
Blogger meredith said...

We did "liste de voyage" and had a very nice honeymoon :)

August 2, 2011 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Emily Marie said...

J and I used one of those registry websites where you can make stuff up and put a price on it. We actually made it for our honeymoon and added photos and such....people purchase the "gift" and then the money is put directly into your paypal account. We just took out the money afterwards....worked like a charm. The funny thing is when we received wedding cards that said "Hope you enjoyed the chairlift in Capri!" and whatnot.

August 2, 2011 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

For our wedding in the US we just asked for money as well. Taboo or not, most of our guests were close family and friends and if they couldn't understand why physical gifts were just not logistically possible for us, then that is there problem. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that we don't live in the US and suitcases are small! We even did the tacky thing and included a separate message in the envelopes with the invitations (since we didn't have time to do save the dates) and we made up a cute and funny little message to nicely and politely explain the situation and the reason we preferred to receive only money, in case anyone wasn't clear on that already.

Afterwards, when we wrote the thank you notes, we just explained what the money was going towards, which was primarily furniture for the new apartment we were planning to move into 2 months later.

I just think it is your wedding, your family and your friends and they should be able to understand that you are in an unconventional situation that requires you to bend the rules a little bit.

August 2, 2011 at 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I'd stick with accepting all major credit cards, checks and cash in either euros or dollars.
Good luck!

August 2, 2011 at 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So listen, I know it's verboten in the US to ask for cash as a wedding gift, but WE did for our wedding, for roughly the same reasons as you: shipping costs are ridiculous, and with the new airline luggage fees who wants to pay to lug all that stuff home, etc. When we sent out our invitations, we included a little blurb to say that we understood our friends would want to do something for a gift, but under the circumstances we felt cash would be most practical, and that we would be putting it toward taking a real honeymoon after the wedding (we couldn't take one that summer). That way they could feel they were contributing to something specific in lieu of buying us a toaster or a Kitchenmaid mixer. I think you should just do something like that and make it easier on everyone. Then after the wedding you can shop for the things you want and need most -- or take a holiday! Tell those etiquette books to stuff it!

August 3, 2011 at 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS did you know Paypal has a little thing where you can set up a "contributions" link on a web page and people can "donate" money to your cause? It doesn't have to be a charity, either... people often use them to try and get their blogs or web sites subsidized by loyal readers. You could set up a wedding blog where you can put wedding plan news, photos of the actual wedding once it happens, honeymoon pics, etc. so your friends and family can enjoy sharing all of this with you and C. And on that page you could put this Paypal donate button, call it the "Honeymoon Gift Fund", and people can contribute that way instead of a check or cash. Then when you're ready to withdraw the funds, you can direct Paypal to do it however you want -- send to a bank account (I'm pretty sure you could get it sent to a French account if you didn't have one open in the US still).

PS I read what Melinda said about some of her daughter's guests not even giving gifts. We had 2 of our US relatives send checks (they didn't attend the wedding so sending something at all was very nice) but one of them only sent a check for $25 and I went to HER daughter's wedding and bought something off her Crate and Barrel list, so I thought that was rather uncool. And in France we had people give us everything from really nice gifts, to crap gifts (one friend gave us -- are you sitting down? -- a HAPPY FACE WALL CLOCK and some cardboard pub coasters with Georges' first name on them. WTF? (That friend is apparently known for his lousy gift-giving skills.) So really, what I learned is, everyone has different ideas and standards about wedding gift-giving and you can't please everyone. In the end, it is YOUR wedding, you and C, and you have every right to ask for exactly what you want. If that's cash, then so be it.

August 3, 2011 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Emily {Rue de France} said...

Oh, the international wedding etiquette issues... I know them well. We had two weddings, one in France & one in Canada & it was pretty complicated.

I saw that Annie suggested using 1001 Listes, but I wanted to tell you that we started out with them but quickly changed our minds. Lack of customer service & huge user fees? No merci. We also decided that we'd rather go on a great trip than be the proud owners of super-expensive wine glasses, so we went with Plan B:

We took a west-coast road trip for our honeymoon & this travel-gift registry was perfect. Our Canadian friends & family could contribute to things like "dinner out in San Francisco", "breakfast in bed" or even "Slurpee fund" & they loved it. And we loved the fact we could actually do whatever we liked with the money people gave us. Highly recommended.

Let us know what you end up doing. Bon courage for all the pre-wedding madness. When is the big day?

August 3, 2011 at 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds like a headache. You could do like we did, and end up with all your lovely wedding gifts in storage in the States. ;)

August 3, 2011 at 7:52 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

sorry, I don't have any hints. We went to Galerie Lafayette, put a few silverware and other kitchen stuff on our list, which most guests did not check (though to be truthful, we did not advertize it) Most people just gave us money, especially the Americans as they were coming over and didn't want to bring something with and didn't know what the customs were in France. And honestly, it was just nice that they came all that way. From the French we got lots of espresso cups for some reason, and some smaller artisinal things.

August 3, 2011 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

We got married in the US, but live in France. Most people knew this... we did no registry, and if people asked my mom, she told them money would be more practical because of luggage limits, etc. Most people obliged. We got a few picture frames, photo albums, a punch bowl (I suspect a re-gift)... but all in all, the "money, no gifts" suggestion went over just fine.

August 5, 2011 at 11:22 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home