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#178363 - Sat Jun 14 2003 02:22 PM French weddings
sue943 Online   content
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A question for Bruyere or anyone else who has spend considerable time in France.

Today, Saturday, while I was visiting St Malo several wedding cavalcades passed me, very noisy. What appears to happen is that many of the guests at a wedding will drive in a cavalcade behind the bride all tooting their horns and making the a huge amount of noise. The cars were decorated, all in the same colours, one was pink and white and another was maroon and gold, then another pink and white one, even some guests were in the same colours. What I want to know is why did one car in each cavalcade have a broom attached to the rear of it?
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#178364 - Sat Jun 14 2003 02:29 PM Re: French weddings
Bruyere Offline
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Sounds like a local custom as we have a few down here in Provence. I've never seen that one.

Each region has its own though. Up there, not quite sure...I'll have a look. We have a few other folks here who might now.
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#178365 - Sat Jun 14 2003 02:36 PM Re: French weddings
sue943 Online   content
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Those weddings are noisy affairs, I have witnessed the horn tooting all over the country but never noticed the brooms until today.
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#178366 - Sat Jun 14 2003 02:41 PM Re: French weddings
Bruyere Offline
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Only had time to do a search at random, it's called the voiture balai..must be regional custom..a couple of people wanted advice on how to decorate it..
I'll bet that Tom will have looked this up before morning!

In one account they were putting witches on it..
The reason I said we had many regional customs is that here a Provençal couple might have a carriage and parasol...and a donkey.

Apparently they're doing it for the PACS ceremony..which is the sort of certificate of living together..even for homosexual couples. Interesting.

Around here on Saturdays, we're constantly barraged by horns..and June's very loud..
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#178367 - Sat Jun 14 2003 02:47 PM Re: French weddings
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One I noticed was just decorated with a bunch of balloons, the other had a boy doll one side and a girl doll on the other - lifesize baby dolls.

I think the horn thing is great fun, people were waving to the bride (me included).
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#178368 - Sat Jun 14 2003 03:16 PM Re: French weddings
Santana2002 Offline
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Hi Sue,

I've just asked my (French) husband about the broom thing, and he tells me it' pretty common, but he doesn't know the reason for the tradition. It's not specific to St Malo or Brittany/Normandy but common enough throughout France.

I know in Ireland traditionally it's tin cans and noise-makers that are tied to the rear bumper of the car, but again I don't know why.

You've spiked my curiosity so I'm going to do some research.
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#178369 - Sat Jun 14 2003 03:44 PM Re: French weddings
Santana2002 Offline
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Ok the shoes/cans to the car is explained thus:

quote
This tradition originated in England during the Tudor period. At that time, guests would throw shoes at the bride and groom as they left in their carriage. It was considered good luck if their carriage was hit. Today, more often than not, it is beverage cans that are tied to a couples car instead of shoes. It should also be noted that the English consider it good luck if it rains on their wedding day!
unquote

The only reference I can find about brooms is in relation to African American weddings. Perhaps it travelled to France during their time of occupancy in Africa. Anyways the traditions is supposed to be something like this:

quote
Brooms aren’t just for sweeping. In fact, this handy tool plays an important role in African-American weddings where broom jumping is a popular custom practiced by the bride and groom. Thought to have originated during times of slavery, the broom represented home in certain parts of Africa. It was believed that whoever jumped over first or higher would be boss of the household. This custom remains popular among African American weddings, signifying the jump from a single and carefree life to a more responsible domestic life with a partner.
unquote

I don't think I'd be too keen to try jumping the broom if it's tied to the back of a moving car, mind you!


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#178370 - Sat Jun 14 2003 04:53 PM Re: French weddings
ren33 Offline
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Talking of French weddings, I love the custom of each bridesmaid having a groomsman escort, usually walking in procession through the village behind the bride and groom.
Here in HK we have a bride doll tied on the front of the bridal car.
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#178371 - Sat Jun 14 2003 06:59 PM Re: French weddings
TabbyTom Offline
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Quote:

I'll bet that Tom will have looked this up before morning!



I was fascinated by this because I don't remember seeing anything like it in France at all.

I tried googling on "mariage" and "balai" and a few related words, and came up with much the same sites as Bruyere found. Apparently you have this "voiture-balai" bringing up the rear of the procession, and the broom is decorated with things that are supposed to illustrate some sort of theme. One page spoke of having a "country life" theme, in which a scarecrow was a prominent exhibit. Others mentioned dolls (sometimes in bridal costumes) and balloons, like Sue saw in Saint-Malo.

I couldn't find any explanation of the origin of the custom on the web, so I looked in my Petit Larousse, and it defined a "voiture-balai" as a bicycle-racing term for a vehicle which follows the race and picks up competitors who drop out. There was no mention of weddings. Going back to the web, I found quite a lot of examples of this usage - far more, in fact, than for the wedding custom. There were also some metaphorical uses: in a debate in the Assemblée Nationale, a deputy said that his opponents wanted "to make the State the voiture-balai of economic liberalism", meaning (I suppose) that they wanted the State to look after those who couldn't compete in an economic free-for-all.

I also found a couple of pages that seemed to provide some sort of link between the two. One page about "gags et gadgets" had a bit about the "voiture-balai":- "At weddings, communions and all kinds of motor cavalcades, always stick a broom on the car which is going to bring up the rear of the procession. The broom can be hung with decorations and ceremonial costumes." Another page listed the arrangements that people had made for a wedding, including "a voiture-balai for any latecomers who might get lost" (" une voiture balai pour les éventuels retardataires perdus.")

So I'd tentatively suggest that the custom has its origins in bicycle racing, where the car or bus that picks up drop-outs is known metaphorically as a "broom-wagon" because it sweeps up what falls by the wayside (I don't suppose it actually has a broom attached to it). So a car provided in a wedding procession to pick up stragglers could also be called a "broom wagon", and since we all like a bit of fun at a wedding, it wouldn't be long before people started to decorate the "broom wagon" with a real broom and other things.

Of course, if the wedding custom goes back beyond the origin of bike racing, my theory is all a load of cobblers.



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#178372 - Sun Jun 15 2003 02:13 AM Re: French weddings
Bruyere Offline
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Interesting, because in all the weddings I see around here, never ever saw the broom thing. I didn't see any while living in Alsace either which is why I suspected a regional thing.

I got much of the same info you got Tom and Santana though.
Another thing I noticed is that it was being used in Muslim weddings too, but I saw about five Muslim wedding parties in Marseille a few weeks ago and didn't see any brooms so it's not conclusive.

As to the honking..in Marseille, many people would frown on that (doesn't everyone do it though?) as being very Pied noir as they're known for their exuberance no matter what culture they might hail from. I find that kind of wet blanket though.

it was funny to see the PACS couples ( Live in partners asking for a certificate) asking advice on how to decorate the voiture balai.



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#178373 - Sun Jun 15 2003 07:21 AM Re: French weddings
DieHard Offline
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While in Italy, I witnessed a few Italian weddings and they also honk their horns. It can get very noisy as they travel the narrow streets through town, but I don't remember any other customs as far as the cars are concerned.
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#178374 - Sun Jun 15 2003 07:48 AM Re: French weddings
ren33 Offline
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Hi Heather, this is off topic a bit, I know, but can you please enlighten me about the term 'pied noir.'
Of course I know it means black foot. I understood it to be a term to describe an immigrant from a former French colony, like Algeria. Am I right? Or is it the offspring of those people who have settled in France? Thanks.
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#178375 - Sun Jun 15 2003 09:40 AM Re: French weddings
Bruyere Offline
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The term is a bit complicated, there are several theories..one that I've heard many times, is that as many Alsatians went down to Northern African colonies to live and farm mainly, they wore big black boots and thus, they were named pied noir..I don't know if this theory is backed up with research though. It's the theory they themselves tell me though.
The term itself is used for the people who actually came back after the Algerian independence movement was successful, and I'm not sure if anyone would say they were pied-noir if their parents were.
As many many people arrived after the expulsion of the French and emergency housing was rapidly set up for them as they had nothing but cardboard suitcases, it created entire neighborhoods of Pied noirs and customs. If they were Catholic they set up their own parishes..Jewish, their own temples..they truly missed what they'd left there.
There are many famous comics, and entertainers of that origin, like Enrico Macias, Marthe Villelongue and others who come to mind. Guy Bédos is another Pied noir comic.

There were many Jewish pied-noir and also, those people who wanted to set up farming, vineyards etc in Algeria and Tunisia or MOrocco. The Alsatians are a large group who went there.

Many people in their forties or fifties who were born there mention being born there and then just say, "my parents were pied-noir".
The influx into the schools of a large boisterous population of children whose families had left everything, been resettled and in Algeria had servants etc...was quite interesting.
I have many friends and acquaintances from this background.

Marseille is one of the melting pots of the world, therefore, the humour is often between the ethnic groups residing there.
The pied-noir are a strong force amongst many.

I gave another look at the voiture balai, it's done for communions and other sorts of processions. Guess I've been frequenting the wrong crowd!

Broom jumping, I've seen that before..as to Lanni's remark.



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#178376 - Mon Jun 16 2003 04:05 PM Re: French weddings
ren33 Offline
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Thanks Heather
I am now a little less confused!
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#178377 - Mon Jun 16 2003 08:45 PM Re: French weddings
Coolupway Offline
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Since when do French people get MARRIED IN THE FIRST PLACE? How unutterably bourgeois!!! Did Jean-Paul marry Simone? Such proletarian behaviours are only for the residents of that Nation of Shopkeepers and suchlike. The living together in sin, she is, how you say, formidable! !

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#178378 - Thu Jun 19 2003 11:23 AM Re: French weddings
Bruyere Offline
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We have several shades of marriage or union here in France as I said above. The PACS is the latest variety of couple.
the acronym is now a verb and even an adjective now..
and as I said the homosexual couples have been decorating the voiture balai like the wedding parties;

Yeah Old Jean-Paul never married her, yet they used vous throughout their lives.
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