A Simple Champagne Wedding Reception in Normandy

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It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: The French do everything with style, almost effortlessly. At a recent wedding in Normandy, I learned how to throw a Champagne reception the proper way, in a simple and beautiful setting, with minimalist, yet sublime hors d'œuvre, the perfect complement to Champagne and happiness. I may lack the proper setting at home, but I can definitely try for the menu.

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My husband’s cousin, as French people do, got married twice, to the same guy, within 24 hours. The second wedding, a religious ceremony, was followed by a lively reception, held in a field in Ocqueville under an actual Italian circus tent erected by the bride, groom and their friends. (I have no hope of recreating that one. I think our Gamecock themed tailgating tent just wouldn’t have the same feel.)

The day before, their civil wedding was officiated by Jean-Nicolas Rousseau, mayor of Anvéville, population 255, in the mairie (City Hall). The dashing mayor hosted a Champagne reception at his home after the short ceremony. On his property, he has what seems to be a little hut just for such receptions, and it was perfect. I don't have a party cottage at my house, but I can copy the menu.

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There was plenty of Champagne and sparkling water. The passed plates of toast, rows alternating between cucumber spread and what tasted like smoked fish rillettes, were the perfect accompaniment to the bubbles. There was also a small bowl of potato chips, though I'm inclined to call them crisps, since we were in Europe. I saw that my own tendency to stock the food table might detract from the delicious wine and lovely company.

The party was perfect, the focus on the bride, the groom and their friends and family. It was a delightful way to get to know a few people before the larger reception the next evening.

I'm pretty sure I can recreate the spreads, and Gérard Bertrand's Cremant de Limoux, though not technically Champagne, is a personal favorite. I don't have a party cottage, but my front porch is lovely. I also don't have young French people to serve the bubbly, and it would be illegal and inappropriate to ask my own minor children to serve, so I'll have to do that myself. I'm picturing my ecru linen hemstitch tablecloth, un-ironed for a rustic look (and because I'm too lazy to iron), gardenias from the yard tossed into a vintage carafe, a selection of mis-matched Champagne glasses and that tray of delicious, simple snacks. Now I just need an occasion. How about Tuesday?

What do you serve with Champagne or sparkling wine? How do you keep the focus on people at a gathering?

(Images: Anne Postic)

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