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French weddings: a guide to getting married in France

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

This article will walk you through the necessary paperwork and procedures for organizing a wedding in France if you are thinking of having your ceremony there.

If you are already visualizing being married in France, whether it be in a small village church or a vineyard, you will need to start making preparations now for the unavoidable paperwork that will be involved in a French wedding. If you don't have any family or friends in France, getting married there may also be challenging for you. Verify that you meet all of the prerequisites for a wedding in France.

Getting married in France

In France, the only way to wed that is recognized by law is via a civil ceremony, which takes place in the offices of the local council (mairie). After this, the couple has the option of continuing with a religious ceremony, a secular service, or any other kind of celebration they like, all of which may take place at a location of their choosing.

This is true for couples of any sexual orientation, even those of the same gender. In 2013, France made it lawful for couples of the same gender to wed. The steps are quite similar to those required for traditional marriage between two straight people. Both of these are unions (marriage).

Same-sex marriage

In France, it is illegal for people of the same gender to marry one another if they are a citizen of one of 11 different countries: Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Kosovo, Laos, Morocco, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, or Tunisia. This is because these nations have existing treaties with France, which stipulate that visitors from these countries are required to comply with certain aspects of the laws of their home countries while in France. At the time this article was written, in 2014, several obstacles were being tackled, but there was no sign of victory in sight.

Pre-wedding preparations

The municipal or civil ceremony that will take place at the mairie must take place in a commune with which either you or your prospective spouse have connections. For instance, the one in which you or both of your partners live, or the one in which one of your parents resides. You may locate the address of your local mairie as well as other facts by using the internet. The majority of mairies are so tiny that they only employ one receptionist (as a consequence, many of them have unusual opening hours); it is sufficient to merely state that you wish to marry to begin the process. You may inquire about the "office of weddings" (office des mariages) in bigger cities; however, this may lead to some confusion if they do not have a distinct department.

You will need to submit a joint application to the relevant mairie and provide evidence that both of you are legally able to be married. This may include doing a face-to-face interview, either jointly or alone, depending on the circumstances. After then, the mairie will make the public of the prohibition for a certain amount of time. You are required to make a public announcement of your intention to marry as part of this formality. This gives anybody who may be aware of a legal obstacle the opportunity to inform the registrar of their concerns.

This procedure takes at least four weeks to complete and may take much longer if either you or your partner does not speak French. It's possible that you won't have much of a say in the wedding date you end up choosing. Be adaptable.

You have to be above the age of 18 and not be in a marriage.

Destination French weddings for foreigners

Numerous couples choose France as the location for their wedding. It is also difficult to organize the necessary documentation to have a civil wedding while traveling outside of the nation. Before they may be married in France, non-residents who do not have a parent who is already residing there need to get a special dispensation. In actuality, the authorities almost seldom provide their approval. A civil wedding may be held in the couple's place of origin or residency, and then the second ceremony can be held in France. This is the preferred option for many couples.

On the other hand, it could be more convenient for couples who live in France to conduct the civil ceremony in France and then celebrate their marriage somewhere else.

Documentation required to get married in France

Be prepared to offer the following:

● ID (ex. passport);

● evidence of one's nationality;

● birth certificate – this must be less than three months old if issued in France, less than six months old if issued elsewhere, and if from abroad, it may need to be 'legalized' so it's recognized in France, for example, the affixation of an Apostille stamp; if you were born in France, your birth certificate must be less than three months old.

● documentation of your current residence (such as a lease or recent utility bills, for example);

● evidence of civil status - in most cases, you will ask your embassy for a Certificat de Capacité Matrimoniale, but you should also be prepared to give a divorce or death certificate if you have been married before;

● certificate from a notary public (which is only necessary when there is a prenuptial agreement);

● a family record book is known as a livret de famille, which is normally required only if you already have a kid that was born in France;

● details on the two to four witnesses you have called.

Medical certifications are no longer essential.

If you are not French, you may need a Certificat de Coutume from your embassy. This assures that the legality of your marriage will be recognized in both France and the nation in which you now reside.

In most cases, a translation is required for any papers that are not written in French. Papers from other countries may need to be legalized by having an apostille stamp or its equivalent affixed to them. This process is often referred to as "Apostillisation" or "legalization." The document receives a distinctive identification stamp from the authority that issued it, which indicates that the copy is an authentic one.

Wedding ceremonies in France

After authorization, the ceremony must take place in the mairie, in a chamber that is accessible to the public, for no less than ten days and no more than one year afterward. If you delay the process by more than three months, you can be required to provide updated copies of your birth certificate. The mayor or the mayor's representative will serve as the ceremony's host and preside over the event.

The language of the ceremony will be French. If neither of you is comfortable communicating in French, you need to have a translator there with you at all times. They often do not need to be a professional translator or who has been certified.

Prenuptial agreements

Property that was bought before the marriage is not subject to the regime of legal community reduced to acquisitions (régime légal de communauté réduite aux acquêts), however property that was acquired after the marriage is. In addition, if there is no will, the surviving spouse will receive a percentage of the other half of the property and will keep half of it for themselves. This inheritance will be split among any children.

In France, a prenuptial agreement, known as a contract de mariage, is only considered legal if it is arranged by the couple before the wedding. When you submit your application to the mairie, you are required to show a certificate issued by a public notary who has witnessed the contract.

Within the boundaries of French law, a prenuptial agreement modifies the traditional form of inheritance, shared ownership of property, and common liability. It is prevalent in situations in which there are children from prior relationships, other people who rely on the couple financially, situations in which one or both couples operate a company, or situations in which there is a considerable amount of money. Please seek the counsel of an experienced legal practitioner about your current predicament.

De facto agreements

A pacte civil de solidarité, often known as a pact, is a legally binding instrument that unmarried couples of either same-sex or heterosexual orientation may form to manage some parts of their lives. This does not constitute a prenuptial agreement, nor does it act as a barrier to getting married. This is no longer an issue once married.

Proof of marriage

You will be given a family record document (also known as a livret de famille) after the ceremony unless you already own one. This document contains a copy of your marriage certificate (l'acte de mariage) and serves as a continuing record of all events that are connected to the marriage (such as births, adoptions, deaths, and divorces). You are required to make a second inquiry if you need a separate or extra copy of the certificate.

French citizenship

It is not sufficient to acquire French citizenship just by entering into a marriage with a resident of that country. If a non-French spouse does not already hold a residence card, there is now a necessary waiting period of two years before issuing that spouse a residence card. Learn more about how to get French citizenship by reading more.

Which name?

By convention, both partners in marriage continue to use their maiden names. At this moment, any party may, at no additional cost, add the other person's name to their own, or a woman may replace her name with that of her husband. The procedure of officially changing one's name may be undertaken by either party or by both.


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