Getting Married in France
by Laurel Avery
There are probably
few people who would disagree that getting married in France is
one of the most romantic things you could do. While this is quite
true, it can also be a major pain in the derrière, since the amount
of administrative red tape the French government makes you go through
can be daunting. For a marriage to be legal in France, since the
separation of church and state here in 1905, you are only legally
married if the wedding is performed by the mayor or his authorized
replacement at the mairie (town hall) of your place of
residence. If you decide you want a religious ceremony that’s fine,
but it must take place after the civil ceremony.
First of all,
one of the parties getting married (i.e. the prospective bride or
groom) must have resided in France for at least 40 days before the
marriage, and the wedding must take place in the commune of residence.
there is that little list of documents required of both parties:
- A valid
passport or carte de séjour
(French residency permit)
- Birth certificate
less than three months old (OK, I had to find out where this odd
3 month requirement came from. It’s not like my date and place
of birth would have changed over the last few years! It was explained
to me by a French friend that in France all the information from
the time you are born, including your birth information, is in
one document, called a livret de famille, where all subsequent
events are also recorded, including subsequent marriages, divorces,
children, etc. So if you were planning on being bigamous, it would
show up on your French “birth certificate”.
of “celibacy” less than three months old. (No not THAT
kind of celibacy. It’s not like you have to refrain from sleeping
with your fiance for three months. It’s just a certificate stating
that you are indeed single (or divorced) and are legally able
certificate less than three months old which can be issued by
any doctor practicing in France certifying that you have been
examined “en vue de mariage.”
- Proof of
domicile. The person residing in France must provide two documents
proving residence there, which can include a phone bill, electric
bill, rent receipt, etc.
- Any pre-nuptial
contracts must be drawn up by a notaire (lawyer) no more
than two months before the marriage and a notaire’s certificate
must then be presented to the mairie along with your other documents.
- If there
have been any previous marriages, a certified copy of the death
certificate of the deceased spouse or a certified copy of the
final divorce decree must be provided.
All of the above
documents must be translated into French by one of the approved
“official” translators, a list of which is available at
French law, the Banns must be published at the mairie of
the commune in which you will be married 10 days before the civil
marriage takes place. The mairie may require more documents
before the Banns are posted, and it is always best to check with
them as to what they require, as this varies from town to town.
have jumped through all the necessary hoops, the prospective bride
and groom arrive at the mairie and in the presence of the
mayor and the two witnesses the couple have provided, are legally
married in the eyes of France. A livret de famille is issued
to the couple after the ceremony and they also receive a certificate
of civil marriage which they present to their officiating person
if they want a religious ceremony.
Given how much
of a hassle all this is, my advice would be to get married by a
judge in your home town, then fly off with the wedding party to
France where, after providing proof that you are legally married
(France recognizes legal marriages from any country) you can proceed
on with your fairytale wedding (and nobody but the bride and groom
will be any the wiser!).