Getting Married in France
"I would be delighted to be Toastmaster at your wedding in France"
I speak the language, spend 4 months a year there, and can be a valuable assistant to your wedding organiser.
I confess to being somewhat thrilled when I overhead one guest say to the host.....
"Wow, an English Toastmaster at your wedding in France, very impressive."
Boasting one of the world’s most romantic settings, a superb choice of fine wines and mouth-watering local delicacies, it comes as no surprise that the South of France ranks as one of the top wedding destination choices for couples searching for something a little different. As the World's premier country of love and romance, it is a perfect way to celebrate and begin married life together. Oh, the weather helps too, May to September is usually unbeatable!
Below is a brief guide on what you need to know if you plan on getting married in France. I'd be pleased to offer further thoughts and tips but you should always seek the widest possible advice - this is a good place to start - https://www.gov.uk/marriage-abroad/y/france/marriage.
Planning the Wedding
For anyone considering tying the knot in France, the legal requirements can be quite complex, see UK government link above, and particularly difficult if you’re a non-resident. As a result, this usually gives couples two principal options from which to choose:
Legally marry in France through a civil ceremony and subsequently hold a religious or humanist wedding ceremony on the same day or a couple of days later.
Legally marry elsewhere through a civil ceremony and subsequently travel to France and choose a religious or humanist wedding ceremony.
You should know that getting (legally) married in France is only possible through a Civil Ceremony which is required to take place in a French Mairie (Town Hall). Once a French civil authority has performed the marriage, the couple can then follow this with a religious ceremony or a secular service in a location of their choice.
This is also the case for same-sex couples since same-sex marriage was legalised in France in 2013.
The residency requirements are slightly different to those in the UK. One of you, or a parent, will need to have been a resident of France (usually in the town in which you wish to marry) for 40 days immediately prior to a civil ceremony taking place. You will need to provide proof of address and subsequently submit an application to the city hall which will also need to include a number of legal documents such as a birth certificate and passport.
Documentation that you will need to provide
If you choose to get legally married in France you should expect to need to provide:
ID (e.g. passport).
Birth certificate – this will need to have been issued within 3 months of the marriage date. It may need to be ‘legalised’ so that it is recognised in France.
Justificatifs de Domicile – Proof of residence.
Proofs of civil status – if married previously, expect to provide a divorce or death certificate. Typically, this will only constitute a Certificat de Capacité Matrimoniale from your country’s Embassy.
Certificat de Celibat – a certificate to state that neither party is already married which must be sworn before a Consular official at your country’s Embassy in France. You will need to obtain an official attestation from your Consulate if this particular certificate does not exist under the law of your home country.
Certificat de Coutume – this certificate ensures that the marriage will be legally recognised in your country of residence and certifies that you are free to marry.
Certificat de Notaire – Prenuptial agreement, if you are planning on having one.
Statement of identity and residence of four witnesses.
A notarised translation will be required for any documents provided that are not in French.
Foreign documents will also more than likely need authorisation with an Apostille stamp or the equivalent whereby the issuing authority stamps a document with a unique ID to achieve international recognition.
The Legal Wedding Ceremony
The entire ceremony is conducted in French and I strongly advise you to have a translator present if you are not fluent in the language. If it is deemed by an official that you or your main witnesses’ understanding is insufficient, the Mayor can refuse to hold the ceremony.
A short stay visa may be required for non-EU nationals (for a maximum of 90 days) which will need to be requested from the French Consulate, not the Embassy, prior to departure.