How to Get Married in France
Understand the paperwork required and the conditions which must be met prior to a French wedding ceremony...
One of the couple getting married must have been resident in a commune in France for a minimum of one month prior to the civil marriage. The civil marriage must take place in that commune. If both parties have been resident for over 30 days in different communes, the application for the civil marriage may be made to the mairie (Town Hall) of either commune.
The mairie should provide an explanatory brochure (in French) about the documents and certificates to be provided. Only original documents or authenticated photocopies will be accepted. Documents not in French should be translated by a sworn translator (traducteur assermenté). (Names of sworn translators are available from the mairie or local police station).
French law requires the publication of Banns at the mairie of the commune of residence 10 days prior to the civil marriage. Certain documents must be received and approved by the mairie before Banns may be posted. A mairie may require a complete marriage file 10 or more days prior to the publication of Banns. Confirm these requirements.
A religious ceremony may only be performed after the civil ceremony. The minister, priest or rabbi will require the certificate of civil marriage (certificat de célébration civile) as proof that the civil ceremony has taken place.
Documentation required by both parties
These documents will probably be required (do confirm the full list with the mairie):
- Valid passport or carte de séjour
- Acte de Naissance Intégral: Unabridged birth certificate less than 3 months old supplied by a bureau of records, not a hospital
- Justificatifs de domicile: Proof of address supplied by the resident of the commune. Ideally provide two documents proving residence in the commune, for example an EDF bill, telephone account, rent receipt or residential insurance documents
- Information about the witnesses
- The Certificat du Notaire if the couple has concluded a prenuptial agreement (contrat de marriage)
Foreign partners may be expected to present the following:
- Certificat de Coutume: an Affidavit of Law which should be prepared by a legal professional licenced to practice in France and the national's country. However, an "Attestation" in lieu of a "certificat de coutume" issued by the Embassy in France may be acceptable.
The Certificat de Coutume and Affidavit of Marital Status statements concern marriage laws in the foreigner's home country and are required to certify that the party may, under law of their country, be married.
Both documents may be available from the national's Embassy in France. The documents must be in French.
- Certificat de Célibat: A certificate of single-status (or attestation tenant lieu de declaration en vue de mariage ou de non-remariage) less than 3 months old.
Legal documents not in French must usually be translated by a sworn translator and have an official seal, the Certificate of Apostille of the Hague.
A prenuptial (or pre-marital) agreement (the contrat de marriage) stipulates the terms of the marriage (régime matrimonial). If this is desired it must be drawn up by a notary public before the wedding; if a wedding proceeds with no prenuptial agreement the couple is automatically married in community of property (communauté de biens réduite aux acquêts). This means that items each party owns personally before the marriage and whatever comes to them afterwards through inheritance remains their property. That which is acquired during the marriage is owned equally by both parties.
The two most common marital regimes are: being married out of community of property (séparation de biens) and a combination of separation and joint ownership (participation aux acquêts). A notary will advise.
If there is a marital contract, the notary provides a Certificat du notaire or Attestation du notaire which confirms its existence. This certificate must have been drawn up no more than two months prior to the marriage and is submitted to the mairie along with the other documents.
If either of the couple has been divorced or widowed they should supply proof in the form of an Acte de mariage (certified copy of the final divorce decree) or an Acte de décès (in the case of widowhood)
A child born prior to the marriage may be legitimised. The town hall must be notified and a copy of the birth certificate provided (in particular indicating the fact of recognition).
Help preparing documents
The national Embassy of foreigners marrying in France can assist with the preparation of certain documents (for a fee).
- Comprehensive information on civil marriage in France, from the French Consulate in London
- Information on marriage and PACS (civil partnership for hetero and same-sex couples) from the United States Embassy in France (PDF)
- Information on marriage in France from the Canadian Embassy in France
- Information on marriage in France from the Irish Embassy in France
- Information on marriage (and PACS) in France from the Australian Embassy in France