Tying the Knot in France? Here’s how to get Married in France as a Foreigner

Created: Aug 17, 2023 | Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Dreams of exchanging vows amidst the picturesque backdrop of France are common among many couples from around the world. As the land of love, France offers a romantic aura that's hard to resist. For those considering a destination wedding, France serves as the perfect locale. But like any love story, there are steps to take, papers to process, and cultural nuances to understand. Below, we share a detailed guide to help you navigate the process of getting married in the heart of Europe.


Table of Contents

French Attitude Towards Marriage

In this article, we will be looking closely at some key factors that will allow you or someone you know to have a smooth wedding in France, by looking at areas like:

  • The types of marriages in France.
  • What you need to get married in France - Documents, Government requirements, cost, and location.
  • The meaning of a civil partnership in France, and more!

France, with its rich history and romantic appeal, views marriage as not just a union of two souls but a binding legal contract. It is a blend of tradition and love, where families come together to celebrate new beginnings.

However, in recent times, it seems marriage is growing less popular in France, reflecting global patterns seen in other OECD countries. Marriage rates in France have plunged by nearly half since 1970. The dynamics are changing, with fewer individuals choosing to marry, and those who do, opting to do so, later in life. 

As a direct effect of this drastic change, over 60% of children in France today are born outside of wedlock, positioning the nation among the top five OECD countries in this regard.

Overall, this change in the societal norms in France should not serve as a deterrent to you or your beloved, if you want to tie the knot the traditional way, We are here to help you do just that!

 

Wedding Traditions in France

The French have lots of unique wedding traditions that you can indulge in to add more colour and authenticity to your wedding ceremony. From the "dragees" (sugar-coated almonds) given to guests, to the groom walking his mother down the aisle, there's an undeniable air of enchantment in French weddings.


Wedding Procession

In traditional French villages, it was customary for the groom to collect his bride-to-be from her home prior to the ceremony. The procession, often on foot, involved children blocking their path with white ribbons, which the bride had to cut. This symbolized overcoming obstacles married life might present in the future.
 

Dragée

Dragée, or sugared almonds, are a staple at French weddings. Representing happiness, longevity, wealth, fertility, and health, these treats are distributed to guests in small bags. The number of almonds is always odd, usually five, to symbolize the indivisibility of the newlyweds.
 

Croquembouche

Ditching the conventional wedding cake, the French have the Croquembouche—a towering pyramid of cream-filled, caramel-draped profiteroles. Traditionally, the newlyweds would attempt to kiss over the towering confection without knocking it over, ensuring a lifetime of prosperity.
 

Croquembouche


Sabrage

A dramatic and show-stopping tradition, Sabrage involves opening a Champagne bottle with a sabre. This ceremonial technique dates back to the Napoleonic era when Hussar soldiers would use their sabres to slice off the top of the Champagne bottle to celebrate victory. Nowadays, it's a sign of celebration and exuberance during wedding receptions.

In addition to these wedding traditions, there are also regional wedding traditions that different regions in France practice. Each of these traditions adds to the enchantment of French weddings, offering a delightful blend of historical significance and modern celebration.
 

Types of Marriages in France?

While France is known for its picturesque church weddings, for a marriage to be legally recognized, it has to be officiated by a civil authority. Only after a civil ceremony can a religious one take place, if the couple wishes so.
 

Civil Wedding

A Civil wedding, or mariage civil, is the only legally recognized form of marriage in France. Before any religious ceremony can take place, couples must first be legally married in a civil ceremony conducted at the town hall (mairie). The ceremony, overseen by the mayor or an appointed official, is typically a short affair. Both parties, along with their witnesses, sign the marriage register, making the union official. While the ceremony is conducted in French, some mayors offer translation or allow for a professional translator if you or your spouse do not understand French.
 

Religious Wedding

While a Church wedding isn’t legally binding on its own in France, many couples opt for this religious ceremony following their civil wedding. The most common religious ceremony is the Roman Catholic one, but there are provisions for Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim weddings as well. It's essential to note that churches require various documents (more on this later), including proof of the civil wedding. 

The atmosphere is more personal, with hymns, readings, and blessings reflecting the couple’s spiritual journey.
 

French Civil Partnership

In 1999, France introduced the Civil Solidarity Pact, known as PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité). It offers many of the legal protections of marriage, such as tax benefits and shared assets. The procedure for entering into a PACS is less formal than a civil wedding and can be dissolved without a lengthy legal process.

It serves as a flexible option for couples seeking legal recognition of their relationship without the commitments of marriage.
 

What Does a Foreigner Need to Get Married in France?
 

Documents

Documentation is crucial when you're planning to get married in France, especially as a foreigner. The list includes:

  1. Birth certificates, which should be less than six months old. This means that the issued date of the birth certificate should be within the past 6 months from the time of the marriage application. This ensures that the document is recent and up-to-date. Don't forget to get them translated through sworn translators in France, if they're not in French.
     
  2. A valid proof of domicile or residence. You can show this through utility bills like electricity, water or phone bills. As a foreigner, who may not have been living in France, you can use the proof of residence from your spouse to be’s house. In the event that you are both foreigners, you can use that of your parents.
     
  3. A valid passport or ID card. Include photocopies and the originals.
     
  4. A certificate of celibacy (Certificat de Celibat) confirming that you're not already married. This can be obtained from a civil registry in your home country, your country’s embassy in France or a Notary Public.
     
  5. Certificate of Custom Law (Certificat de Coutume).
     
  6. Divorce certificate (If you have been divorced previously).
     
  7. Death certificate (If you lost your spouse previously).
     
  8. Certificat du Notaire – Prenuptial agreement (if needed).
     
  9. A list of the names of translators you used, along with a photocopy of their proof of identity. 
     
  10. Details from 2 witnesses, which are mandatory for the ceremony.

    a. A copy of their ID (they should bring the original on the wedding day).
    b. A form containing their personal information (profession, date and place of birth, and address)

Remember, when presenting foreign documents, a sworn translation (or certified translation) is mandatory and ensures that the paperwork is legally recognized.
 

Government Requirements

To legally marry in France, the following conditions must be met:

  • The intending couples must be at least 18 years old. However, individuals below 18 can wed with approval from at least one of their parents.
     
  • Marrying an immediate family member, whether through blood, adoption, or alliance, is prohibited.
     
  • Both people getting married must willingly and unambiguously agree to the marriage.
     
  • Foreigners or those residing outside of France can get married in France, if they have lived there for a minimum of one month (30 days), or if one of their parents resides in France.


Where You Can Get Married

When planning to get married in France, the choice of venue often reflects the couple's preferences, the type of ceremony they desire, and the legal requirements they need to fulfil. As a top destination wedding locale, France provides a myriad of enchanting venues to tie the knot. Here's a deeper look into where you can celebrate your love in this romantic country:
 

Civil Ceremony Venue

Town Hall (Mairie): By law, all couples must have a civil ceremony at the local town hall before any religious ceremony takes place. The Mairie is the official venue for a civil wedding, and it is conducted by the mayor or one of his/her appointed officials. The room where the ceremony takes place, often called the "Salle des Mariages", is beautifully decorated, capturing the essence of traditional French weddings.
 

Religious and Non-religious Ceremony Venues

Churches: After the civil ceremony, couples can opt for a religious ceremony in a church. France is predominantly Catholic, so many choose a Catholic church wedding. However, there are facilities for other denominations and religions, from Protestant churches to synagogues and mosques.

Châteaux: France is renowned for its stunning châteaux that offer a fairy-tale setting for weddings. These venues provide a mix of elegance, history, and charm, making them a popular choice for both locals and foreigners.

Vineyards: Given that France is synonymous with fine wine, many couples opt to get married in a vineyard, especially during the summer and fall. The picturesque landscapes of vineyards in regions like Bordeaux or Provence provide a romantic backdrop for nuptials.

 

Provence

Beachside: For those dreaming of a beach wedding, the French Riviera or the beaches of Normandy can be an ideal choice. Imagine saying your vows with the gentle sound of waves in the background!

Countryside Estates and Farms: The rustic charm of the French countryside offers a serene and intimate environment for weddings. From the lavender fields of Provence to the rolling hills of the Loire Valley, the countryside provides a timeless setting.

Historical Venues: For history enthusiasts, places like medieval fortresses, ancient abbeys, or Renaissance palaces can add a touch of historical grandeur to the wedding.

When selecting a venue, it's crucial to consider the logistics, especially for guests travelling from abroad. Accessibility, accommodation options, and proximity to major transportation hubs should be factored in. Additionally, it's a good idea to check if the venue requires any specific documentation.
 

The Cost of Getting Married in France

Getting married in France, like any other location, can vary in cost depending on several factors. From the type of ceremony you desire to the venue you select, the choices you make can significantly impact your overall budget. Here's a breakdown of the potential costs associated with tying the knot in this romantic nation:

1. Civil Ceremony Costs:
Administrative Fees: While the civil ceremony at the town hall (Mairie) is generally free for residents, there might be some administrative charges associated with processing the necessary documentation, especially if translations by sworn translators in France are required.

2. Venue Costs:
Town Hall (Mairie): As mentioned, the actual ceremony is typically free, but if you want to reserve a specific room or have decorations, there might be extra charges.

Private Venues: Renting a château, vineyard, or beachside location can vary greatly in price. For instance, renting a château can range from a few thousand euros to tens of thousands, depending on its prestige and location.

3. Religious Ceremony Costs:
Church Donations: While churches don't typically charge a fixed fee, a donation is customary. This can range from €200 to €500, or even more, depending on the church and location.

Officiant’s Fee: If you're having a non-religious ceremony at a location other than a church, you might need to pay the officiant's fee, which can vary based on their experience and demand.

4. Additional Costs:
Dress and Attire: Depending on your taste and preference, wedding attire can range from a few hundred euros for off-the-rack options to several thousand for designer gowns and bespoke suits.

Photography and Videography: A professional wedding photographer in France might charge anywhere from €1,000 to €4,000, depending on their experience and the duration of coverage.

Food and Drinks: If you're hosting a reception, the cost of catering can be one of your most significant expenses. Depending on the menu and number of guests, this can range from €50 to over €150 per person.

Entertainment: Hiring a DJ or a live band, along with other entertainers like magicians or dancers, will add to your costs. Prices can range from €500 to several thousand euros.

Decorations and Flowers: Depending on your theme and venue, decorations and floral arrangements can add up. Expect to budget anywhere from €500 to over €2,000.

Official Translation: If you are from a foreign country that does not speak French, this means you will require certified translations for any documents. Remember to account for these costs. Using sworn translators in France ensures you get quality translations that are accepted by official institutions.

 

Translation

Miscellaneous: Don't forget other costs like transportation, hair and makeup, wedding favours, and any pre-wedding events like rehearsals or dinners.

5. Potential Savings:
While the above might seem overwhelming, remember that there are ways to save. Off-peak season weddings, weekday ceremonies, or choosing less touristy regions of France can all help in reducing costs.

 

Livret de Famille

The "Livret de famille" is a distinctive French family record book that is issued by the French government when you get married. This legal document serves as an official record of your new family's major life events. 

Upon marriage, it contains the names, birth dates, and birthplaces of the spouses, as well as the date of their union. As the family grows and evolves, the book is updated. For instance, when you have a child, their birth details are inscribed in the book. Similarly, if you adopt a child, that information is added. The "Livret de famille" also captures sombre events; the death of a spouse or child is recorded with the date of passing. 

If the couple decides to part ways through divorce or legal separation, this is also noted in the book. In France, this document holds significant importance, especially for administrative tasks. It might be needed to enrol children in school or to establish family ties in various legal contexts. Essentially, it chronicles the pivotal moments of a family's life journey.

 

French Marriage Certificate

A French Marriage Certificate, known in France as "Acte de Mariage," is an official document that attests to the union between you and your spouse in a legal marriage within the jurisdiction of France. When a couple marries in France, this certificate is issued by the local city hall or "mairie" where the marriage took place. 

The certificate contains vital details, including the names of the spouses, their birth details, the date and location of the marriage, and often the names of their parents. It's an essential document, not just as a record of marriage, but also for various administrative and legal purposes within France. For instance, it might be required for procedures related to citizenship, immigration, or name changes. Like other official documents in France, it can be requested in multiple formats, such as a full copy or an extract, depending on the level of detail required. However, the marriage certificate is not the same as the Livret de famille.
 

Conclusion

Embracing the romance and elegance of a French wedding is a dream many aspire to. From understanding the rich tapestry of traditions to navigating the logistical intricacies, getting married in France is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. With its breathtaking landscapes, world-renowned cuisine, and the allure of its culture, France offers an unparalleled backdrop for your special day. By being informed, prepared, and embracing both the joys and challenges, your French wedding can truly be a moment that echoes through the annals of time. As you embark on this beautiful journey of union in the heart of Europe, may every moment be as enchanting as the French countryside itself.
 

FAQs About How to Get Married in France as a Foreigner
 

Do I Need to be Resident in France to Get Married There?

No, you don’t. While you don't need to be a permanent resident, one of the parties must reside in the town where you intend to marry for at least 30 days before the marriage.
 

Can I Get Married in France on a Tourist Visa?

Yes, it's possible to get married on a visitor visa, but one party must fulfil the residency requirement of living in the town of marriage for at least 30 days.
 

Can an Illegal Immigrant Get Married in France?

It's complex. While being illegal doesn't prevent marriage, the process is challenging. The town hall can refuse to celebrate the marriage if they believe it's solely for the regularization of the illegal situation.

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