The legal requirements for getting married in France are quite complex and can be particularly difficult for non residents.
As a solution, most couples will usually have a civil ceremony in their own country first and then hold a religious or symbolic ceremony in France (see my special note about residency requirements below).
The following information is intended to be a starting point and guideline only. Although much care and effort has been taken to ensure the information provided is correct please do not take it as legal advice. I strongly advise you to consult the Consulate or Embassy of the Republic of France for first hand information.
Marriages performed in France are internationally recognised and legally binding.
At least one of the parties to be married has to have been resident in France for a minimum of 40 days continuously, immediately preceding the marriage. This must be in the area where the marriage is to take place.
Although it is said that the 40 day residency requirement cannot be waivered, if you or your family has property in France the residency requirement is not always strictly followed. However, it is very important to stress that this will be at the discretion of the Mayor at the Mairie (town hall) where you intend to get married. Therefore, I would strongly suggest that you contact the Mayor first to discuss the options available to you.
If you would like to get married in this beautiful country but cannot meet the residency requirements I would not let this get in your way of having your wedding in France.
My husband and I "secretly" got married in the United Kingdom prior to our wedding in France and had a Humanist wedding ceremony on our wedding day in France. Our civil ceremony in the United Kingdom was purely to take care of the legalities and our wedding day in France is when we considered ourselves married. Our guests were not aware that our civil ceremony had taken place and our very personalised wedding ceremony in France is when we and our guests felt that we became husband and wife.
According to French law one of you must reside in France for 30 days before an application for marriage can be made. The marriage application, otherwise known as the marriage banns must then be posted at the appropriate Mairie (town hall) no less than 10 days prior to your wedding.
Most Mairies in France require some or all of the following documentation. Specific requirements may vary depending on the area where you intend to marry so it is important that you contact the Mairie to obtain the list of documents and translations required.
All documentation must be original and endorsed with an Apostille Stamp. Any documentation that is not in French must be accompanied by official translations translated by an agency verified by the French Consulate.
British Citizens: Download an ‘Explanatory note in lieu of a certificate of celibacy’ by following the prompts on the Gov.uk website.US Citizens: This can be done in the form of a notarized affidavit (attestation tenant lieu de certificat de célibat ou de non -remariage) provided by the Consular Section of the Embassy and executed before an American Consular officer in France.
British Citizens: Applications for a Certificat de Coutume are to be made to the FCO, London. Application forms can be downloaded by following the prompts on the Gov.uk website.
Forward your completed form, together with the supporting documentation (detailed on the application form) to the FCO.
Once received, your application will be forwarded to the British Embassy in Paris, who will issue your certificate no more than 3 weeks later. It will be posted to the address you specified on the form, please note that it will probably to arrive much sooner if this address is in France.
Certificates issued by the UK authorities are usually valid for six months.
Irish Citizens: Certificat de Coutumes are issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin. The relevant application forms can be downloaded from their website.
Certificates issued by the Irish authorities are valid for 120 days from that date of issue.
US Citizens: In most cases the Mairie will accept an affidavit of law issued by the Embassy. However, keep in mind that some Mairies will not accept this and may need an "official" affidavit of law issued by an attorney or notaire practicing in France who must also be licensed to practice in the United States.
All Other Countries: Your Consulate in France will be able to help with issuing these documents, please click on the relevant link below for further details:
If you get married in France you will receive a "Livret de Famille" which is an official document that is used for all events relating to your "new" family, such as births, deaths, divorce or name changes.
Please note that the "Livret de Famille" is NOT a marriage certificate and marriage certificates are not automatically issued by the French authorities. To obtain a marriage certificate and copies of your certificate you will need to apply in writing to the Mairie where the marriage took place stating the following details:
In France only a civil ceremony is legally binding. If you wish to have a religious ceremony you must first have a civil ceremony.
The civil ceremony can take place in France or in your country of residence.
Getting married in France is very bureaucratic. There is a huge amount of paperwork and you need to have a residence or live in the country for 40 days. It is a very specific process and you need to be very thorough.
The best way to get round any problems is to go and see the Mairie. We found that they were really friendly and helped us so much once they got to know us. Also it is good as the Mayor makes all the decisions on if you pass or not.
For further information on the legal requirements for getting married in France please contact the French Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence.
In addition, contact your country’s Embassy in France.
As the legal requirements for getting married in France can be quite bureaucratic, I would highly recommend you employ the services of a French wedding planner to help deal with the paperwork.
If you are planning your own destination wedding in France then the perfect option may be a combination of organising it yourself and using a wedding planner. Many wedding planners in France will happily sort out the paperwork to ensure your marriage is legal and charge you a one-off fee for doing this. You will not be under any obligation to use their services for organising any other part of your wedding.
If you choose make an application for a marriage license without the help of a wedding professional, you will need to make provisions to ensure your documentation is correctly submitted and lodged on time.
Requirements are subject to change in accordance with the laws of France. Information updated as at June 2013