Culture, Wedding

Getting Married in Paris, France: A practical guide

In just a few weeks, the 11th of June will mark our one year (paper) wedding anniversary and to set the stage for a few visual stories focused around our special day I thought I would start by writing a little practical post to help those of you wondering how to get married here in Paris/France. Before we got married I was in search of a more personal blog post just like this one, and hope it helps a few of you along the way.

Paperwork can be a daunting thing to face wherever you live let alone if you are a foreigner living abroad. I have come to realise that not only the expats I know here in Paris but also the French I know here too love to complain about the lengthy paperwork involved in France.

Unfortunately, alongside the fairy-tale images of a Parisian wedding is the harsh reality of miles and miles of administrative red tape.

Paris Wedding by Kimberley Petyt

With that in mind, when Matt and I decided to get married at our local town hall (Mairie) in the 2eme, Paris, I thought it would be quite a lengthy and difficult process. Let me tell you though, it’s all really very simple and quite straightforward. So whatever you do, don’t fear the French system because sure there might be a few surprises along the way but once you understand what is needed then there really isn’t much else to it. And if you have other legal requirements in France then these requested papers will become the norm when you are applying for the Carte de Sejour or Naturalisation for example.

When we decided the time was right to get married we went to our local town hall office to pick up the documentation booklet (dossier) with a guide to the process. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful with all the questions we had and the pack (dossier) includes the forms to fill in and the list of forms you need to include in your application and the process of getting married. One thing we found interesting was the fact that there was a question in the dossier about having a religious ceremony. In France you have to have a civil service first at the Mairie before having the full wedding-with-church-bells-and-all type ceremony.

The most important criteria you will have to meet is that you will have to reside at a residential address in the locale of the town hall for a total of 40 days prior to your planned wedding. I will explain further in the guide below.

Here is a detailed list of the photocopied & original documents they will ask for from both spouses:

Carte de Sejour | Copy, Valid Passport or Residency Card

Extrait d’Acte de Naissance | Original, Long Form Birth Certificate
Issued within the last 3 months if issued in France and within 6 months if issued elsewhere. If it is issued abroad it must also be legalized with an Apostille stamp or translated by a certified translator. The town hall (Mairie) will issue you with a list of recommended certified translators. I chose to use Celine Normier for all our translations. Thankfully since Matt is from New Zealand, the government there provided the Apostille and translation service all in one package.

A notarised translation is required for any documents not in French. A list of certified translators can be found here.

Justificatifs de Domicile | Proof of address
You will also require proof of that with an electricity bill, a rental receipt (justificatif de domicile). Some of these documents can take a few months to receive but if you aren’t in a rush to tie the knot then residing at a legitimate address for 40 days really isn’t a lot to ask in my opinion. If you’re not able to rent your own apartment and are residing with friends or relatives in your preferred area, then your host must sign an attestation d’hébergement sur l’honneur. This is a statement swearing that you have been residing in that person’s home.

Certificat de Coutume | Affidavit of Law
This document certifies that you are free to get married in France and can be obtained from your local embassy if you are not French.

Certificat de Capacité Matrimoniale ou Certificat de Célibat |  Proof of civil status
This again can be obtained from your local embassy.

Certificat du Notaire | Prenupital Agreement
Only if you require one.

Liste des Temoins | List of Witnesses
Information about your two (up to four) witnesses including copies of their passports.

Liste du Interprete(s) | List of Translators
Information about your one or two translators including copies of their passports.

If your circumstances are a little different to ours then you may need further documentation.  This page will help you with the full details from the French Public Service website, a very useful site if you are living in France.

Also if you don’t fit the criteria above then perhaps getting married in your own country might be easier and from there you can have a celebration in Paris or somewhere else in France should you wish.

Publication of the Banns

After you have handed in your marriage application to the town hall then it will usually take up to 10 days for a decision to be made and a publication of the banns outside the town hall on the public notice boards. It might be a really good idea to go and check within the 10 days after you handed them in. We only stumbled upon our publication notice by chance and we were not told by post or email that our application had been accepted and the Banns published.

Date of Marriage

After the Banns have been published you are then able to pick a date up to 10 days to a year away. You will pick the date and time according to availability at the town hall office and they will write it in their (paper) agenda. It’s really wise to write down the date and time of your wedding at this point because you will not receive any documents or emails further about your wedding date. It’s really all that simple. We chose to have our service 9 months from when the Banns were published, Saturday, 11 June 2016, which means our wedding anniversary will always be in the middle of the Northern Hemisphere’s Summer!

Now all you have left to do is organise your special day…

The Marriage Celebration

When that very special time comes, don’t forget to arrive at the Mairie at least 15 minutes before the wedding ceremony with your witnesses, translators and each of your passports. Oh! and the rings of course. They request rings here in France. Things at the Mairie are pretty relaxed and easy going but don’t forget you are likely not to be the only ones getting married that day so expect a happy couple to be saying their vows just before and soon after you have said yours.

For those of us lucky enough to reside in Paris or France, it can be quite the romantic setting for a wedding. To help make planning your special day a little easier I have compiled a few suggestions as recommended by me after living in Paris for nearly a decade. I will be sharing them in my next post so do be sure to check back soon. Any other questions you have about getting married in France please do write a comment or if you like send me a direct message and I will do my best to help you with your questions.