How to get married in France: The complete guide
With a reputation for wowing guests with excellent weather, culinary excellence and show stopping wedding venues and castles, France attracts thousand of couples from the U.K. and America every year for their destination wedding.
If you’re dreaming of all things French for your big day, you may need to master some legalities before preparing for your wedding in France.
If you’re planning to get married in France this summer, you will love this guide that will take you through the legal requirements and documents you need to prepare for your destination wedding.
The frustrating thing about getting married in France is the list of required documents you need to submit for your civil ceremony. If that bothers you, there is always a solution. You can keep things simple and organize a symbolic ceremony instead.
In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to make your wedding in France a reality, from the legal requirements and paperwork, to interesting venues and wedding customs.
Do I need to be a resident in France to get married here?
No. You don’t need to be a resident in France to have your civil ceremony here.
French law requires that at least one in the couple has "a long lasting bond" with the town or local area where the civil ceremony will take place.
This condition is usually met if one the partners or their parents owns or rents a house in France. It could be the house you usually live in or just a holiday house or secondary home.
Couples getting married (or their parents) are expected to have been living in this town for at least 30 days before the civil ceremony application has been submitted to the local town hall. You will meet this condition if you can provide a proof of address (local council tax, electricity bill etc.)
If you don’t have a proof of address in France, you can get legally married in your home country first, and later organize a symbolic reception in France.
Can I get married in France on a tourist visa?
Usually yes. If you don’t plan to stay in France and just want to hold your wedding ceremony here, you should be able to organize your wedding day without a long term visa.
What are the legal documents required to have a civil ceremony in France?
If you plan your civil ceremony in France, we recommend investigating the legalities as soon as possible, as there is a lot of bureaucracy involved.
Here is the full list of documents required according to French law to be able to hold your dream wedding in France (you should consult your local town hall for further clarification):
a valid I.D or passport for both partners;
proof of address or residency permit in France;
an original birth certificate for both parties, dated less than 3 months from the date of the application (beware that special rules apply if you are born abroad);
a list of at least 2 witnesses (these are usually friends or family members) with their personal details (local town halls ask for a copy of their I.D or passport, job title and address);
for non French nationals, additional documents are usually required (certificate of celibacy, affidavit of law etc). These documents will have to be translated by a accredited translator and will usually need to go through an administrative procedure called “apostille”. These extra steps are not free and you will have to pay specific fees to have them ready.
a copy of your prenuptial agreement (optional). We highly recommend getting in touch with a French notary to make a decision on that point a few months before the wedding.
Where does the civil ceremony take place?
The legal ceremony always takes place in your local town hall ("mairie").
Unlike other countries, legal representatives don’t accept to organize civil ceremonies inside wedding venues or hotels. You have to go to the mairie with all of your guests.
The ceremony is performed by the local mayor or one of his/her delegates.
What about religious and symbolic ceremonies?
Whether you are planning your civil ceremony in France or in your home country, it has to take place before any religious or symbolic ceremony in France. This is a strict rule that is enforced.
If you are planning a religious ceremony in France, the local representative of the church will have to get in touch with the town hall to confirm the exact date and hour of the religious celebration.
Keep in mind that if you decide to have your ceremony celebrated in a catholic church for instance, the local priest will expect you to attend a few “wedding preparation classes” before the big day.
What are the wedding rules in France during COVID-19?
To get the latest updates on COVID-19 in France, we strongly recommend that you regularly check the French government website, along with your local prefecture website.
Since June 2021, wedding ceremonies and parties are allowed to take place.
Keep in mind that any guest attending a wedding in a hotel, restaurant, or in a wedding venue classified as “Etablissement recevant du public” (ERP) in France must present a sanitary pass"pass sanitaire" at the entrance of the property.
The French government has recently announced its intention to transform the current sanitary pass into a vaccination pass.
Brides and grooms planning to get married in France in the summer 2022 will likely be asked to prove their vaccination status when crossing the French border and during the different stages of their wedding ceremony but please remember that the rules on travel are ever changing and therefore please be sure to check the govenment website before travel.
Is same sex marriage legal in France?
Yes. Since 2013, same sex marriage is legal in France.
If you are a French resident and don’t necessarily want to get married, you can also decide to register a civil partnership PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité) in France with your partner instead.
Wedding traditions and customs in France
Lastly you may want to include the following popular French wedding traditions in your ceremony:
- Grand entrance - the ceremony begins with the groom walking his mother down the aisle
- Bridal party - there are no bridesmaids or groomsmen in French weddings, only witnesses
- Cake - a common cake is called croquembouche, which is a pyramid of small glazed cream puffs
- Champagne tower - a pyramid of flutes with flowing champagne is often a highlight at a French reception
- Onion soup - this classic French dish is served late in the evening to help wedding guests recover from a long night of celebration
A destination wedding in France is the embodiment of romance and elegance. From the delicious cuisine to the ethereal venues, you’ll create memories that will last you and your beloved a lifetime. We hope that you find this information useful!
The French Wedding Team