Your Guide to Getting Married in France

Written by    Last updated: July 9, 2012

If your dream wedding destination is France, then you have great taste as it is one of the world’s most romantic settings. With a superb choice of chateaux, gastronomic delights, fine wines, delectable desserts and plenty of sunshine, France is an ideal place to be married. This expert advice is provided by Chateau de Lisse – one of France’s best and most popular wedding venues, in the enchanting region of Gascony.

Chateau De Lisse Wedding

Images courtesy of Chateau de Lisse

There are a few legalities you must keep in mind and attend to, before you start booking your venue and your plane tickets.

Your choices

In simple terms, you have two options available:

Legally marry in the UK through a civil ceremony then come to France and choose a religious or humanist wedding ceremony.

Legally marry in France through a civil ceremony, and then also hold a religious or humanist wedding ceremony on the same day or a couple of days later.

It is not as straightforward to get married in France as it in England, as the French law only recognises civil marriage. One of you also needs to be resident here for over a month with proof of address, and then make an application at the town hall. You will also be required to obtain a list of legal documents including your birth certificate and passport.

If you can satisfy the criteria and are happy to do the paperwork, then you will need to contact the Mairie (Mayor) and the British Consulate who will assist you in the processing of your application.

All documents must be certified by the British Consulate and translated by a sworn translator with an official seal, the Certificate of Apostille of the Hague, prior to being presented to the Mairie. You can get a list of approved translators from the Mairie or local police station. Here is a quick overview of what you will need:

  • One member of the couple must be resident in France for a minimum of 40 consecutive days, proof of address is essential normally 2 documents such as telephone or electricity bill
  • Certificate of celibacy for non-French nationals to prove your single status
  • Certificate of law for non-French nationals living in the UK
  • Passport
  • A solicitor’s certificate (ask the British Consulate for details)
  • Birth Certificate less than 3 months old supplied by a bureau of records, not a hospital
  • Death or Divorce certificate if one or both of you have been married before
  • Prenuptial agreement otherwise the couple are automatically married in community of property. A notary (solicitor) will advise on this
  • A child born prior to the marriage may be legitimised
  • The marriage ‘banns’ are displayed approximately 10 days before the civil ceremony
  • Once married you will be given a “livret de famille”, which is a recognized document in France to log all future births, deaths, and divorce or name changes.
  • In France, couples are required to first marry in the town hall (Mairie) before any civil or religious service can take place.

What you will need to do, in all your finery, is go to the town hall where the town’s mayor, or his legally authorised replacement, will perform the ceremony and tell you about your responsibilities to each other. You then sign the register and walk out a married couple. Only then you can go to the church or your chosen venue and do your walk-down-the-aisle ceremony.

The ceremony is conducted in French and a translator may attend, but a word of caution – if your witnesses are deemed by an official not to understand sufficient French – the Mayor can refuse to perform the ceremony.

Now you will have your wedding certificate and this is required for any subsequent religious service, this does not need to take place on the same day – so you could wear the dress twice!

Chateau De Lisse Bedrooms

Images courtesy of Chateau De Lisse

How to get married in France without all that fuss and nonsense?

Very simple: don’t.

You can avoid it all by simply having a civil ceremony in the UK before your wedding in France and this removes all of the legal and administrative complications of the French system.

Just make an appointment at a registry office in your local UK town and get pre-wed there, sign the papers and for all intents and purposes you are now legally married, but you don’t have to tell anyone! Most couples only regard their marriage valid and real once they have said their vows and exchanged rings in front of friends and family on their wedding day in France.

Most couples don’t celebrate their UK ‘wedding’ and save their Euros for their celebrations in France – their ‘real’ wedding day. It is a simple way to avoid the paperwork and no-one will be any wiser! Just remember to bring your marriage certificate to France as proof that your civil ceremony has taken place.

Which Ceremony?

You may have a humanist wedding ceremony, which allows you to choose any desired location and they are individual and can be more personal and non-religious.

You may also choose a religious blessing; this is a popular choice if you do not want the formal church wedding. Here, couples can compose the service, readings and music and is more of a ‘spiritual’ blessing of your marriage.

Lastly, you can choose a personalised wedding which is more based on the couples’ views on life, marriage and your faith in each other rather than an outside belief. It is possible to have a friend or relative to conduct the service and the service is often very informal and relaxed.

The Weather!

In France average temperatures can vary from city to city, with northern cities much colder than the southern cities. You can choose from the glamorous French Riviera with its Mediterranean climate; the temperate climate of the wine regions of Dordogne and Aquitaine; Central France experiences slightly more extreme conditions but can boast the picturesque French Alps, and finally Paris and north and western France which have a pleasant climate of warm summers and cool winters.

The most popular months for weddings in France are May, June and September and venues are normally booked up to two years in advance. It is important to get detailed weather data on the major French cities to help plan your perfect destination.

Chateau De Lisse Castle

Images courtesy of Chateau De Lisse

One Last Thought…

If you have not yet been seduced by the idea of coming to France for your wedding, here is la piece de résistance: the traditional French wedding cake an impressive pyramid of filled choux buns (chocolate, vanilla or coffee) with a delicate cobweb of caramel spun outside and decorated with fresh flowers, or more traditionally, sugared almonds.

France is symbolically the country of love and a perfect way to celebrate and begin married life. Ensure you prepare any questions that you wish to have answered when visiting venues and research the most suitable area, and please remember you have decided to celebrate in a different country so you will discover that some things are done differently, but that is all part the charm and excitement that France has to offer.

Château de Lisse is a stunning 14-th century castle in Gascony, set in 450 hectares of luscious landscape.  The Château is available to hire exclusively for weddings and other events, it offers a magical and fairytale setting to relax, unwind and getaway for your own private wedding. Château de Lisse has it’s own exquisite chapel available for weddings.

We have lots of great weddings abroad advice on Confetti!

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