In France, only the civil ceremony is legally binding. Your marriage must be carried out at the local town hall (“Mairie”) before any other ceremony (religious or secular).
Civil ceremony (official way)
The ceremony is performed by a French civil authority (“Maire”, “Adjoint”, or “Conseiller municipal”). This is the case for both heterosexual and same-sex couples. Then it is still possible to have a religious or non-religious ceremony in France after the civil ceremony.
The process to arrange a civil wedding in France is quite complex. As foreigner, if you do not have a parent living in France, you need a special dispensation to get married, and this is rarely granted. It is easier to plan your civil wedding in your own country (origin or residence), and hold a second ceremony in France (see below §”Non religious ceremony”).
If you still want to get married with the official way:
- Be aware that the French authorities only communicates in French! If you have problems with it, do not hesitate to be accompanied by somebody who speaks French fluently.
- During the service, the officiant reads sections of the French laws. The ceremony lasts about 15 minutes.
- After the marriage, the French civil authority gives to couple a “livret de famille”, a booklet that lists the references related to marriage and the events of the newly created family. marriage and subsequent events in the family such as births, deaths, divorce or name changes.
All documentation must be original and in French. Usually, you’ll have to provide, at least, these documents:
- Your passports or a French resident permit;
- Your full birth certificate (less than three months old);
- Proof of domicile (copy of an utility bill, pay slip, etc.): you or your partner has to be resident at least 40 days before the marriage;
- A certificate of celibacy (sometimes difficult to provide according to your nationality, check with your authorities);
- A certificate of custom: statement about marriage laws in your country certifying that you are free to contract marriage in France and will be recognized in your country;
Depending on your situation, additional documents may be requested. Check with the Town Hall.
Non-religious, secular or non-denominational ceremony (non official but easiest way)
More and more couples want a spiritual but not religious wedding ceremony. In France, these ceremonies are neither legal nor illegal, and you’re totally free to organize them like you want!
Many non-religious officiant propose their services to help to prepare and organize your wedding ceremony. If you’re looking for such an officiant, check all the english-speaking officiants and celebrants in France and contact the one you want to celebrate your wedding!
Spiritual but non-religious? If you consider yourselves to be good people, but we don’t follow any particular religion or if you do not recognize the way defined in the major world religions, so you should be interested: you can set the whole course of the ceremony! Simultaneously, you’ll can make a declaration and an intimate sharing of who YOU are. This kind of marriage ceremony will ring true to the family and other guests as well!
Celebrate who you are as individuals and as a couple, and be sure to temper that by honoring and being respectful of your essential differences as well.
The professional secular officiants want you and your guests to enjoy the ceremony and not have to endure it! So tell him what you want, what you really, really want! And they are ready to bring a little French charm to your wedding!
Some are also Wedding planner, and they can propose to prepare and organize your whole wedding day.