Getting married in France: A complete guide

26.09.17
5 minute read
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Recently engaged or dreaming of a destination wedding? With exquisite food, irresistible wine and breathtaking views, there really is no place like France. You can live out a true-life fairytale by getting married in one of France’s enchanted chateaux, or show off your stylish elegance in a chic city hotel.

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.

Weddings in France: What type of weddings are possible?

Civil ceremonies take place at the mairie, or town hall. They’re officiated by the local mayor and conducted in French in a room that’s open to the public. All couples have to have a civil service to become legally married at a mairie before they host religious or other symbolic weddings at another venue.

If you’re having a French wedding, some churches will allow your English-speaking priest to carry out the service.

Symbolic ceremonies like blessings or Humanist weddings are popular alternatives to religious ceremonies. These can be conducted at the venue of your choice.

Same-sex marriage became legal in France in 2013.

What are the legal requirements to get married in France?

Weddings must take place between two consenting people who are at least 18 years old. If you’re coming to France to have a religious or secular ceremony, you must already be legally married in your home country. Civil ceremonies performed in France are internationally recognized and legally binding.

If you marry a French citizen in France and plan to stay and live there, apply for the ‘long stay visitor’ visa. After the marriage, the local municipality will change your visa into a residency card for spouses of French citizens.

What do you need to get married in France?

Necessary paperwork and documentation

Expect to provide the following for your marriage application:

  • Proof of residency in France for at least 30 days prior to the application, for at least one of the parties

  • A valid passport for both parties

  • Original birth certificate for both parties
  • Certificate of celibacy, stating that you're not already married
  • Affidavit of law, stating that you're free to marry and your marriage will be recognized in your home country
  • Prenuptial agreement, with a notary’s certificate, if you plan to to have one
  • Divorce decree, if you were married previously and divorced

The process

You should contact the mairie of the town where you’ll wed for full details on the marriage application process. In general, the marriage application must be made and received by the local mairie at least 10 days before the wedding date. Original foreign documents may need to be translated into French and be authenticated with an Apostille stamp.

If your marriage application is successful, your civil marriage ceremony must take place at the mairie no less than 10 days and no more than one year after you get authorization to marry.

After your wedding, you'll be issued a Livret de Famille (official book) that will have your marriage recorded in it. French people often use these books to record other family events later on, such as births and deaths. Apply to the mairie where your ceremony took place to receive your official marriage certificate.

What fees are involved

To apply for a marriage application for your civil service in France, you should expect to pay around €95.

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What should I know about wedding ceremonies in France?

Because of the residency restrictions and other administrative formalities involved in getting legally married in France, most expat couples choose to have a legal wedding in their own country, then come to France for a religious or symbolic wedding, which can be hosted at any venue.

For foreign nationals wishing to get married in France, the following embassy and consulate websites have additional information:

The cost of a wedding in France

Here are some cost estimates for wedding-related items in France. French wedding venues may provide a package deal and depending on the location, venue and the level of formality you seek, these will likely start at €5,000 - €10,000 for two to three nights. Here are some estimated costs for a 30-person destination wedding in France:

Item Approximate cost
Three nights accommodation at a chateau for all 30 guests €3,000
Paperwork/administrative costs €100
Reception site €1,500
Flowers €500
Decorations €300
Dress, shoes, accessories €1,000
Wedding planner €800
Photographer €500
Cake €200
Food, drinks €2,500
Celebrant €600

Top wedding locations in France

The following venues are popular choices for wedding couples:

Venue Description
Shangri-la Hotel (Paris) A city-chic hotel in the nation’s capital
Château la Tour Vaucros (Provence) A charming countryside castle in the south
Hôtel de la Cité (Carcassonne) A medieval citadel in Southern France
Chateau de la Cazine (Noth) A fairytale romantic setting in the lake district
Cap Estel (Eze bord-de-Mer) A glamorous hotel and spa on the southern coast
Chateau de Challain (Challain-la-Potherie) An neo-Gothic chateau in the Loire valley
Chateau de la Chevre d’Or (Eze-Village) A chateau on the cliffs of the French Riviera
Chateau d’Aleny (Beaune) A Roman chapel in wine country
Chateau Rigaud (Mouliets-et-Villemartin) A boutique private rental in a vineyard in the heart of the Bordeaux
Le Chalet Zannier (Megeve) A chalet within a village that has breathtaking views of the French Alps

Wedding traditions and customs in France

You may want to include the following popular French wedding traditions in your ceremony:

  1. Grand entrance - the ceremony begins with the groom walking his mother down the aisle
  2. Bridal party - there are no bridesmaids or groomsmen in French weddings, only witnesses
  3. Cake - a common cake is called croquembouche, which is a pyramid of small glazed cream puffs
  4. Champagne tower - a pyramid of flutes with flowing champagne is often a highlight at a French reception
  5. 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.

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