Getting Married in France is Difficult
But don’t turn away just yet, I am here to help!
Marriage can only be officiated legally in France by the government since the country is laic, meaning there is a firm separation of church and state. Therefore, in order to have a more “traditional” wedding (with a religious entity), you will have to have two different ceremonies.
This post is about getting married to a French national as a U.S. Citizen and all of the bureaucratic procedures to follow. For a fun post about my two marriages in France, please see this post.
If you are an American attempting to marry a French national, the government will not help you, sorry. Literally, the government web page on marriage does not once mention a French national marrying a foreigner IN France. This was my first official introduction to the French government system, and like all things, it is not perfect. The only answer you can really expect is “je ne sais pas” (I don’t know), if you get one at all.
As for the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in France, you do get some information found here.
Although if you have any questions, you are suggested to direct them towards the city hall in which you intend to get married, the French government, or an attorney; again, expect to hear “je ne sais pas” (but in English) because, apparently, no one knows.
Do not despair, though, I SOMEHOW got married!
Have You Heard?
Getting married to a French national does not automatically grant you citizenship; you must be married for 4 or 5 years before you can apply.
Also note, Pacs is a different process, and if you want to get citizenship in the future, do not get Pacs’d. As the French government makes clear, “there is no procedure for acquiring French nationality under Pacs with a French national.”
How It Works
Because the country is laic, marriages are performed by the “maire” (mayor) or his conjoint of the town (village, in my case) that you/your fiancé(e) currently live in. The civil ceremony itself can either take place within the “mairie” (city hall), which is most common, or a public building such as a reception hall (so long as it is within the territory of the town/village).
In order to get married, you must submit a “dossier de mariage” which is essentially an application to get married that is submitted to the city hall for review. The application came as a cute booklet with all the information on what they need you to bring to complete the dossier. It is best to submit this application 30 days or so before your proposed civil ceremony date.
In most cases before the civil ceremony (which was the case a few days before our wedding), you will be called for a compulsory meeting with the mayor or his conjoint. At this meeting, we just told him how we met and verified our information for the marriage certificate and other legal documents. If you do not speak French, a translator can be acquired on your behalf (for the civil ceremony as well).
Before you can get married, what is called the “publication des bans” must first take place. This is an official public publication with names, addresses, and professions of the couple, their parents, as well as the date and place of the future marriage. These “bans” must be posted at the city hall(s) of the town in which the marriage will take place and the town of residence (if different) of the couple no less than 10 days before the date of marriage.
What You Need to Get Married
Please note, I applied for marriage whilst living/studying in the UK with a UK residence permit; I am not at all a government official and this list is not exhaustive; please always reference the French and U.S. government sites for official information.
Requirements for civil marriage (in general):
- Be 18 or over
- Not be currently married
- Not be related
- One of the two parties must have resided in France in the same town for 30 days by the time the “bans” are published.
Documents for the “Dossier de Mariage” :
- Affidavit of “single status” (check with city hall that this is accepted) notarized by the U.S. Embassy & Consulates (you will need to make an appointment online; be prepared to pay $50 or Euro equivalency by card or cash)
- Original/copy of certified (with apostille) birth certificate (this should be less than 6 months old when you file your marriage application; you will most likely need it to be translated and I highly suggest you get this done in France by a “traducteur assermenté” if you intend to live in France after the marriage as you will need it for future govt. applications)
- Original/copy of passport
- Proof of residence (water bill, electric/gas bill, tax notice, housing tax)
(My husband was living with his parents at the time and did not have any proof of residence; instead, his parents wrote us an “attestation sur l’honneur” that we lived with them, providing copies of their ID and bills in their name)
- Information on the witnesses (name, last name, date/place of birth, profession, address, copy of their ID)
This information is combined with your “dossier de mariage” that the city hall gives you. You will then have to fill out and sign the dossier attesting the information is correct and complete.
After this, you wait for the meeting and the publication of the “bans” as discussed above, and then, after ten days or up to a year later, you can get married (just don’t forget to make the appointment)!
After You are Married
Once everything is official, the mayor will provide you with the “livret de famille” which is essentially a little book with information about the marriage that you will later use to document births/deaths/name changes, etc. As well, you can request the extract and complete copies of the “acte de mariage” (marriage certificate). This is really important to request if you intend to live in France after the marriage because you will need one or the other for many different applications. Be sure to keep all of these documents in a safe place (and make copies) for future government shenanigans. Our mayor was so kind, he gave us quite literally 3 signed originals of everything the day of our ceremony.
I hope you have found this information useful or just interesting to read. Let me know if you have any questions!
If you have gotten married in France, let me know how your experience was in the comments below!
A support unit has been set up at the Directorate-General for Foreign Nationals in France:
phone number: 0806 001 620