France is a classic, romantic and very attractive wedding destination. There are also other popular locations for getting married, in case you want to elope, such as Los Angeles, but France is definitely chosen by many foreign couples that wish to celebrate their union in a romantic and unic way. Whatever the reasons behind your choice, there are certain aspects of French legislation that need to be taken into consideration and observed in order for the wedding to be possible.
In France, only the civil ceremony is legally binding. The religious ceremony can only take place after the civil ceremony. The civil ceremony is performed at the Town Hall by a French Civil Authority: the mayor (mairie in French) or his legally authorised replacement – deputy mayor (adjoint in French) or a city councilor (conseiller municipal in French).
The partners must apply for marriage at the town hall of their city of residence. According to French law, the couples must publish the wedding banns (applications) at the mayor of the commune or city of residence at least 10 days prior to the civil ceremony. Before the banns are posted, all the documents required by law must be submitted and approved by the mayor. The aforementioned period of 10 days may be longer if one of the partners has a foreign residence, depending on his/her country of origin.
At least two adult witnesses must be present during the civil ceremony, one for the groom and one for the bride. The partners must be 18 or older, however, exceptions can sometimes be made if at least one of the parents consents to the marriage.
After the marriage, the couple receives an official record of marriage, "livret de famille", which will also include subsequent events (births, divorce, name change, death).
All documents must be original and in French. Any documents that are not in French must be translated by an authorised translator. The documents listed below must be provided by both partners:
- valid passport or French residence permit (if applicable);
- birth certificate issued by the competent authority (not a hospital);
- a certificate of celibacy (certificat de celibate in French) less than three months old which proves that none of the partners is already married;
- in case of previous marriages, a divorce or death certificate of the ex-spouse must be provided;
- a medical certificate, less than 3 months old, issued by a qualified physician practicing in France
- prenuptial agreement (if the couple agrees to conclude one);
- a notarized Affidavit of Law (certificat de coutume in French) for foreign couples drawn up in the home country and recognised in France. This certifies that both partners are free to marry and that the wedding will be recognised in the country of residence.
As of May 18th 2013, same-sex marriage has been legal in France. The legislation applies to France and the French overseas departments and territories.
Partners who choose not to get married (even same-sex partners) can sign a civil solidarity pact (PACS - pacte civile de solidarité in French), a contractual form of civil union between two adults who protects individual rights and entitles partners to share property rights, but does no grant the same rights as marriage. Couples that choose to sign a PACS may undergo the same ceremony at the Town Hall as that of the civil marriage.
If you need legal assistance for getting married in France, you may contact our French lawyers.
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