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Getting Married in France? Here’s What You Need to Know

France is a beautiful country and a popular wedding destination for British citizens. If you are considering getting married in France, you need to consider a few differences in their marriage law system. There are two ways you can approach getting married in France: getting legally married in the UK before your French wedding ceremony or arranging a civil ceremony in a French town or city.

What Are the Legal Requirements?

French law states that individuals who wish to get married must be 18 years of age. Unlike in the UK, a legal wedding can only take place in a town hall or 'Marie', and must be carried out by the town mayor. Any religious or humanist ceremonies are not recognised as binding in the French legal system. They are seen as a symbolic way of celebrating a union rather than an official marriage. 

To be allowed to carry out an official wedding ceremony in France, non-residents must ensure they have a special dispensation before their special day. It is much easier if a couple member is a French citizen or has a parent living in France.

How Do French Wedding Ceremonies Differ From British Ones?

If you are an international citizen, you will make your wedding preparations much more manageable by getting married in your home country and holding an additional ceremony in France. Not only does this approach mean you avoid having to organise two different French ceremonies, but you will also massively reduce the amount of paperwork required in the process. Yes, this means that you will already be married on your wedding day, but on your wedding day, if you wish to get married in a religious or humanist ceremony in France, it won't be legally binding anyway. These rules apply to both heterosexual and same-sex marriages. 

How Much Will It Cost?

Getting married abroad can be pricey. Not only do you have to pay for your travel, but you may also pay a premium depending on your chosen venue. France is a popular wedding destination for international couples, and this often means increased demand, especially over the summer months. If you wish to have your wedding ceremony in France, you need to consider the additional costs compared to carrying out your nuptials locally. 

Certain venues offer packages to provide everything you desire, which can make it much easier than organising your preparations from outside of the country. On average, the process of organising a wedding in France can cost anywhere between £4000 and £9000, not including travel costs. 

What Paperwork Will You Need?

Having the proper paperwork is essential if you are not a French citizen. All documents must be translated into French and authorised with an Apostille stamp to prove their authenticity. 

In order to apply for an international marriage license in France, you will need to provide the following:

  • Proof of identification/ nationality
  • A recent & legalised copy of your birth certificate 
  • Proof of address Certificat de Capacité Matrimoniale (proof of your ability to marry) 
  • A list of your chosen witnesses & details about them 
  • Certificat de Coutume (validates your marriage in both France & your home country)

After your ceremony, you will be issued with an updated family record document, including a copy of your marriage certificate. Both spouses keep their surnames unless stated otherwise. Either partner can change their surname to the others' if they wish to. 

Organising a Successful French Wedding

Once you have arranged all of the legal elements of your French wedding, you need to consider the logistics. Getting all of your guests to the venue can be an ordeal. You need to ensure that all of your guests are available and have the financial means to afford their travel and accommodation. 

With destination weddings, it is advised that you make arrangements at least twelve months prior to the ceremony. This will allow people enough time to organise their travel and potentially save up some extra funds. If your wedding is on the more expensive side, then it may be a good idea to remove the obligation of gift giving.

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