France, with its romantic allure and charm, is a popular destination for couples looking to tie the knot. However, planning a wedding in this beautiful country involves understanding the legal requirements and procedures. In this article, we’ll guide you through the key legal considerations to help ensure your French wedding goes off without a hitch.
Eligibility to marry in France
Firstly, it’s essential to check your eligibility to marry in France. According to French law, at least one of the parties must have resided in France for at least 30 days immediately preceding the marriage. This period is necessary to allow the publication of the Marriage Banns, which must be published at the local town hall at least 10 days before the wedding.
Additionally, both parties must be at least 18 years old to marry, and any previous marriages must have been legally terminated. Same-sex marriage is legal in France and has been since May 2013.
You will need to gather some documentation before getting married in France. Typically, these include:
- A valid passport or a French residence permit (carte de séjour)
- A birth certificate, translated into French by a sworn translator, and less than six months old for the French spouse and three months old for the foreign spouse.
- A certificate of celibacy from your home country, indicating you are free to marry. This document should be less than three months old.
- Proof of domicile (utility bill, tax return, etc.)
- Notarized affidavit stating that there are no obstacles to your marriage, often known as a « marriage capability certificate. »
For a more comprehensive list or if you have particular circumstances, such as a previous divorce or the presence of a prenuptial agreement, it’s recommended to consult the local mairie (town hall) or an attorney.
Civil Ceremony: A legal requirement
In France, a religious ceremony alone does not constitute a legal marriage. Regardless of your religious affiliation, couples must undergo a civil ceremony at the mairie for their marriage to be recognized under French law. This ceremony is performed by the mayor or their authorized representative.
You can have a religious ceremony if you wish, but it can only take place after the civil ceremony and the presentation of the civil marriage certificate. Moreover, religious marriages conducted in France without a preceding civil ceremony are not only unrecognized but are also illegal.
Witnesses and prenuptial agreements
A minimum of two and a maximum of four witnesses are required for the wedding. They must be at least 18 years old, and they can be relatives, friends, or anyone else you choose.
France has a communal property law, meaning that assets acquired during the marriage are considered jointly owned by both spouses. However, couples can choose to sign a prenuptial agreement to stipulate a different division of property. If you wish to do so, this must be arranged and signed at least one month before the wedding, in the presence of a French notary.
Marrying in France as a foreign national
For foreign nationals planning to marry in France, it’s crucial to check with your home country’s embassy or consulate in France to ensure you comply with your home country’s requirements as well. This can include obtaining a Certificate of Customary Law or a Certificate of Non-Impediment, which proves you are legally free to marry. After the wedding, you might need to have your French marriage certificate translated and authenticated for it to be recognized in your home country.
After the marriage
Once you’re married, you’ll receive a « livret de famille« . This booklet records your marriage and subsequent significant events like births or deaths. Also, your marriage certificate will be available at the mairie.
📑 Two useful links to official websites
Planning a wedding in France involves understanding various legal requirements and procedures. Here are some crucial resources to help guide you through this process:
- Marriage – France in UK : This site offers a brief overview of the requirements for foreigners wishing to get married in France.
- Service-Public.fr – Marriage in France: This official French government site provides comprehensive information about the legalities of getting married in France, including residency requirements, necessary documentation, and the publication of banns.
Remember, laws and regulations may change, so it’s always advisable to contact the local town hall (mairie) or legal professionals for the most accurate and current information.