Getting Married in France
A Guide for UK Citizens
“Planning a wedding is a daunting enough task, planning a wedding in France is probably going to be a nightmare!” is what you and your family might be thinking.
In reality, it doesn’t have to be that complicated and there are only a couple more extra steps to be aware of when planning your ceremony.
France is home to some of the most romantic venues and landscapes in the world, and with only a little extra bit of admin and planning, you can create a truly unique and special day for you and your families.
What better way to start your married life than with an adventure?
So, what are the requirements to get married in France?
There are two ways to get married in France, and one is much more straightforward than the other. Either way, French law only recognises civil marriage, so a civil ceremony is essential at some stage. The requirements depend on which route you choose:
- Legally marry in the UK through a civil ceremony, then come to France and choose a religious or humanist wedding ceremony.
- Legally marry in France through a civil ceremony, and then also hold a religious ceremony (at a religious building) or humanist wedding ceremony with a registered celebrant (at any chosen venue) on the same day or a couple of days later if you wish.
Although this second option is significantly more complicated, some couples choose it if they don’t want a religious or humanist wedding ceremony, if one of them is a French citizen, or if they would prefer to only have one wedding ceremony.
Here’s more information about how each route works:
Option 1: Marry in the UK First
By far the most straightforward option, with significantly less paperwork and legal complexities than the second route.
The only downside is that you will technically be married as you make your way over to France for your ‘walk-down-the-aisle’ ceremony. But many couples simply choose not to tell anyone!
Take it from Josie, a recent bride who chose this route before her wedding at Chateau du Raysse:
“We chose to do the legal bit in the UK first, but we didn’t consider ourselves as properly married until we exchanged rings and said our vows in front of all our friends and family. Our ceremony outside the Chateau du Raysse still felt like the real thing”
What documents do I need for Option 1?
There are no additional special documents you need to fill in if you take this route.
For your UK civil ceremony, you’ll need to follow the standard UK process for registering your intent to marry.
For any additional ceremonies, you may need to submit choices for the wording of your ceremony, but your celebrant will guide you through the process.
Just remember to bring your marriage certificate to France as proof that your civil ceremony has taken place.
Option 2: Have your Civil Ceremony in France
For this option, one member of the couple must be resident in France for a minimum of 40 consecutive days. If you’re happy to do this, and all the paperwork, then you will need to contact the Mairie (Mayor / Town Hall) and the British Consulate who will assist you in the processing of your application. You can find most of the required forms here on gov.uk.
What documents do I need for Option 2?
All documents must be certified by the British Consulate and translated by a sworn translator, prior to being presented to the Mairie. You can get a list of approved translators from the Mairie or local police station. Here is a quick overview of what you will need:
- Proof of address, normally 2 documents such as telephone or electricity bill (this must prove that the 40-day-residency requirement has been satisfied).
- Certificate of celibacy for non-French nationals to prove your single status
- Certificate of law for non-French nationals living in the UK
- A solicitor’s certificate (ask the British Consulate for details)
- Birth Certificate less than 3 months old supplied by a bureau of records, not a hospital
- Death or Divorce certificate if one or both of you have been married before
- The marriage ‘banns’ are displayed approximately 10 days before the civil ceremony
- In France, couples are required to first marry in the town hall (Mairie) before any civil or religious service can take place.
Once all this is in place, you will need to go to the town hall where the town’s mayor, or his legally authorised replacement, will perform the ceremony and tell you about your responsibilities to each other – in French. You then sign the register and walk out a married couple. After that, you can still hold a religious or humanist ceremony and a proper celebration!
"Will our marriage in France be recognised in the UK?"
French law only recognises civil marriages, so for your marriage to be valid in France the civil ceremony is required, whether it happens in France or the UK.
UK law states that your marriage should be recognised in the UK if you follow the correct process according to the law in France – so by extension, having the civil ceremony will ensure the marriage is legally recognised in both countries.
Josie & Robin's Story
Josie and Robin married at the Chateau du Raysse in May 2019. They went through the process outlined in Option 1 – having a very small civil ceremony in the UK before their ‘walk down the aisle’ wedding a week later.
“We had always wanted to get married in France and the Dordogne region is simply stunning and we fell in love with the area.
We viewed a few Chateaux nearby but Chateau du Raysse really stood out for us – the views, the castle and the surroundings are all absolutely beautiful.
It was also one of the only Chateaux in the area which could accommodate all our guests and had en-suite facilities, so from a practical point of view it was exactly what we wanted.
However, we knew that we couldn’t legally marry in France so we decided to go to our local registry office in the UK with my mum and fiancé’s grandmother as witnesses – it was still really special and then we had a lovely day out in the countryside afterwards.
“For our main ceremony in France, we had a fantastic celebrant who conducted the most beautiful ceremony under the Chateau’s tower.
All our family and friends were there and we were able to have the ceremony include our own wording as it didn’t need to follow a legal script – making it really unique and personal. We also had some lovely readings, including one from my best friend.
The celebrant presented us with a certificate at the end of the ceremony which was a great touch.
Doing things the way we did meant that we had the romantic ceremony I had always dreamed of but without any hassle of having a legal ceremony in France – it sounds like a cliché, but it was truly the best day of my life!”
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