As many of you already know, just before the holidays, my lovely and wonderful boyfriend of 9 ½ years asked me to marry him. Knowing how complicated the average administrative feat is in this lovely country we live in, I have decided to share my experiences in wedding planning with you throughout the next six months of our engagement.
If you are planning a wedding in Paris, one of the first things you need to arrange is the civil ceremony. Why you ask? While dress shopping and choosing flower arrangements are definitely much more fun, you civil ceremony at the Mairie takes a great deal of time and organization and, in France, it is the only legally binding ceremony you have.
The ceremony must take place in the city hall, or Mairie, of the district in which you live. The ceremony is conducted in French (you may have a translator present) by a French Civil Authority (officier de l’état civil). Religious ceremonies are option and are not legal binding in France. They may only be held after the civil ceremony has taken place. Many couples choose to have the civil ceremony in the morning and the religious ceremony that same afternoon.
As you can imagine, there are piles of paperwork to organize so here are our steps to follow to register and arrange for your civil wedding at the Mairie:
Take a trip to the Mairie of your arrondissement, no appointment necessary, and ask for the list of documents that you need and any additional information on getting married. They will provide you with a folder and all of the necessary information needed.
Based on this list you will start to gather the documents needed. You will be asked to provide the originals of all of these documents. Photocopies can either be made by you or at the Mairie. Here is what is needed:
- 2 filled our forms by each person with their family details and contact information
- 2 different proofs of residency in both names or 2 for each person showing that you live in the arrondissement of the Mairie. This could be tax documents, EDF bills, or rent paystubs.
- Copies of both of your birth certificates. If you are a French citizen, the birth certificate has to be dated less than 3 months before the date you apply (yes, you will need another one for your wedding day). If you are a foreigner, you will need your birth certificate to be dated less than 6 months form the application and the marriage date. This will also need the apostille stamp from the original country of birth and will need to be translated by a certified translator into French.
- If you are a foreigner, you will also need two documents delivered by your embassy here in Paris:
Certificat de Coutume that states that you are legally allowed to marry in your country of origin and that your French marriage will be valid in your country of origin.
Certificad de Célibat, which states that you have the right to marry, and that you are not married already in your country of origin.
- Passport or government-issued photo ID
- List and copies of identification for your witnesses. See #3.
You are required to have at least two and no more than four witnesses to be present at your wedding. These witnesses may be of any nationality but they will need to speak enough French so that they will be able to understand the civil authority of the ceremony. These witnesses are chosen in advance and copies of their identification are handed in with your dossier at the marriage application.
Depot de Dossier
Once you have all of your documents in order, both you and your significant other must present it to the Mairie. They will accept your dossier and write in an option for your preferred date of marriage. The file will be signed off by a judge and they will get back to you confirming the date and time of your wedding.
Your Civil Wedding
Depending on the Mairie, the entire wedding party may be admitted to watch the ceremony that will last less than a half an hour. Guests will applaud and generally confetti or rose petals will be thrown over the newlyweds.
Livret de Famille
Once married, you will be provided with a livret de famille which is an offivial record of the marriage and will also include subsequent events including births, deaths, divorce or name changes.
As I am sure you can gather, we are not all the way through this list yet but we are on our way. Any tips from Parisian wedding veterans are welcome!
For couples who live outside of France that are looking into getting married in the City of Lights, I recommend that you read my friend and wedding planner extraordinaire, Kim Petyt’s blog post about getting married in France.