How to get married in France

It's a new year and many couples will have become engaged over the Christmas and New Year period and will now be thinking about where to get married.

France is a popular choice for a wedding abroad, so we asked Anne from wedding planning firm Fete in France the best way to have a ceremony in this romantic country.

Anne says "the legal bit can be a stumbling block for some people but it shouldn't discourage couples from getting married in France. The law basically stipulates that you need to civilly wed before you can have a religious ceremony. (Most French couples these days have a civil wedding at their local 'mairie' and then a few weeks or even months later they will have a religious ceremony with a traditional wedding reception.) If you are not a resident of France for at least 40 days prior to the wedding then you cannot have a legal wedding in France. Obviously, most couples coming from the UK fall into this latter category.

Here are a few options to work around the requirements:
Option 1 ) Have a civil ceremony in your hometown and then come to France for a religious or symbolic blessing ceremony.

In the past, I've even had couples who have decided to have a secret civil ceremony before they come to France to comply with the law and then they organize a church or symbolic blessing ceremony and party with friends and family. Many couples tend to feel that the ceremony they have in front of the people closest to them is the one that really counts. Brides have requested things like, "if my mother asks, tell her that the French ceremony is the real thing!" Whether couples decide to keep it a secret or not, that is entirely up to them but taking care of legal wedding requirements at home before coming to France is the most common method of working around the legal requirement for marriage in France.

Option 2) Have a legal wedding in the UK and then come to Paris on the same day for a wedding reception. If you really want to impress your guests, it is possible to get married in the morning in London and then take the Eurostar to Paris for a wedding reception that same afternoon/evening.

Option 3) Some couples do not have any specific religious beliefs or affiliations so they just want a nice, meaningful symbolic ceremony. Some English speaking celebrants here will perform symbolic ceremonies for couples here in France and then the couples make it official at their local city hall when they return to the UK. Alternatively, some couples ask a close family friend or relative to perform the symbolic ceremony in France and then the couple legalizes the marriage upon their return home."

So, for all those couples who are dreaming of a French wedding - it is possible, you just may have to arrange it in a different way to a wedding at home!

For more details of the ceremonies Anne can arrange please visit our France weddings page.


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