Wedding in Paris

Foreigners Marrying in France

France has specific laws concerning marriage. These must be followed by both French citizens and foreign nationals. A marriage in France is recognised as valid in most other countries. French law only recognises civil marriage. This must be performed by a French Civil Authority (officier de l'état civil), which includes the mayor (maire), their legally authorised replacement - the deputy mayor (adjoint) - or a city councillor (conseiller municipal). Religious ceremonies are optional, have no legal status and may only be held after the civil ceremony has taken place (which can, but need not be, on the same day.)

How to Get Married in France

One of the couple getting married must have been resident in a commune in France for a minimum of 40 consecutive days prior to the civil marriage. The civil marriage must take place in that commune. If both parties have been resident for over 30 days in different communes (40 days less 10 day period for publication of Banns), the application for the civil marriage may be made to the mairie (Town Hall) of either commune.The mairie should provide an explanatory brochure (in French) about the documents and certificates to be provided. Only original documents or authenticated photocopies will be accepted. Documents not in French should be translated by a sworn translator (traducteur assermenté). (Names of sworn translators are available from the mairie or local police station).French law requires the publication of Banns at the mairie of the commune of residence 10 days prior to the civil marriage. Certain documents must be received and approved by the mairie before Banns may be posted. A mairie may require a complete marriage file 10 or more days prior to the publication of Banns. Confirm these requirements.A religious ceremony may only be performed after the civil ceremony. The minister, priest or rabbi will require the certificate of civil marriage (certificat de célébration civile) as proof that the civil ceremony has taken place.

Documentation required by both parties

These documents will probably be required (do confirm the full list with the mairie):

  • Valid passport or carte de séjour
  • Acte de Naissance Intégral: Unabridged birth certificate less than 3 months old supplied by a bureau of records, not a hospital
  • Justificatifs de domicile: Proof of address supplied by the resident of the commune. Ideally provide two documents proving residence in the commune, for example an EDF bill, telephone account, rent receipt or residential insurance documents

Foreign partners may be expected to present the following

  • Certificat de Coutume: an Affidavit of Law which should be prepared by a legal professional licenced to practice in France and the national's country. However, an "Attestation" in lieu of a "certificat de coutume" issued by the Embassy in France may be acceptable. 
    The Certificat de Coutume and Affidavit of Marital Status statements concern marriage laws in the foreigner's home country and are required to certify that the party may, under law of their country, be married. 
    Both documents may be available from the national's Embassy in France. The documents must be in French. 
  • Certificat de Célibat: A certificate of single-status (or attestation tenant lieu de declaration en vue de mariage ou de non-remariage) less than 3 months old.

Legal documents not in French must usually be translated by a sworn translator and have an official seal, the Certificate of Apostille of the Hague.

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial (or pre-marital) agreement (the contrat de marriage) stipulates the terms of the marriage (régime matrimonial). If this is desired it must be drawn up by a notary public before the wedding; if a wedding proceeds with no prenuptial agreement the couple is automatically married in community of property (communauté de biens réduite aux acquêts). This means that items each party owns personally before the marriage and whatever comes to them afterwards through inheritance remains their property. That which is acquired during the marriage is owned equally by both parties.The two most common marital regimes are: being married out of community of property (séparation de biens) and a combination of separation and joint ownership (participation aux acquêts). A notary will advise. If there is a marital contract, the notary provides a Certificat du notaire or Attestation du notaire which confirms its existence. This certificate must have been drawn up no more than two months prior to the marriage and is submitted to the mairie along with the other documents.

Previous marriages

If either of the couple has been divorced or widowed they should supply proof in the form of an Acte de mariage (certified copy of the final divorce decree) or an Acte de décès (in the case of widowhood)


A child born prior to the marriage may be legitimised. The town hall must be notified and a copy of the birth certificate provided (in particular indicating the fact of recognition).

Help preparing documents

The national Embassy of foreigners marrying in France can assist with the preparation of certain documents (for a fee).

The Civil Ceremony

The marriage ceremony takes place at the town hall and is conducted by the mayor (or their adjunct) in the presence of at least two and at most four adult witnesses. A translator may attend.The marrying couple select their witnesses in advance. Witnesses may be of any nationality, however they must:

  • be present on the day
  • have proof of identification 
  • have a sufficient grasp of French such that they are able to understand the French-language proceedings without the aid of a translator. If the officials feel a witnesses French is inadequate, this witness will not be allowed to perform the duty and the mayor may refuse to perform the marriage 

Depending on the facilitates available in the particular town hall, a full wedding party can attend the event which normally lasts less than half an hour and ends with applause from the guests. At this point photographs may be taken and confetti or rose petals thrown over the newlyweds outside the town hall. The wedding certificate issued after this ceremony is required for any subsequent religious service. The religious service need not take place on the same day. The livret de famille is an official document issued after the ceremony. It is a record of the marriage and will include subsequent events including births, deaths, divorce or name changes. It is possible to obtain a marriage certificate (extrait d'acte de marriage) by writing to the mairie where the marriage took place (indicate the date and place of the marriage and the full names (including maiden name) of the two parties).