If you are thinking about getting married in Paris probably the most sound advice we can give you is this – don’t. Being legally wed in Paris isn’t the bed of roses you are expecting it to be. Think less of a romantic ceremony held in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and more of wanting to throw yourself from the top of said tower. Not to be dramatic or anything but don’t do it!
The main hurdle for any foreign couple wanting a destination wedding in Paris is the paperwork hurricane, mainly the proof of residence. In order to be married in Paris you must prove that you have lived in the arrondissement where you are to be wed for 40 days before the ceremony. This can include the 10 days during which the banns are posted in the City Hall and the 10 days that it takes for the city council to process your documentation so in theory, you may only have to live in Paris for 20 days before you set the ball rolling on your application process. The problem is that proof or residence must come in the form of two documents – a gas, electricity or phone bill, a rent receipt and/or a receipt for residential insurance. And most of these documents will take a good bit longer than 20 days to receive.
The easier option is to have someone sign a form saying that you have been living with them for this period and taking responsibility for the fact. For would-be-weds with family or friends in Paris this is often an easy out, but without ties in the city it’s pretty tricky. If you’re caught out on a lie in this area there are some pretty hefty penalties written into the small print.
Wish you were here? Really?
Of course the formalities don’t end with proof of residence. You will also need a French social security card, passports and birth certificate for both parties, a certificate of celibacy for both parties stating that you are single (those that are divorced or widowed require final divorce papers or death certificates), a certificate de coutume filled out by the authorities in your home country that says you are legally permitted to wed there and photocopies of the passports of at least two witnesses who will attend your wedding. Your witnesses must be able to speak enough French that they will understand proceedings without a translator. All of your documents must be translated by an official, sworn French translator.
Then there is the very modern issue of a pre-nuptial agreement. If you want a pre-nup in France you have to get a certificate du notaire from a lawyer. Otherwise the rule is this: under French law all of the possessions and income you have acquired before your wedding remain yours and anything accrued after the event is considered shared.
Only once you have handed in the above mountain of paperwork to officials in your arrondissement’s mairie and only once it has all been rubber stamped will you get a date for your wedding. You can request a date and time beforehand but nothing will be confirmed until you have been approved. Every Parisian wedding must begin with a civil ceremony in the town hall. Symbolic and religious weddings are not recognised by the state so you must be wed in a rather un-romantic hall before you can walk down the aisle of that lovely old church, mosque or synagogue, although both ceremonies do not need to be held on the same day.
Sure they look happy now...
If you love the idea of having a religious or symbolic ceremony in Paris but the thought of the above makes your blood run cold, why not consider having a civil ceremony at home before heading to Paris for the ceremonial part of the process. This way you may be able to be married in the shadow of the Eiffel without wanting it to fall over and impale you. If you do it the other way around it is important to remember this – no matter what the priest, deacon or Elvis says you are not legally married until you head to a town hall somewhere and sign the forms. And they say romance is dead.
If you decide to get married in Paris one way or another once your papers are in order the city is your oyster! Exchange vows on a boat sailing down the Seine, in the corridors of a splendid palace, in a tiny church hidden among a maze of cobbled streets or anywhere else that tickles your fancy. Wedding planning is a new enough concept in Paris but one that has exploded in recent years. One planner that has received a lot of great press and who will have an insight into what you are going through (being that she is an American who married in France) is Kim Petyt.
For more information on getting married in France via French embassy pages click for UK citizens, US citizens, Canadian citizens, Irish citizens and Australian citizens.
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