A guide to the French residence permit, covering who can apply, how to apply, how it works and costs.
France is one of the most popular destinations for couples to exchange their vows and celebrate their love. From the picturesque countryside to the charming cities, there is an abundance of spots to choose from. However, getting married in France is not as simple as showing up and saying "I do". Especially since Brexit, there have been some changes for UK nationals that wish to tie the knot here.
If you're considering getting married in France, it's important to start planning well in advance to make sure everything goes smoothly on your big day. In this article, we'll take a comprehensive look at the legal requirements involved in the whole process, including the necessary paperwork and documentation. We'll also provide you with some tips and advice to help you plan everything out, as well as some French wedding traditions you might find interesting.
So, whether you're a bride or groom, planning a grand chateau wedding or an intimate ceremony, this guide will provide you with all the essential information you need to make your French wedding a reality.
A civil wedding ceremony is the only legally binding type of ceremony in France. It has to take place in a town hall (mairie). So, having an official civil wedding at another venue won’t be possible. The ceremony is done by the mayor or a deputy.
If you wish to get married in a French church or another religious object, you must go through the civil wedding first. You can then have a religious ceremony with your friends and family somewhere else. The civil wedding can be done either in your home country or in France. Either way, your marriage certificate will be checked before setting the church wedding date.
If you want your wedding set in a French catholic church, know that you’ll be expected to go through some preparations. This is usually done in the form of wedding preparation classes with the priest.
In the past 20 years, the number of marriages in France has been in constant decrease. The only exception is 2022, with 244,000 marriages. This is a trend occurring in many European countries, so France is no exception.
However, this doesn’t mean French people don’t have families. Instead, they have children, but over 60% of them are born outside marriage.⁴
On the other hand, the preferred union seems to be civil partnership. Just like marriage, this is available to both same-sex and opposite-sex partners.
Before tying the knot, make sure you know you’re meeting all the conditions. You should still check for possible changes in the procedure when you start planning.
The legal age of marriage in France is 18. Minors can only get married if they have the permission of one of their parents at minimum. Of course, there is no upper limit when it comes to age.
Those who are single or live in a Pacs union (more on that below) have the right to get married. You can even be in a civil partnership with someone other than your future spouse, because marriage immediately ends civil partnerships. Non-French nationals have to provide a certificate of celibacy to prove they’re single. If you’re already married, you must terminate your existing marriage before entering a second one. Even if you’re in the process of divorce, you still must wait for it to be done.
Marriage between relatives is not allowed. This also includes the immediate family of your spouse or ex-spouse, such as their parents and children.
Only parties that consent to the marriage can be part of one. If this is not the case, the public prosecutor or one of the spouses can cancel the marriage.
If you’re a foreigner, you can get married in France once you’ve resided there for at least a month. At least one of the spouses should have a bond with France, such as a home or other residence.
In order to get married in France, you should build a dossier, or a marriage record. It should contain all the documents needed for marriage and those required for foreigners. You will then bring it to the town hall in which your ceremony will take place.
You should start with recent birth certificates from both future spouses, not older than 3 months. If your birth certificate is not French, it can be up to 6 months old.
Then, make sure both of you have IDs, original and copy, as well as proof of residence. This can be a utility bill, tax notice or something of that sort.
You’ll have to go through a short interview with the registrar. They have the right to interview you individually as well, but that’s not obligatory. A translator can be present if one of the spouses doesn’t understand French.
Your witnesses (at least two) should provide a copy of their IDs, as well as a form with some personal information. This includes their occupation, date and place of birth and address of residence.⁶
France introduced same-sex marriages in 2013 and only one year later their number reached 10,000. Since then, an average of 6,000 - 7,000 same-sex weddings happen each year in this country.
Pacte Civil de Solidarité, or Pacs in short, is a civil partnership between two French nationals or one French citizen and one foreigner. It’s not as strict as traditional marriage is, but there are some similarities between them. It’s made for people who want to be recognized as partners, without additional legal binds.
Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples can get a Pacs. In fact, this civil partnership was first aimed at same-sex couples only, but has opened to everyone in 2013. The documents required for Pacs are similar to those needed for marriage, but make sure you check for some possible changes.
Unlike married couples, Pacs couples can’t inherit, adopt children or change their last names. Also, know that Pacs is not recognized everywhere, unlike marriage. It’s possible that you and your partner enter Pacs in France, but are still considered single somewhere else.
The Pacs ceremony is also performed in the town hall, like the regular civil wedding. It’s good to know that this exists, although it’s not marriage in the eyes of the law.
When it comes to wedding costs, most things depend on your preference and spending habits. Also, a small gathering can’t compare to the cost of a big lavish wedding. If you want a bigger or more luxurious wedding, we certainly recommend hiring a professional to help you deal with everything.
Here are some things you should book in time, as well as the estimated costs of a fancy wedding:
The cost of your French wedding will depend largely on the location and size of the venue. Some people choose the French countryside or some of the large cities, while many opt for the French riviera. The price of renting a chateau in the South of France can reach €50,000
Again, this is only the location of the reception, since the official wedding has to be held in the town hall.
If you want to splurge and spoil your guests with some top-tier food, catering will be a big part of your budget. For example, some estimates are around €11,000 for 100 guests. However, this includes luxury food, kitchen and floor staff, all cutlery and linens, as well as tables and chairs.
Finding this too expensive? Just know that catering is 30% - 40% of your budget on average, and do the math yourself.¹¹ Those who choose a very intimate ceremony can simply book a reservation in a restaurant. France is known for its incredible food, so you can’t go wrong.
The religious wedding doesn’t come without a cost. You’ll most likely want to decorate the ceremony venue. It’s also sometimes customary to get a special gift for the officiant. This completely depends on your preference. Along with some miscellaneous costs, you can expect at least €160 altogether.
In case you want to incorporate some French wedding customs into your ceremony, here are some suggestions:
- Wedding procession: according to French tradition, the groom should pick up the bride from her home on their wedding day. The bride then leads the procession with her father and cuts white ribbons along the way, as a symbol of solving potential future problems easily.
- Dragée: the French give their guests 5 sugar coated almonds. These symbolise health, longevity, wealth, happiness and fertility.
- Croquembouche: instead of a big wedding cake, French couples have a pyramid of vanilla-filled pastry puffs. This tradition dates to the middle ages, when each guest would bring a small dessert to the wedding.
- Sabrage: this is only for the brave and extravagant ones. It involves opening a celebratory bottle of champagne with a sabre. If you’re not confident with a sharp object, you can make a well-known champagne pyramid.
Additionally, you might want to learn some French words or phrases to use on your wedding day.
A wedding ring is called une alliance, while the bride and groom are called la mariée and le marié. After the wedding, you might want to attend le vin d’honneur (cocktail hour) and le repas de noces (wedding dinner). Finally, you might hear everyone saying Félicitations! as you head to your lune de miel (honeymoon).
If you’re a citizen of the UK, all rules we listed above that apply to other foreigners are the same for you. One option that some couples choose is doing the civil ceremony in the UK and throwing a celebration in France. This might be a good option for you if you don’t need to get married in France for legal reasons. It will certainly save you time and money
If you still choose to do everything in France, you don’t need to worry about your marriage being invalid in the UK. As long as you comply with all French legal procedures, your marriage will be recognized by the UK institutions as well.
Since you’re already splurging on your big day, make sure you don't also lose money to unfair bank fees or marked up exchange rates. Instead, open a Wise multi-currency account online and receive money in the local currency for free (except USD wire payments which cost 4.14 USD).¹⁴ Besides that, you can manage 50+ currencies at once in your account and enjoy quick and safe transfers.
Also, the Wise international debit card will help you enjoy your wedding planning and ceremony without thinking about extra expenses. It automatically converts currency at the best rate the moment you spend, with just a tiny conversion fee.
There are no monthly fees to worry about with Wise, and it’s also fast and free to sign up online. Get started here. Bonne chance!
Sources used for this article:
- Weddings Abroad Guide - legal requirements for getting married in France
- Château de Bois Rigaud - how to get married in France: a complete guide for foreigners
- Statista - total number of marriages in France from 2000 to 2022
- Eurostat - marriage and divorce statistics
- Service-public.fr - marriage in France
- Service-public.fr - marriage witnesses: what are the rules?
- Statista - number of same-sex marriages in France
- The Connexion - how to get a Pacs in France and how is it different to marriage
- Château de Bois Rigaud - how much are wedding venues in France?
- Lion Stone Events - planning a wedding in France: a guide
- Mariee - calculate your wedding budget
- French Bedroom Company - 10 French wedding traditions
- Château du Raysse - marrying in France: a guide for UK citizens
- Wise - receive money pricing
Sources checked on 09-Mar-2023.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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