You will need to visit the Etat Civil at the mairie of the town in which you wish to be married so that a file in your names can be set up.
You do not have to make an appointment. Some mairie websites show peak and low waiting times for this service. Contact info and websites can be found at http://www.annuaire-mairie.fr (type in the name of your town in the “Rechercher” box).
The documents required may vary depending on the situation of each spouse, and the local mairie. When all documents required have been provided, a wedding date and time can then be set.
Documents to provide:
1/ A valid passport, French visa or French residence permit (carte de séjour).
2/ Long form birth certificate (extracte d’acte de naissance), fully translated into French by a sworn translator and issued within three months of your marriage date.
Most countries have government websites where you can order a copy of birth, death and marriage certificates online. However, it will need to be translated to French by a certified sworn translator recognised by the mairie where you are to wed. The mairie will provide you with a list of acceptable translators (this is NOT a list an Embassy or Consul provides).
3/ Notaire certificate if there is a “contrat de marriage” (prenup). A prenup is not required to file for marriage but if one exists, it must be produced at least eight days before the ceremony.
4/ Certificat de Celibat: an affidavit of marital status (issued within three months) is a certificate that states you’re not already married.
For North Americans, a notarised affidavit can be obtained by appointment from Consular Services. There is a fee for this service. Not all city halls accept this, in which case you need to contact a lawyer licensed to practice in both countries, ie Canada and France or the US and France.
This certificate does not exist under British law, so you need to obtain an official attestation from the consulate.
5/ Certificat de Coutume, an affidavit of law and customs is required by some mairies. This is a notarised statement by an attorney who is licensed to practice in both France and your home country. The Certificate de Coutume certifies that you are both free to marry and your marriage will be recognised also in your country of residence.
Some mairies will also accept a notarised affidavit (attestation tenant lieu de certificat de coutume) which can be obtained by appointment from Consular Services of local Embassy or Consulate. There is a fee for this service.
For citizens of most countries, your consulate in France will be able to help with issuing a Certificat de Celibat and a Certificat de Coutume. If you are a British citizen, try contacting the Foreign Commonwealth Office for further details.
6/ Proof of residence (justificatifs de domicile). You will need to produce two justicatifs: EDF bill, France Telecom, lease, house ownership, bank statement. One of the spouses should have an address in the town/village you wish to marry in, but there some mairies are flexibile.
7/ List of witnesses to the marriage. You need to have two official witnesses, but you may list others. You will need to provide photocopies of each their valid passport, French visa or French residence permit (carte de séjour), and they must fill out a form and sign it.
8/ NO medical examination. Since January 1 2007, medical visits are no longer necessary.
You must file at least one month before the scheduled date of the marriage ceremony. Confirmation from both parties is required eight days before. Once you have provided all of the above, you will then be given a stamped paper with your official time and date of the marriage. There is no fee to get married.
On the day of your marriage, you will be asked to arrive an hour before the ceremony and present yourself, with your witnesses, at the marriage office of the mairie. You will each need a piece of ID. The witnesses must be able to understand French, and will be asked during the service a question in which the must answer “oui”.
In extreme cases, a ceremony can be cancelled if it is deemed the witnesses do not speak and understand French, and therefore are not legally able to stand up for the bridge and groom.
Also at this time, you will also be asked if you will be exchanging “alliances” – wedding rings – and these you will need to give to the office, as they will place them in the room just before your ceremony. Same if you have a CD of music you would like played as you enter: indicate on paper which track number, and give it in at this time.
You will be called in to the room a few minutes before the service. The official performing the ceremony will ask the bride and groom to stand and very quickly ask you wish to marry the other person. Answer “oui.” And you are now husband and wife.
The witnesses are then asked to stand and they will sign after the bride and groom the registry.
Then official reads out a very official statement including the groom’s name, address, place of birth, former spouse names is now married to the bride’s name, address, place of birth, former spouse names. And that’s it. (Unless you have specified ahead of time that you prefer to say your own vows.)
At the end of the civil ceremony, you will be given a certificat de marriage which you would then need to present at your religious ceremony.
The marriage certificate is a "livret de famille", the official document used to record all events such as births, deaths, divorce or name changes within your married family.
You may also obtain a marriage certificate (extrait d’acte de marriage) by going in person or writing to the mairie where the marriage took place. You will need to provide the time and place of the marriage, and full names of both spouses. There is no cost for this service by if it to be sent to you by post, you need to provide a self-addressed envelop with the correct postage.