Find here the most frequent questions our couples ask before start working on their ceremonies. Please make sure you read this page carefully and don’t hesitate to reach back to us if anything.
Getting Married in France – The legalities in detail
A Symbolic Wedding is the easy way to celebrate your dream wedding in France.
France is one of the most difficult countries in the world for foreigners to marry legally. You need to be able to show proof of residency for 40 days in the village/city where you want the legal ceremony to take place. A significant number of legal documents are needed and they all have to be translated into French. France is a secular country and you can only be legally married by a Mayor in a Town Hall (if you can find one to agree!) and no other location or form of religious or humanistic wedding is recognised by the French Government.
Every year thousands of couples from around the world make their French wedding dreams come true. They keep things simple and inexpensive by signing the paperwork in a small civil/legal ceremony in their home country ‘in secret’ and save their exchange of rings and wedding vows for their symbolic dream wedding in France. Couples often say what little difference it makes to the sense of occasion that the signing of paperwork and the wedding were held separately.
Benefits of a Symbolic Wedding
Being legally married under the law of your own country (which has many significant advantages) and then holding a “Symbolic Wedding” in France gives you the freedom and flexibility to exchange your wedding vows how and where it suits you.
Renewal of Vows
As you are already married there are no legal issues relating to renewing your vows in France.
In case you are wondering, humanism is not a religion, it’s an old philosophy that represents the views of hundreds of millions of people world wide. Being a humanist simply means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead. Humanists believe we can live good and worthwhile lives guided by reason and compassion, rather than religion or superstition, and that there are more things that unite humanity than divide it.
It’s a movement that provides professional officiants (Celebrants). A celebrant creates and officiate at weddings, funerals, and other life ceremonies for people who do not want or cannot have a traditional religious ceremony. Celebrancy began in Australia in the early 1970s. Presently there are more than 3000 Celebrants worldwide, who have presided over one million ceremonies in the last forty years.
No, you can only have a religious blessing. A civil marriage is mandatory in France. Religious and non-religious ceremonies (which are optional) are not legally binding in any way.
Yes, But since the separation of church and state in 1905, you are only legally married if the wedding is performed by the mayor (“maire”) or his authorized replacement at the mairie (town hall) of your place of residence. It is mandatory that at least one of the couple has a long term visa and has proof of residence of over 6 months, and the wedding must take place in the commune of residence. You must also provide a number of documents (Passport, Certificat de Celibat, Certificat de Coutume, Medical Certificate, Proof of Domicile, and if you are planning to have one, a Prenuptial agreement) – All of the above documents must be translated into French by one of the approved “official” translators, a list of which is available at your mairie. French law also requires the posting of marriage banns at the appropriate mairie no less than ten (10) days preceding the date of marriage. If a French legal/civil wedding is to take place, any additional religious blessing can 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. Unless one of you are a French citizen, or you are French residents, take a serious look at the simple option of having a civil ceremony in your own country and have your fairy-tale wedding blessing in France.
A professional who writes you a tailor-made ceremony script for weddings, elopements or renewal of vows and then officiates your ceremony on-the-day (It is a custom alternative to church service or humanist ceremony). You will work one-to-one with an experienced Independent Celebrant who is creative, caring and registered to work in France.
Yes, but without your celebrant; Once the ceremony creation process is complete you will have a comprehensive ceremony script and working Order of Ceremony. The purpose of a rehearsal is not to repeat the whole ceremony, but to practice the logistics of entrance and exit and know when the music should start and finish. There are occasions where couples have a very large or technically complex ceremony and request the celebrant to lead the rehearsal, but this is normally by special request and incurs additional costs.
Not necessary, but of course we can; We have been working for many years using a combination of telephone, email and Skype video calls. Our way of working is very personal, highly effective and seems to suit our busy couples who are often located all over the globe (in different time zones). However, if you are travelling to France we are always happy to meet you in person in Paris, Aubeterre-sur-Dronne or Toulouse depending on where your celebrant lives.
With larger ceremonies celebrants always use a robust high quality PA system whether we are indoors or outdoors, as we know how frustrating it can be for a guest who cannot hear the ceremony. There is also a hand held mic for your readers.
Yes; But our experience suggests that if the song is not extremely well known, you provide song sheets and someone with a strong voice leads – it will not turn out as well as you may expect (If in doubt don’t).
Absolutely; Although we draft the ceremony, it is a cooperative venture combining your ideas with our knowledge and experience. Together we create a unique ceremony that reflects your personal values and tastes, includes appropriate traditions, and is designed specifically for your selected location. We go through as many drafts as it takes to get to your perfect ceremony.
Yes; If you want to include a religious reading we are normally happy to accommodate, however such texts are normally read by your guests.
Great idea; We have many suggestions for including children depending on their age. We also have experience of including children where two families are being blended together.
Yes, of course you can; We offer guidelines to help you write down the promises you have locked away in your heart. If your still finding it hard, we give you examples, and just let us know if you need more help to craft your vows. Many of our couples keep their vows secret from each other until their wedding day – this makes the moment very romantic and special.
No – We are celebrants who have a master of ceremonies role similar to a the minister, priest, pastor or rabbi (without the religion). We help you create a unique wedding ceremony and officiate it on the day. We manage the process from the bridal party walking up the aisle to the married couple walking down the aisle.
We are not involved in the printing of orders of service, playing of ceremony music or the set-up of chairs, music or flowers etc.. The general planning and logistics of your whole wedding day is the job of a “Wedding Planner” or yourself.
As early as possible; As soon as you have an idea of your wedding date check our availability before you book a venue. We have 7 experienced celebrants, but some prime weekend dates can be booked up to 2 years in advance. Weekday weddings are usually easier to schedule at short notice. Dates are only confirmed only when you have paid a booking deposit.
It can be very traditional or as creative as you like (within reason!).
There are no restrictions on the time of day or where you can hold your ceremony (Subject to venues and local by laws).
We perform outdoor weddings in public parks, homes, gardens and beaches or indoors in hotels, châteaux, homes or even national monuments.
You can include religious or spiritual prose alongside modern day readings, hymns and popular songs, or live music.
Friends, relatives, your children, or even your pets may also take part in your ceremony.
No; We are completely independent celebrants and thus able to blend a number of different ideas (religious, secular, modern or traditional) into our scripts, without imposing our own views, creating the content and wording that reflects you. Many of our couples have had a religious background or upbringing but don’t wish to marry in a church or synagogue. We can still incorporate symbolic rituals from your heritage (like breaking the glass, lighting candles, seven blessings).
We are having a legal ceremony in our own country, but want our “real” wedding to be more emotionally satisfying and have the chance to make meaningful and personal vows to each other in a beautiful setting, with all of our family and friends present.
Yes. – Every year a growing number of couples from around the world take this modern approach. A short civil ceremony in their own country to meet local legal requirements, and then their dream wedding set in a beautiful location in France with a tailor-made ‘Symbolic’ ceremony tailored to their exact requirements. (It is recommend that couples consider this as their main option, as it removes all of the legal and administrative complications of the French system).
If you want a destination wedding in France the easy solution is to get legally married in your home country and then have a ‘Symbolic Ceremony’ in France (or do the symbolic ceremony first and then get legally married at home). This way you don’t have to worry about paperwork and can have exchange your wedding vows how, when and where it suits you.
To legally marry in France one of you needs to have a residential visa with proof of local address dating back to at least 6 months. A number of legal and medical documents are needed and you can only be married by a Mayor in a Town Hall. No other location or form of religious or humanistic wedding is recognised by the French Government. French couples often marry at the Town Hall then go on to a church, synagogue or venue of their choice to have a meaningful symbolic ceremony.