Marriage law and custom changes from country to country, the requirements are not even the same between England/Wales and Scotland. So how do things compare between the UK and France? First of all ONLY civil marriages are legal in France and if the couple want a religious ceremony as well it has to take place after the civil service. Whilst a registrar can conduct marriages in the UK, in France it is the Maire (Mayor) who is authorised or his (or her) appointed officials such as the Vice Mayor. In France one of the two people marrying at least must have resided for 40 days in the area where the marriage is to take place. This is the rule publicised on the internet however, my fiancé has since told me that this rule can be waived if you ask the permission of the Maire who's district you do live in. For example we intend to ask the permission of the Maire of Obernai to get married in the district of Souffelweyersheim. In England and Wales the residency rules are different in that you both must have resided for at least 7 days in England and Wales before giving notice to your local registrar of your forth coming marriage. You both have to go in person and if you are planning to hold your marriage in a different district you need to contact the respective registrar before hand as well. Notice may be given up to one year before but no later than 15 days before the wedding. If you choose a religious wedding (Church of England or Wales) then notice is not normally required. In France the equivalent of giving notice is the publication of Banns which is required 10 days before the wedding.
Scotland allows more freedom in the where and when of your marriage. If you wanted to get married in a castle, on a beach or by a park bench then you can. So long as there is a legal officiant and two witnesses the marriage is legal. You can also get married at any time of day in Scotland, whereas in England and Wales it must be between the hours of 8am and 6pm. Whilst in England and Wales a couple can get married at other locations than a church or registry office there are limits. The hotel, restaurant or stately home must have a licence for civil ceremonies in the specific room you wish to marry. If you wish to marry outdoors it has to be under a licensed fixed structure such as a gazebo. If you have a special place in mind such as your back garden then you can apply for and pay for (through the nose I might add) a one day licence for a specific venue, but this is subject to approval.
In France a couple can hold a ceremony outdoors, in a hotel or anywhere they like either before or after the civil ceremony at the town hall (Mairie). This extra ceremony will have sentimental significance only however, as in France only the Maire can marry you in the eyes of the law.
At some point (I'm not sure exactly when – more information will follow) you must provide certain pieces of paperwork to the Maire. Some will only ask for some of the following, so make sure you contact the Maire well in advance to give yourself time to prepare all the relevant information.
- A Full birth certificate (each).
- A certificate for publication to show no opposition to the marriage (together).
- A certificate of 'celibacy' to prove you are legally free to marry (each).
- Support of your residency in France (each).
- A certificate of notice of the marriage (together).
- A declaration of getting married abroad (together – this is if you're French going to another country).
- List of four witnesses (2 each) and a full birth certificate for each.
- Identification – passport, national identity card (each).
- A dispensation certificate from the Attorney of the Republic (each this is for minors marrying).
- A full birth certificate for each child either partner already has.
- Death certificate if previous spouse has died (as necessary).
- Divorce certificate if divorced from previous spouse (as necessary).
- For people of non-French nationality the following maybe required:a. Full birth certificate with full translation.b. Certificate of no impediment from the consulate or embassy.c. Custom certificate from the consulate or embassy.
My fiancé and I for example have been asked to provide No. 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 13b, neither of us having been married before or have any children, the matter is somewhat simplified. The process of getting married in any country has become a laborious one with many rings to jump through. So long as you get the rings you want on your fingers however, I'm sure the effort will be worth it. If anyone would like details of the paperwork titles in French please don't hesitate to comment.