I’ll admit, even I was skeptical about my decision to follow my French boyfriend across an ocean and move to Paris. Seems like a wild idea, and definitely out of my comfort zone.
It was really only a few months ago, but it already feels like an age. Since October, I have walked by the Eiffel Tower enough times to hardly notice it, visited Deauville just a quick train ride away, and eaten more types of cheese than I can name. That’s not to mention hopping over to Belgium and Austria for weekends, experiencing Paris through the November 13th attacks, and watching the city bounce back to its gorgeous self at Christmastime. I learned a lot about myself and others, and oh yeah… I got engaged!
That’s right, the giant leap paid off and my boyfriend is now my fiancé! It’s an exciting time, and I am so thrilled that I get to spend my life with this fantastic man. After just three months in France, I feel like my story is just getting started. There’s no way I want to limit myself to one country or the other – I want both! So my Frenchman and I are getting married in France.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. As with all things French, there are a lot of hoops to jump through before you get to walk down that aisle.
So you want to get married in France? Here are some tips I’ve learned to help you plan your marital bliss on the big day.
Step 1: Fall in love with a French person. If you ask me, this part isn’t so hard (but then again, I’m biased). This step is really critical, not just because then you have a person to marry, but because everything else you have to go through will not seem worth it without a wonderful partner. You’ll need the support, a dedicated translator, and the reminder of why it’ll all be worth it in the end!
Step 2: Do your research. My Frenchman and I have collectively spent hours and hours researching how to get married, from government websites to personal blogs of those who’ve done it (and lived to tell the tale.) Make lists of all the papers, certificates, and copies you’ll need for all steps of the process, from filing your dossier at your local city hall called the Mairie, to visa paperwork. The more prepared you are before you start, the better off you’ll be. And with all that research under your belt, you’ll have better expectations of the process, the timeline, and what you need to accomplish when. However, you should still be prepared for none of it to go as planned.
Step 3: Visit the Mairie. No matter what information you’ve found online, you absolutely must go to your local Mairie (city hall) in your district or town, where you reside and plan to marry. France has not totally kept up with the digital age, and therefore in-person visits are going to become your new favorite hobby, acquiring paperwork, asking questions, and solving problems. So far, I (or my fiancé) have gone to the Mairie upwards of a dozen times in just the past two months to get information, request official documents, try again when things went wrong the first attempt, submit our dossier, and appear for interviews.
You’ll also need to make contact with translators, notaries, and make appearances at your home country’s embassy in France as well as the French Consulate nearest your home state.
Step 4: Gather documents for your visa. If you’re already legally residing in France (or the EU), count yourself lucky. If you’re like me, you need to apply for a long stay visa (a fiancé visa with residence permit if your consulate offers it!) in order to enter the country to get married. I started all of this paperwork gathering at the same time as we started our dossier for the Mairie. However, you won’t actually be able to submit your application and schedule your visa appointment until your dossier has been accepted by the Mairie and you’ve passed your interviews. Once all that is complete, they’ll issue the Publication des Bans (marriage bans), of which you need a copy for your visa application.
Step 5: The fun part! Finally, after all of that paperwork, you get to the good stuff: planning your wedding! I can only guess that this is where it gets good, as I myself have not quite made it to this stage yet. But, here’s what I do know: legally, everyone must get married at the Mairie. Once they have accepted your dossier, you will confirm a date with the city hall based on their (and your) availability. Even if you plan to have a lovely church wedding, you will first be married officially at your city hall. So keep that in mind when you start fantasizing about your ceremony under the Tour Eiffel!
As for me and my Frenchman, we’re sticking with the short-and-sweet civil ceremony at our nearby Mairie in Paris’ 15eme arrondissement. From there, we’ll head to an undoubtedly delicious meal at a nearby restaurant with a select few of our close family and friends (and maybe a photo-op in front of the Iron Lady herself, if we’re lucky!)
Take it from someone in the middle of it all: don’t rush it. There are many moving pieces to trying to get married in France, so the last thing you need is to put more pressure on yourself to get it done sooner rather than later. Take the paperwork seriously, of course, and stay on top of your progress, but don’t stress about a deadline.
In France, bureaucracy happens when it happens. There’s no use getting upset. Just sit back, grab a glass of French wine and let it remind you why you’re dealing with it all in the first place — you’re getting married in France!