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Can you get married in France if you don't live here?

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Can you get married in France if you don't live here?

France has a booming wedding industry and many of its beautiful and historic chateaux - including more than a few owned by foreigners - hire themselves out as the perfect romantic wedding venue. But what's the legal position around getting married in France as a non-resident?


Google 'French wedding chateau' and you'll get thousands of results, complete with romantic pictures of beautiful brides, handsome grooms and historic country houses, but not all of these 'weddings' are quite what they seem.

Getting married in France - as in any country - is a legal procedure as well as a romantic celebration and there are certain hoops to jump through in order to make sure that the wedding is a legally binding ceremony. These include an interview at the commune where you intend to marry, a lot of paperwork and publishing the bans at least 10 days in advance (unless there are exceptional circumstances).

READ ALSO What you need to know about getting married in France

There are also different rules depending on whether you are a French citizen, a French resident or a visitor who simply wants to hold your wedding here.


French resident or citizen

If one or both of the couple is a French citizen or has permanent residency in France, then you have the right to get married here. 

You need to make an appointment at the mairie and begin collecting the paperwork together - full details here.

There is one important caveat for foreigners - you must also be able to legally marry in your home country. This can be an issue for same-sex couples whose home country does not allow them to marry. 


If you do not have citizenship or residency, it may still be possible to marry here - you are required to have some kind of 'close link' to the commune in which you want to marry.

This is up to local authorities to decide upon, but common examples include the parents of one half of the couple living in the commune (whether they are French or not) while second-home owners may be able to demonstrate that they have a close link to the commune.

No link

If you and your family have no particular links to France, then you may not be able to legally marry here. Here are the options;

Just a party - the most common tactic for people who don't live here is to have their beautiful celebration at the chateau of their choice and then do the legal bit at another time.

In many ways this is the best of both worlds - you can still have a romantic ceremony and/or fabulous party with all your nearest and dearest in a beautiful setting, but you don't need to worry about filling in French paperwork and trying to follow a marriage ceremony that must, by law, be in French. You can then do the legal bit at the register office in the country where you live either before or after the ceremony.

Most wedding venue chateaux are perfectly upfront about the fact that the ceremony they're offering is not legally binding, and all responsible venue owners will make it clear to the couple that they will have to do the legal paperwork themselves. 

One-month residency - if you are determined to be legally married in France, you can do so by establishing residency here


At least one member of the couple must have "resided continuously for at least one month" in the commune in which you want to marry. There is no requirement to have a residency card, nor for your tax residency to be in France.

You will need to provide proof of your stay, but this can be in the form of a simple attestation (affidavit) from your host or host institution (eg a hotel) with the dates of your stay.

Once you have been in France for a month, you can then visit the mairie and begin the process - this is the same as for permanent residents and includes a file of paperwork and an interview with the registrar. 

The one-month residency must be before the bans are read, and the bans must be read a minimum of 10 days before the ceremony - so in total you must arrive in France six weeks before the ceremony date.

The wedding ceremony must be in French, but you can have a translator, and the registrar can do this themselves (if they speak English obviously).

The civil ceremony will probably have to be in the mairie (see below).

French overseas territories - if you don't have a spare month to establish residency in France, you can get married in some of France's overseas territories without this requirement.

The French overseas territories of;

  • Nouvelle-Calédonie
  • Polynésie française
  • Saint-Barthélémy
  • Saint-Martin
  • Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon
  • Wallis-et-Futuna

allow you to marry without residency. However other French overseas territories, such as the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Gaudeloupe, do not.


Consular wedding - in certain circumstances it may be possible for you to be married at the consulate of your home country in France, or in front of a consular official, but this depends on your home country's policy.

Most consulates offer this only in exceptional circumstances.


Even French residents and/or citizens usually cannot actually get married at the chateau, and this is because France is a secular country so only civil marriages are legally recognised. In order to make your marriage legally binding you will need to have a civil ceremony in a public building in the commune where you have registered your paperwork.

The 'public building' is usually the mairie, but can be a village hall or other community building and the ceremony is performed by a local official - usually the mayor or deputy mayor.

Once you have done the civil ceremony, you can then have either a religious wedding or a lakeside chateau ceremony or whatever else you want, but it's the mairie bit that makes the marriage legally binding.

(Just photos? Never mind not doing a legal wedding - some couples don't even have the party in France, they just bring their wedding outfits along on their honeymoon and pose for photos in front of French landmarks like the Eiffel Tower).


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