The Civil Ceremony

Understand the legal process of getting married in France...

The marriage ceremony takes place at the town hall and is conducted by the mayor (or their adjunct) in the presence of at least two and at most four adult witnesses. A translator may attend.

The marrying couple select their witnesses in advance. Witnesses may be of any nationality; however, they must:

  • be present on the day
  • have proof of identification
  • be at least 18 years old

At some town halls, officials may require that the witnesses have a sufficient grasp of French such that they are able to understand the French-language proceedings without the aid of a translator. If the officials feel a witnesses French is inadequate, this witness will not be allowed to perform the duty and the mayor may refuse to perform the marriage.

Depending on the facilitates available in the particular town hall, a full wedding party can attend the event which normally lasts less than half an hour and ends with applause from the guests. At this point photographs may be taken and confetti or rose petals thrown over the newlyweds outside the town hall.

The wedding certificate issued after this ceremony is required for any subsequent religious service. The religious service need not take place the on the same day.

The livret de famille is an official document issued after the ceremony. It is a record of the marriage and will include subsequent events including births, deaths, divorce or name changes. It is possible to obtain a marriage certificate (extrait d'acte de marriage) by writing to the mairie where the marriage took place (indicate the date and place of the marriage and the full names (including maiden name) of the two parties).

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