Friday, 8 May 2015

Putting Together a French Marriage Application

This is going to be a bit of a boring post for anyone who's not looking to get married in France any time soon, but just in case anyone is, I'm putting it out there. When we were putting together our application, I actually found that the information provided by the mairie was very clear, but my own ignorance/incompetence slowed down a few stages in the process, so maybe you can learn from my experience.

We collected our application file from the mairie in person, which was worthwhile, because the section for foreigners has a few things that you don't necessarily need, and the man we spoke to told us what they were. There are three forms to fill in: personal information for each of you, plus details about the witnesses. You also have to provide proof of address (1 document each), which can be an income tax invoice or an EDF bill, a copy of your passport or ID, and copies of the witnesses' ID. French people also have to supply an up-to-date birth certificate (ie issued less than 3 months ago).

As a side note, British people find the idea that a birth certificate can be out-of-date hilarious, but in France,  marriage and PACS are added to your birth records, so the information can actually change and the certificate proves that you're not trying to commit bigamy. What I found much more amusing was that while my certificate copy is printed on thick official paper with an embossed stamp, Understanding Frenchman's resembles an extra-long dry cleaning ticket which could easily have been forged in someone's living room.

Being Scottish, I had to order an official copy of my birth certificate from the registry office in Edinburgh. You can do this over the phone, it costs £15 and takes about a week to arrive. The copy has a date of issue on it, which solves the problem of the original certificate never going out of date. I then sent the copy to the British Embassy in Paris and they used it to supply me with a Certificat de Coutume, a highly expensive (98€) and to me somewhat unnecessary document which basically says that UK law allows me to get married without my parents' consent and that it won't cause me to lose my British nationality.

After that, I sent the official copy of my birth certificate back to the UK for an apostille. This is an extra document which is attached to the certificate and confirms that the signature is genuine. So for £42, a UK civil servant signed a piece of paper which says that another piece of paper signed by a UK civil servant is not a forgery. (I guess it keeps unemployment down.) I found this part confusing, because I thought an apostille was a stamp which could be added after translation, but in fact it's another document which needs to be translated at the same time as the certificate.

Finding a certified translator was reasonably easy, but finding the time to take the document to an office in Paris when I work office hours in the suburbs and then spend an hour on the RER held me up a bit, followed by the above confusion over the apostille, but when I finally got the whole lot back from the translator (66€ this time), we were good to go.

Until, that is, I looked at the information from the mairie again and realised that you have to make an appointment to hand in the dossier. But this post is getting long, so the story of our encounter with the administrative gatekeeper with a heart of gold will have to wait for another day.


  1. I'm shocked to see how tedious it is.

    (Sarcasm. French wit.)

    French like to make simple things complicated... Getting a marriage license in Ontario was super easy.

    1. To be fair, its not that hard for French people - the process would have been the same for me in the UK as it was for Understanding Frenchman in France. It's just us dodgy foreigners they need to double/triple/quadruple check up on!

  2. That all sounds exhausting! Do you have to have an interview too? Reading on other blogs, it seems some départements or towns you do and others not. Fingers crossed it's smooth sailing from here!

    1. We sort of did ... that's my next post!

  3. I complained about having to pay $50 (38EUR at the time) to the US Embassy! Yours was so much more expensive. Though I had to pay for a trip to Paris as it had to be done in person.

    We had an appointment to hand in our paperwork but that was for the simple reason that we had our "audition" at the same time as we live know where near where we got married.

  4. This was very interesting (I know it's from a while ago) because in our village it was nothing like this. And fortunately so, because my American birth certificate took almost 2 months to arrive and involved me justifying my French address to even get the Americans to send it here! And it had to be less than six months old, and translated like yours. I needed those six months! We just turned in our application last week which is what they advised when they gave us our wedding date almost a year ago (I say us but I went alone to the mairie and the woman gave us whatever date we wanted in 2015). I also like Shannon had to go to Paris and get the certificat de coutûme, which for Americans is just a signed notarized affidavit because the US has no federal registry of marriages.

    Also, the woman at the mairie was really sweet. Just goes to show everything is different everywhere.

    Anyway, good luck with the rest of your planning! I hope you're enjoying it!