Planning 101 9th June 2014

Why Kimye Couldn't Get Married In France, But You Can!

Image via topwedding,com
Image via topwedding,com

With so much controversy over the change in location of Kimye’s nuptials, we asked one of our listed Wedding Planners for her point of view. Yana Makliassova of “Weddings By Yana” is a Beach Destination Wedding Specialist and the French Riviera is one of her clients’ most popular locations. Here she explains the requirements for a legal wedding in France and how you can overcome them!

What Kimye's wedding planner failed to warn them about:

Any couple's first step to planning a Destination Wedding must be to learn about the legal requirements for holding an official ceremony in their chosen country. With strict rules about residency and celibacy requirements, you'd expect that Kimye's wedding planner would have warned them about the obstacles to their French dream wedding!

Different countries have different laws for legal weddings. To get married in France couples need to submit a significant amount of paperwork. These documents take some time to acquire, so plan ahead and start getting organised 6 months in advance.


Requirements to get legally married in France

At least one of the partners must reside in the departement (district) or the arrondissement (if in Paris) in which you will be wed for at least 30 days prior to the marriage. Following these 30 days, French law requires the publication of the marriage banns at the Mairie (Town Hall) for 10 days. Thus a total of 40 days consecutive residency is the minimum requirement before a civil ceremony can take place.

(Here I specify civil ceremony because, in France, you can have two types of weddings; a civil ceremony and a religious ceremony. You are not required to have a religious ceremony (because church weddings are not recognised by French law) but if you wish to have one, you must first be married legally either in the Mairie in France or in your home country and obtain a marriage certificate. French priests will not perform a religious wedding ceremony without it.)

Non-French nationals must provide the following documents before the banns can be published. Documents which are not in French will need to be translated by a sworn translator (traducteur assermenté). The translations and the original documents must be verified by the French Consulate General (vérification de traduction).

1. Pre-marital certificate, which is obtained at the Mairie (town hall) where the wedding will take place.

2. Certified birth certificate issued less than six months prior to the date of the marriage (or less than three months for French nationals).

3. Passport (carte de séjour).

4. A certificate of residence (provided by your embassy), covering the last 30 days of residency before applying for the banns.

5. If you have married previously, a certified copy of the death certificate of the deceased spouse or if you are divorced, a certified copy of the final divorce decree.

6. Notarised “Affidavit of Law” (Certificat de Coutume), drawn up by a solicitor in the state of residence of the parties, stating that: the person is free to marry, and the marriage performed in France will be recognized as valid in the home country.

7. Certificate of capacity to marry (Certificat de celibate), also known as a Certificate of No Impediment, this can be provided by your embassy. For British citizens this can be obtained from the Mairie of the place of residence in France.


Thankfully, the French government did take a small step in the right direction to easing this complicated process and recently dropped the requirement for a prenuptial certificate of health (certificat d’examen médical prénuptial). In the past this had to be issued less than two months prior to the date of the marriage by a GP to test for syphilisirregular anti-bodies, rubella and toxoplasma. This medical exam is no longer required.

I advice that if you are set on having a legal ceremony in France, on arrival you should contact the Mairie to see if any other documents are required. A minimum of four weeks may be needed to complete this extra documentation and to reserve the wedding date and location.

Getting past the French bureaucratic barrier

Many couples choose to get around the French wedding ‘tape’ by opting for a symbolic ceremony; they quietly take care of the legals before they leave their hometown and say their vows against a backdrop of a beautiful chateaux or sandy white beaches of the French Riviera. I always recommend saving the exchange of rings for the symbolic ceremony to keep it special. Guests need be non-the-wiser as the only difference is you are not signing the legal document there.

A symbolic ceremony not only simplifies the process, it also gives you more freedom of choice. Meaning you are not restricted to only government approved venues licenced to hold official marriage ceremonies and you won’t be required to have an authorised celebrant performing it – to name a few!

Kimye's first choice was France but the legal requirement is that you must be a resident in the area for 40 days before the wedding date. Even though Kanye West owns property in Paris, he rarely stays there. In the end they opted to tie the knot in Florence since Italy only requires you to visit the town hall a few days before the wedding, there is no residency requirement. However you still need to submit your paperwork well in advance of the wedding date. I hope Kimye got that right; otherwise we might have another Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall or Eddie Murphy Bora Bora wedding style fiasco unfolding in the future!


Yana Makliassova, of Weddings By Yana, is a London based Wedding Planner and Destination Wedding Specialist for busy millennial couples. Yana organises unique weddings in London and unforgettable beach ceremonies in France and other Mediterranean coast destinations. She offers traditional Full Planning, Partial Planning and On the Day Co-ordination assistance, with a focus on fresh ideas and fashionable