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FRENCH BUREAUCRACY

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?

Can you get married in France if you don't live here?
Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

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. 

Non-resident

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.

Mairie

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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SECOND HOMES

New French property tax declaration – your questions answered

This year the French tax office has announced that property-owners have to complete an extra tax declaration - from the rules for non-residents to second-home owners, we answer your questions on this.

New French property tax declaration - your questions answered

In 2023 there is an additional requirement for anyone who owns a home in France – they must fill in a one-off Déclaration d’occupation, stating whether their property is their main residence or a second home.

The reason for this is changes to the tax system that are gradually phasing out taxe d’habitation for all but the highest earners – with the exception of second homes.

You can find a full explanation of how to file the declaration HERE.

Many of our readers have contacted us with questions about this new requirement, so we’ve answered some of the most frequently-asked here;

Do I still have to do this even though I don’t live in France?

A fairly sizeable number of people own property in France (usually holiday homes) but live elsewhere, such as the UK or the US. If you don’t live in France or have income in France you probably won’t have to do the annual income tax declaration, but the Déclaration d’occupation is different.

It concerns anyone who owns property in France, including second-home owners who live in another country.

Do I have to do this even though I pay all my taxes in another country?

If you own property in France you probably do, in fact, pay tax here – property taxes. Bills go out every autumn for the taxe foncière (the property owners’ tax) and taxe d’habitation (the householders tax) – and second-home owners would usually pay both. You may also receive a bill from your commune for waste-collection services, although the annual TV licence bill (which used to be sent out at the same time as the property tax bill) has been scrapped this year.

If you own property in France and have never paid property taxes, it might be worth a trip to the local tax office to check that you are registered correctly, as almost all property owners are liable for property taxes.

Do I have to do this every year now?

No, this is a one off. You complete the declaration this year (before June 30th) and then you don’t have to do it again until your situation changes – eg a second home becomes your main residence.

Why do we have to do this?

It’s because of changes to the tax rules. Taxe d’habitation – the occupier’s tax – used to be paid by virtually everyone, but is now gradually being phased out for all but high earners. The exception to this is second homes, so the tax office needs to know whether your property is used as your main residence or a second home so that they know whether to send you a bill in autumn.

Does this mean more taxes?

No, the declaration is purely for information – if your property is a second home you will continue to get your annual taxe d’habitation bill as normal, if it is a main residence you may receive no bill or a reduced bill, depending on your income.

What about commercial property?

If you own commercial property such as a workshop, bar or retail premises, then this does not affect you, the tax declaration is in relation to homes.

It’s all about clearing up the property status for taxe d’habitation, and you don’t pay this type of tax if it is a commercial premises.

What about gîtes, holiday homes or Airbnb properties?

It’s really all down to what you use the property for – if you run it entirely as a business it should be registered as a business and is therefore not concerned by this.

If the property is your home and you occasionally rent it out on Airbnb (say, when you’re on holiday) then it still counts as a home and you will need to complete the déclaration d’occupation. Be aware that certain areas, including Paris, limit how many days per year you can rent out a property on Airbnb without registering it as a business.

Some people keep properties mostly for their own use as second homes but sometimes rent them out for extra money – be aware that if you do this, you may need to register as a business and declare any income received – full details here.

Can I just ignore it, or tell them my second home is a main residence?

Ignoring or lying to the tax office is generally quite a bad idea whatever country you’re in – they can get quite cross.

This sounds like a massive pain

Welcome to France – home of bureaucracy! Paperwork is a fact of life in France and that’s probably unlikely to change soon. If you’re already registered in the impots.gouv site then this is one of the more painless admin tasks – a couple of clicks, fill out the form and file it online and you’re done.  

If you have questions on the property tax declaration, you can email us on [email protected] and we will do our best to answer them

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