Getting married in a Catholic church is very important for many couples who would like their union celebrated in a traditional religious setting, and recognized as one of the seven sacraments. However, it is not always easy in France to find Catholic churches willing to accept ‘foreigners’. This may seem strange, one would think they would be welcoming with open arms but this is not always the case, and we’d like to explain why.
There are some churches who do accept non-residents, others who don’t. Often times the churches located in very beautiful, scenic and tourist areas are the ones who are solicited the most often by couples from all over the world wishing to marry there. However the couples’ true intentions may not always be because of their faith. Priests have seen it countless times where couples would like a dreamy, beautiful ceremony in a church because of the pictures and location, not necessarily putting the priority on God. After seeing so many people ‘take advantage’ of a place of worship because it is ‘pretty for pictures’, limits had to be placed and boundaries respected. The solution was to allow local residents to marry in the Church, but put a stop to everyone else.
However, it is still frustrating when churches say no and the couple does actually practice their religion and want God and the church’s blessing over their marriage, regardless of where they are from. This unfortunately falls into a general yes or no whether that particular church accepts non-residents or not, no exceptions.
On a positive note, we do know of a handful of churches in the regions we cover in the Alps, Provence, and the French Riviera that welcome Catholic couples with open arms, no matter what nationality they are or where their primary residence is!
The formalities usually entail the following:
- At least one of the two in the couple must be of the Catholic faith and baptized.
- Neither can be legally wed to anyone else at the time.
- Birth certificates of both parties must be valid 3 months before the wedding date. (make sure to calculate this accordingly!)
- Proof of date and location of baptisms of both parties. If one is not baptized then the parish will request an exception from the bishop.
- Contact information: names and address.
- Legal marriage certificate provided by the city hall. The City Hall marriage certificate is obligatory. The church wedding cannot be official without the civil wedding taking place beforehand.
- Declaration of intent, expressing the desire of both to have a Catholic wedding
- Weddings in the church take place Monday through Saturday, never on a Sunday, nor on religious holidays that fall on a Friday or Saturday.
- You will be required to attend wedding preparation classes with your priest. If you live abroad and are marrying in France you can get permission to do these classes at your home parish and have the necessary forms transmitted to the French church.
So there you have it! It’s not guaranteed to have a Catholic wedding in France, but it is possible depending on the priest and location. Contact us for a full list of options for your destination wedding.