France Destination Weddings
Can I Legally Get Married in France?
First thing first, let’s talk about the legalities of having a wedding abroad. If you are a U.S. citizen planning to say ‘I Do’ in France, you may want to keep in mind that to get legally wed in France you’ll need to be living there as a resident for 40 days prior. Even then, France only recognizes civil ceremonies done at the courthouse, and religious weddings are not legally binding without a civil ceremony first. If you do manage to apply for a marriage license, keep in mind all ceremonies are conducted in French, so you’ll need to procure a translator. If all this sounds like too much, don’t fret. France is a great place to have a symbolic wedding, and you can always hit the courthouse at home before you go.
Find a Wedding Planner in France
We cannot stress enough the importance of hiring a wedding planner in the city you’re getting married, especially when having a wedding abroad. As with all destination weddings, you’ll want a planner to help with the general wedding planning, logistics, and organization, but especially in a country where English is not the commonly spoken language, a planner is a necessity if you and your fiance do not speak French to help coordinate with your other vendors..
Lucky for you, wedding planners aren’t as commonly used for native French weddings, so almost all wedding planners in France cater specifically to foreigners who have decided to come to their country to get married.
Decide What Kind of Wedding You Want
Planners are eager to incorporate local culture into your wedding day plans, so you can have a genuine French experience on your wedding day, but you and your fiance should decide beforehand if you’re looking for an American wedding in France, or a French wedding in France. While this isn’t something you may have ever thought about, it’s important to consider the key difference between the two types of weddings, and express your preferences to your planner from the start.
One key difference between al American wedding and a French wedding is that the French don’t participate in the tradition of a bridal party. That means no bridesmaids, groomsmen, best man, or maid of honor. The French also don’t participate in the traditional tiered wedding cake, rather opting for cream-filled pastry puffs called croquembouche, which are known to be sinfully delicious. Another difference would be that the French opt out of the standard wedding toasts, so if this is something you’d like to incorporate into your wedding you’ll want to make sure your planner is aware ahead of time so they can fit it into your reception timeline.
When it comes to dinner, the French care deeply about food and have specific traditions around the courses served at a wedding, so we recommend talking with your caterer ahead of time about how adventurous you’d like to get with your menu. If you have a primarily American guestlist, you may want to try to get as close to an American menu as possible, but if your guests are open to foie gras, smoked salmon, exotic shellfish, beef and other high end cuts of meat, this would be more standard fare for a French wedding. Keep in mind, the French have high culinary standards, and may give you push back if you try to change the menu, so be open minded when it comes to the food.
Plan a Trip Ahead of Time
While we recommend planning a trip to your chosen destination when planning any wedding abroad, we would especially recommend it in France. You may find that it’s difficult to do a lot of legwork just based off of the websites of French venues and vendors. Couples have found that most sites will not have a huge level of detail or photos, and most companies and locations don’t have a dedicated wedding and event team. While having a planner will help with this, because you can take their word on which vendors they've used and trust, seeing it for yourself will always be the best option to ensure you’re getting what you really want. We would recommend planning a trip before you book anything (Except maybe your planner) to get a look for yourself of which venues you really love, and which vendors are a great fit for you. This will give you peace of mind that you’re planning the wedding of your dreams when you get home and photos aren’t doing it justice.
Where to Go
France has an abundance of scenic places to say I do, from gorgeous wedding chateaus in the South of France, to uniquely architectural Pigeonniers in the French countryside, lush vineyards for our wine-loving couples, historic churches and abbeys, quirky chapels, bastide medieval villages, rolling hills, lakeside views in the country, and unspoiled woodland. There is a spot for everyone here. We’ve listed some of the most popular places for weddings in France below.
Paris is the place most people think of when they think of romance. With the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, eloping in Paris is a popular option for couples that are looking for a typical French backdrop for their photos.
Dordogne is in the heart of the French countryside. Located in the South of France, it’s become a popular place for destination weddings, and because of this there are many talented English-speaking wedding professionals in the area.
Bordeaux combines the best of both worlds, housing a vibrant city as well as the peaceful French countryside with many historic chateaus and rustic country estates. Bordeaux also is home to one of the most famous wine producing towns, St. Émilion, and hosts the fabulous sandy beaches of Arcachon.
Provence, in the South of France, is home to beautiful lush lavender fields in the summer, typically lasting from the last week of June to the first week of August, peaking in July.
Cote d’Azur is perfect for the couple looking for a luxury wedding on the French Riviera. With exclusive villas, luxury hotels, fine dining, and beautiful destinations such as Nice, Cannes, Saint Tropez, Antibes, and Monaco.
Loire Valley is a region of France most famous for its wine production as well as its Gothic and Renaissance style castles that look like they’re straight out of a Disney fairytale.
Normandy is a fantastic destination for seafood lovers, as it’s France’s primary region for producing fresh oysters, mussels, and scallops.
We hope these tips will help you begin to plan your destination wedding in France. We also recommend you check out our Destination Wedding guide on the blog for even more tips on planning your perfect wedding abroad.
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