2017 has been quite a year. We started it as a newly engaged couple looking forward to a wedding in the autumn, and with me having been working a mere 3 months as French speech therapist in independent practice. I’ve already talked about the work milestones that have been and gone over the year, but most of it was taken over by one thing: wedmin!
We (perhaps foolishly) decided that it would balance things out if we got married in both countries, doing the official legal ceremony in our local town hall, and the church wedding over in England. Organising two weddings a week apart is no mean feat, not to mention the paperwork involved. Of course by now I’m a pro at French bureaucracy, and have a folder on my computer with scanned versions of practically every document (and its sworn translation) that anyone could ever ask for. Nevertheless, the calendar went like this:
1. I go onto the St Cloud website to find out how to get married in the town hall. It says you have to fill in a marriage dossier and then present it with all the documents.
2. I pop over to the mairie of Saint Cloud to get the dossier
3. I call David because the receptionist has told me that (obviously) it’s not possible to get the dossier as a single person, there have to be two of you (how could I be so stupid?) He hotfoots it over on the scooter. We wait in the queue to be seen by the right official. The official asks us what date we want. We’re not sure yet, it depends on the reception venue. Ah, you’d better come back on another occasion then, she says. We can’t start the process until we have a date.
4. A week or so later, we go back, having secured the reception venue in England, and book the wedding for a week before. Hurray, we have a dossier!
March: I apply for an ‘up to date’ birth certificate. The last one was more than a year old.
April: With the recent birth certificate, I can apply (and pay around 65€) for a ‘certificate of custom’ from the British Consulate, a bit of paper that says they don’t think I’m married to anyone else.
May: We do our marriage prep at the St Cloud parish. Our baptism certificates, and all the other paperwork, has to be stamped by the diocese of Nanterre before being sent back and given to me to present to the English parish priest.
June: D applies for his birth certificate, which has to be within 3 months of July when we present the dossier (to be fair, this is a civil record where births, marriages and deaths are recorded on the same page, so in theory it proves he hasn’t married anyone else… although they can take quite some time to update it)
July: We go back to present the dossier and heave a sigh of relief. They haven’t made a fuss about my birth certificate being older than 3 months. The wedding is on!
We’re not being married by the mayor, disappointingly, but by his deputy, a lady who would like to meet the future married couples beforehand to get to know them. We leave a message on her answerphone a couple of times to set up a meeting.
August: Back from our summer holiday, we pop back to the mairie and mention that we haven’t heard from the mayor’s deputy. ‘Oh, I see, it’s not actually Mme X who’s marrying you that day, but Mme Y. Try her,’ was the answer.
September: No time left to meet the mayor’s deputy, but D has a chat on the phone with Mme Y to give her a bit of background about us. We make it to the mairie on D-day only 10 minutes late. We were worried about holding people up, but D’s parents haven’t been there long, they went via the wrong town hall…
So, what happens at a French civil wedding? Everyone was seated before us, and we were invited to make our way up the aisle together, to the sound of our chosen CD (I brought the Bach double violin concerto, but we were so quick the I’m not sure we even heard the first violin come in before they faded it out). The mayor’s deputy, who was very charming, welcomed everybody, and said a little bit about us. Then she invited one of our witnesses to give a brief speech (this had been her suggestion to D beforehand, to make the ceremony a little less bare and impersonal). One of our two witnesses said a little bit about how she knew us both and some other nice things. Then it was time for this official stuff: an extract from the code civil telling us about our future duties as husband and wife. Then, the moment of truth arrived: we were both asked, by the mayor’s deputy, ‘will you take X to be your husband/wife?’ Then we had the exchange of rings, signing of the register, and the deed was done! If it felt short, I think we still managed to take longer than the couples before us, round about half an hour in total, including a few photos afterwards.
One unique thing about getting married in France is that you immediately receive your ‘Livret de Famille’, a little booklet with your names in and space reserved for the names and details of any children you have. Rather nice to know that we’re already a family…