Dream Wedding: Getting Married In France

Walking down the aisle at my wedding, on the arm of my dad, I remember feeling so happy and pretty – until I looked down and realised in horror that I’d forgotten to take off my woolly cardigan. No-one had turned round to see me walk in yet, so I quickly took it off before anyone noticed. But under that cardy was another, equally woolly, and another – in fact I was wearing 5 cardigans. Suddenly racked with self-doubt I turned to my dad and asked what he thought of the mop I was wearing as a wig. He looked unsure and I tore it off, while noticing I wasn’t wearing any shoes.

Obviously, this was a dream.

Monpazier Mairie

But it wasn’t the only night I’d wake up with the cold wedding sweats. Just last night I dreamed I’d made it further down the aisle. Dress – check, hair – check, phew. All good but then…why am I wearing my old black school shoes?! Nooo. And that’s when I can get to sleep without worrying whether it’ll be so hot in our outdoor courtyard that everyone collapses of heatstroke, or if there’ll be a storm so we have to up sticks to the market hall.

We’re getting married in the south of France, where I originally moved in with Steve and became RustiKatie, in September and I couldn’t be more excited. I don’t know why I’m also worried as weddings in France are very different, more laid back affairs than those in England. When we told the mayor of our plans he offered us the use of the town’s outdoor theatre as a reception venue… for FREE… plus use of all the trestle tables and chairs they use for fetes. Apologetically he said he’d have to limit the finish time for the music as we’re in a residential area… to 3am! Most French weddings start late and go on until at least 6am, whereas in England I’ve seen many venues unplug the speakers at midnight on the dot. When we went to inform the elderly chap who owns the B&B that backs onto the theatre that we’d be shipping in an English wedding party we were expecting a warning about noise. Instead he looked delighted while trying to decide which window would give him the best view.

We went to the local market and asked the chap running the paella stall if he did functions as we needed someone to cook outdoors. Turns out he’s a retired wedding caterer and offered the full monty (one starter, for example, is foie gras with fig ice cream) for less than you’d pay for the canapés in England. In France the words “it’s for my wedding” are greeted with congratulatory back slaps and offers to throw in extras, whereas in England people’s eyes glaze over with pound signs before they quickly quadruple the price. I worked on the BBC’s Rip Off Britain and we looked into it for the programme, it was shocking.

It’s amazing the unexpected things planning a wedding throws up. In France you have to have your birth certificate translated into French. There’s not much on there except your name and date of birth, so it doesn’t seem that necessary. But fine. Only when we’d dug out our birth certificates did we learn the original won’t do. You have to order a new copy, less than 6 months before your wedding, from the government. I have no idea why – surely the information on it isn’t going to change.

But the government website I had to order it from was even more worrying. It certainly looked like one of the scam sites I’d investigated many times and I was even more suspicious when it allowed me to order a copy of my own AND Steve’s birth certificates with no checks that it was us they were sending them to. Apparently anyone can order a copy of anyone else’s birth certificate. As a cynical-minded journalist, identity fraud warning bells were going off in my head. But the new certificates have now arrived, some weeks later, confirming that we were still born where and when it said we had been born on the original certificate. All that remains is to send them off to Paris with about €400 to get them checked, then go through the rest of the 30-page legal document the mayor gave us. The French love a bit of bureaucracy and paperwork!

And once that’s done I’m hoping that, if I can finally get down the aisle successfully and properly clothed in my dreams, I’ll be able to stop worrying – and hiding my cardigans from myself.


2 thoughts on “Dream Wedding: Getting Married In France

  1. Glyn

    It is simply not true that a foreign birth certificate has to be ‘fresh’. Sure, in France, people get on from the town they were born in and there is a date and a stamp showing the issue date. But on many occasions I have told French authorities that in the UK the original copy made at time of registration is the exact copy then need and that I will allow them to scan it, but under no circumstances will I let them have it as it is by definition an Original Copy. I also tell them that anyone can get anybody birth certificate and it proves nothing other than this person was born where and when and to whom…… they have always capitulated and gone to the back room to make a copy.

    Anyway – hope the wedding goes well!


    1. Sorry I only just saw this comment! On all the paperwork it specifically requests a birth certificate dated within the last 6 months, and that’s what we were told by the Mairie despite explaining about English certificates. And we had a friend who got married the year before who was told the same thing as you – that the original would do fine – but then just a few weeks beforehand someone else at the Mairie decided they needed to stick to the red tape and get a new one, and it only just arrived in time for their wedding! Knowing the French can be sticklers for paperwork we decided to get it sorted and avoid any possible stress nearer the time. Good to know they can be flexible though!


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