Step One: Certificat de Capacité à Mariage
Applying for the certificate
The first step in the process of an American marrying a French person in the United States is to apply for the certificat de capacité à mariage (marriage certificate) through your local consulate in the United States. All of our paperwork went through the French Consulat of Washington D.C. Here is the link to the form you will need to download and fill out. This document is in French and is required of the French person’s behalf. Once the dossier (file) has been submitted, the local mairie (town hall) will post the banns.
France is one of the few countries that still practices this old tradition. The publication des bans (publication of the banns) must be made for 10 days, during which, if any one objects of the marriage, they can submit their grievances to the local authority. This was done so that there wouldn’t be any legal issues or invalid marriages (i.e. either person in the couple still being legally married, the couple being related to each other, non-consent on one part of the couple are a few examples). This process eventually faded by the way-side in the United States as time went on, especially in the 19th century when the government stepped in and the stipulations for marriage evolved over time.
This process takes 8 weeks, front door to front door. My husband checked on a semi-regular basis at the mairie (town hall) of the 1ere arrondissement if the banns had been posted. Once the banns had been successfully posted and received, my husband received le certificat 18 days later.
Documents needed :
*Certain documents need to be certified in order to be valid in other countries. This is called an apostille and each state should have their own process for an apostille. Ohio’s can be found here. “When in doubt apostille it” was my motto. This process validates the origin of the document, the signature/seal of the person who signed it and the manner in which the document was done.
**Ohio changed the format of their birth certificates and eliminated some of the cells. The first copy I sent did not include the city that I was born in. It was sent back and I was asked for a more detailed version. I was able to obtain a copy of my original birth certificate that contained the information required.