Saying ‘I do’ in France

Alison Eastaway, 07/06/12

In both France and Australia more couples are opting out of the marriage institution and are, instead, enjoying happy cohabitation.

Declining marriage trends in France

According to expat blog ‘Just Landed’, “The number of unmarried couples in France has quadrupled … in the last two decades.”

Alison Eastaway, 07/06/12

The trend is moving in the same direction in Australia, with a ten percent decline in the proportion of unmarried couples who were in a registered marriage over the last 20 years.¹

The apparent decline in marriage interest is mirrored in the French political arena. Newly elected president Francois Hollande shares the Élysée Palace with partner Valerie Trierweiler, and the French public remains unfazed. Eleanor Beardsley at media organisation NPR suggests:

“If Hollande’s domestic situation never caused much of a stir, it’s because a growing number of French couples live similarly, choosing to raise children, buy homes and build lives without religious or civil approval of their partnerships.”²

The French wedding ceremony

Couples who do decide to wed face different celebration options in France than in Australia.

In Australia, a couple can elect to either have a religious ceremony generally held inside a church, or hold a civil ceremony just about anywhere else. Beaches, gardens and wineries are perennial favourites.

Civil ceremonies often closely follow the same format as a religious ceremony, but can be extensively customised to suit the couple. Both types of wedding are legally binding, with the couple signing their marriage license at the conclusion of their vows.
Alison Eastaway, 07/06/12

Unlike this ‘one-stop-shop’ approach in Australia, where the ceremony and legalities are all intricately linked, in France these two things remain quite separate.

The only legally binding ceremony in France is a civil one, conducted at one’s local town hall. This is due to the concept of laïcité – the separation of church and state. Couples wishing to have a religious ceremony must first provide their marriage certificate from the mairie before they can be married in a church. ²

Alison Eastaway, 07/06/12

French and Australian alternatives to marriage

In Australia, the Family Law Act 1975 grants the same rights in regards to “divorce, children’s orders, property division and spousal maintenance” to de facto couples.?

Since 2008 this status has also been applicable to same-sex couples “offering them the same rights as unmarried heterosexual couples in areas such as taxation, social security and health, aged care and employment.”?

In France, couples (both same-sex and heterosexual) who wish to formalise their relationship can do so by entering into a civil solidarity pact. Commonly referred to as PACS, this agreement has significant advantages for tax purposes.

Alison Eastaway, 07/06/12

Do you think one approach is better than the other? Do you like the idea of the PACS arrangement as a proxy for marriage?

To wed or not to wed, that is the question.

Australian Social Trends Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009
2 ‘Who Needs Marriage? Not France’s Next President‘ Eleanor Beardsley May 11, 2012 via NPR
3 A guide to getting married in France Teodora Todorova, Expatica
4 Australian Family Law Wikipedia
5 Recognition of same-sex unions in Australia Wikipedia

Image credits:
 kitsu on Flickr
2. Patrick Peccatte on Flickr
3. Mister Wind-Up Bird on Flickr
4. loloieg on Flickr
5. on Flickr

About the Contributor

Alison Eastaway

“I am Australian-born but Parisienne at heart. I've spent 8 years in Paris, and can usually be found sipping coffee on café terraces or snuggling up with my cat and a book. Follow me on Twitter, or find me on LinkedIn."

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