After “how can we get married on the Eiffel Tower”, I would have to say that my second most requested Paris wedding venue inquiry would be “We want to get married at Notre Dame Cathedral”. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, unless you have friends or relatives in some extremely high places, it is next to impossible to marry in Notre Dame. I think it’s also worthwhile to mention here that, for a foreigner, it isn’t exactly a cakewalk to get married in a “plain ole” church in Paris either. One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that before a Catholic church in France will even consider marrying you, you must first have a civil ceremony either in France or in your home country. Once that is sorted, you should then put on your Sunday’s best, and get thee to the church in question for a little face-time.
The tricky part is that, in order to get married in a church in France, you have to get direct permission from the priest of the church, and quite frankly- he may not want to do it. Keep in mind that France is a traditional Catholic country, and Parishes are pretty deep-rooted in their communities. You are asking to be accepted into the folds of a Parish in order to take part in a holy rite. If the priest feels that you aren’t considerate of this, or feels that you’re trying to “buy” a place in their church (I can’t tell you how many American clients have contacted me asking for help after being denied permission to marry at a church after they’ve grossly waggled inch-thick stacks of 50’s in the priests face), he has every right to say no. So I suggest that, if you can, you and your betrothed start going to the church for a while before you first meet with the priest- and make sure that he sees you. When you do have your first meeting with him, be as reverent and respectful as the meeting deserves, and be prepared to plead your case. I’ll just tell you now that 9 times out of 10, the priest will “strongly suggest” that you marry in your own Parish- all while walking you out the front door! So get you elevator speech ready: let him know how much France, Paris, and the arrondissement means to you, and why you must marry in his church. If you have any warm-n-fuzzy stories to tell (a grandparent or cousin who was married or buried in the church, for instance), be sure to get them in there. And, of course, a plate of killer homemade chocolate-chip cookies never hurt.
If you’re planning to marry in a church in Paris, but aren’t currently in France, honestly- you have your work cut out for you. Your emails will more than likely go unanswered. If you try to phone the church directly, you will probably never make it past the church secretary. The best suggestion that I have is to find a friend or relative with strong, personal ties within that specific Parish to make the plea on your behalf. This should be someone that you are on very good terms with, because it may require more than a few visits with the priest before you get your final answer.
And speaking of final answers- as anyone who has spent any time at all in France knows, the first answer is always “non“- just ignore that one and ask again in a different way. If, after the fourth or fifth ask, the answer is still no, then I would suggest you move on to Plan B- a symbolic ceremony in a private chapel, or maybe a blessing ceremony in a non-denominational Parisian church. If you are one of the lucky few to receive a “oui”, Félicitations! You are one step closer to realizing your fantasy of a storybook wedding in Paris. But don’t unbuckle your seat belt just yet- tomorrow I’ll tell you bit about the paperwork needed in order to have a Catholic Wedding Ceremony in France.