In France, a civil marriage is mandatory and this takes place at the local town hall “mairie”. French law requires that at least one of the couple has lived in France for more than 40 days immediately prior to the wedding. Once the legal civil wedding has taken place, couples can opt to have either a religious or non-religious ceremony.
For many couples from abroad, the simplest option is to have their legal wedding in their home country first (this could be a very small “secret” wedding) and then to choose either a religious ceremony or a symbolic blessing here in France. This avoids much complicated paperwork and translation whilst having the advantage of being able to hold your French wedding anywhere you choose and to celebrate it in a very personal and unique way.