Eva Longoria/Tony Parker & France's marriage laws

I am not sure if this belongs in the Popular Media or Liturgy & Sacraments forum. Moderators, please move, if necessary.

I saw in the news that Eva Longoria and Tony Parker got married. They first had a civil ceremony with a mayor. Then they had a Catholic wedding with a priest the next day. The articles said that France requires a separate civil marriage ceremony even if a couple is going to be married in a church. This seemed odd to me. Are there any other countries that do this?

When we lived in Germany, this was the case (we just moved back Stateside last year). First there was the civil union, and you would see the wedding party outside the rathaus (city hall kind of building), gathering around the couple…then the church ceremony was held on the Saturday following from what we saw!


Thanks!:slight_smile: I was never aware of two separate wedding ceremonies being required by civil law. I am curious why this is done in Europe. Has the Catholic Church ever made any comments about this practice?

This is second-hand information, but I was speaking to someone from Holland about a month ago and the impression I got was that there also were 2 separate ceremonies.

Can. 1059 The marriage of catholics, even if only one party is baptised, is governed not only by divine law but also by canon law, without prejudice to the competence of the civil authority in respect of the merely civil effects of the marriage.

In the US the civil authorities generally trust religious leaders to witness to marriages for the purposes of civil law. But it is not required that the state do so.

I’m not sure why the anecdotes above all refer to the civil wedding being prior to the church ceremony, unless it is a church custom to accord with Can. 1071, which says in part that no one ought to assist at a wedding which cannot be celebrated in accordance to civil law – If the civil part is done, no worries.

I believe my high school Spanish teacher told us that Spain celebrates separate civil and religious ceremonies.

Not A Canon Lawyer

I was just surprised because I never knew that European countries did not allow religious leaders to witness marriages for civil law purposes. I guess I was just naive to think that Western Europe followed the same types of laws that the US follows. Maybe in Europe, instead of getting a marriage license from the state and then a marriage certificate from the clergyman or justice of the peace, they just combine both steps in the civil marriage and then the couple may pursue a church wedding from their priest/minister/rabbi. I’m curious now about how this works in Australia. I know we have some Australian posters on the fora.

One of my sisters was also married in Germany, and two separate ceremonies, civil first then religious, were indeed required.

I think in part it comes from the history of nasty religious disputes in Europe. One can imagine a bureaucrat whose ancestors were killed for belonging to a particular denomination not being keen to recognise marriages celebrated by clergy of the denomination whose members killed them.

Here in Australia it’s the same as the US though - no civil ceremony required, at least not if you are married in an established denomination. I imagine ceremonies conducted after the manner of adherents of voodoo or santeria or such might be considered a little suspect.

You can add Mexico to the list that also requires 2 ceremonies. First one civil, then another religious.

Which actually seems to confirm my point about nasty religious disputes breeding suspicion. Mexico had a doozy back in (I believe) the 1920s or 1930s, which made martyrs out of Blessed Miguel Pro and his companions.

When Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in Monaco, they had a civil cermony and then the Nuptual Mass. Evidently it’s a common thing in Europe.

I think this practice makes the concept of an annullment easier to understand. Since there two, separate ceremonies, it’s more clear that the annullment only says the Catholic, sacramental portion wasn’t valid. The civil ceremony still occurred and all children were born “in wedlock”. In the USA, the two parts of the wedding getted blurred into one.


Thanks! Your explanation of why Europe has the system they do makes sense.

That is interesting.

Wikipedia has a few lines about these practices, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage#Weddings , but no country-by-country list that I can find.

(It also indicates I was mistaken about Spain – Either the laws have changed, or perhaps I was mixing it up with Mexico. Mea culpa)


Once a couple is married in the Church, why bother with the civil ceremony? It’s the Sacrament in the Church that matters. As far as the state is concerned, you could just live together anyway and it wouldn’t make any difference. All I can think of is that there might be a tax benefit for the state. If that is the case, is the Church perhaps aiding the state by requiring couples to have a civil ceremony before they can be married in the church? I hope not.

If Europe is like the US, being “legally” married may not be a tax benefit at all for the people involved. Interesting topic.

Interesting point Kris!

From the posts I have seen and the Wikipedia article, it appears that many European countries will not even allow a church wedding until after the civil ceremony has been performed. It would be interesting to find out how many couples in Europe just have a civil ceremony and not a church ceremony. It would not surprise me if there are fewer church ceremonies in Europe because church attendance (both Catholic and Protestant) is much lower in Europe than in the US.

It really should be the other way around: get married Sacramentally in the Church and THEN civilly. After being married in the Church, maybe just forget about the civil ceremony altogether, as long as doing that is lawful (Matthew 22:20-22).

Unless a country is a theocracy, this would not be possible. Most civilised countries with a democracy or republic as the form of government have separation of church and state.

I believe the reason the Church requires the civil ceremony first is for the greater protection of the institution of marriage and for the protection of the children. The Church does have an interest in the civil aspects of marriage: property rights, inheritance, etc.

I believe you are right. A former music teacher of mine lived in Germany for about 15-20 years. She had a German friend whose husband died in an accident. Because she was civilly married, the government had the responsibility of providing for her and her children financially to the way of life she was accustomed to until she remarried. If she had been married to her first husband by her church or synogogue, she would not have received any of those rights. I don’t know if it is still the same. My teacher was there in the 70s and 80s prior to reunification with Eastern Germany, so the laws may have changed since then.

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