At first, I was impressed by it being free. We did have to pay for "certificates de coutume" from the consulate in Paris, and for new birth certificates and translations - but I did the translations myself and saved us a fortune - did you know this hugely expensive waste of time is at last being nullified this year? All birth certificates from EU states no longer have to be translated officially, except in exceptional circumstances and that if someone insists on having it done, THEY need to pay for it and request it by an offical for specific legal reasons. Be prepared for plenty of rows over this... if you're new to France, because I still get asked constantly for my "carte de sejour" - something not needed for donkey's years for EU citizens
Anyhow, it was all going fairly well, as expected, with a whole day taken up with photocopies, passports, and cost around 220€ for the paperwork in the end. I just popped round to the mairie to tell them about a change of witness for the ceremony. The secretary sucked in through her pursed lips, shook her official head in dismay and declared she didn't know what to do about this "situation". She then made me "wait for an answer from her colleague" because the woman who deals with marriages was absent. - it was Friday and the ceremony wass on Monday morning! It turned out to be not a problem, but I was convinced she was going to cancel it for me. I spent the afternoon panicking "What happens if a witness is ill or doesn't arrive, or car breaks down etc??? they don't surely cancel a wedding ceremony for that?"
"Je ai juste visté à la mairie de leur dire au sujet d'un changement de témoin à la cérémonie . Le secrétaire me rend " attends une réponse de son collègue " parce que la femme qui se occupe de mariages est absent aujourd'hui. Je doute qu'il pourrait être et Je parie qu'elle ne me téléphone ne est pas - elle va me ignorer jusqu'à ce que je lui téléphoner , même si elle a promi. Si un témoin est malade ou ne arrive pas, ou voiture tombe en panne etc ils ne sûrement pas annuler une cérémonie pour cela????"
It turned out to be no bother and, of course, legally, witnesses can always be changed right up until the last second. They, after all, are not the ones swearing to be loyal! I was just getting my silly old knickers in a right old twist.
So, there we were, in front of the Deputy Maire and his wonderful colleague, who made a fabulous job of carefully pronouncing our names and those of our parents and it's all done and dusted, married and everyone is grinning.
Then the wonderful, consientious assistant announces the Mairie has a present for us. They presented us with a voucher for a flight over the town from our little local aerodrome! We were gobsmacked. How nice and so generous! They also gave me a fabulous bunch of flowers. How thoughtful. What a great day!
Yes, French authority is sometimes ridiculously over complex, but boy, do they know how to make something special. Nous aimons la France!