Sunday, December 23, 2012

My French Life#2: clothing blues, hippest park, bar hopping

 Ma vie à la Française

Voila! New compelling & entertaining posts from our France-based African American, American and African-French contributors. Welcome to their world. This week: clothing dilemma,  the hippest, funnest (!) park in Paris, bar hopping.

You'll find each full bio at the end of this post.

Luna Vincent White  - Student

What To Wear

I quickly realized that my light load of clothing here would not be enough.   My backpack broke, and I don’t have a travel bag.  All of these things have lead me into many boutiques (primarily in the Marais).  I have to say; I have been either under or over whelmed.  In L.A., I have lived there for so long, and the sun is always shining; I know my favorite stores, and am always down to go to them.  Here I don’t know where to look, and there is so much!

But along with the fear of shopping in Paris (hah!) I have come to understand how important each choice is.  Everything semi-decent quality is pretty expensive (unless I am visiting a flea market) so I want classic items, which I will get a lot of wear out of (practical and long lasting).  Having said this, practicality is something different in Paris than it is in LA. There is a much stronger need for versatility.

I walk outside to what seems like a sunny day then in two minutes it is bitterly cold and pouring.  But five minutes into the rain it brightens up.  This kind of weather sums up my experience in Paris thus far, and also explains some of the difficulty in finding items.  

This city for me is named, “Be Ready”.  Every corner I turn is something different!  The weird cheap-y crap-selling stalls across from the Louvre turn into really expensive clothing and décor stores in the blink of an eye.  The metro is hot as hell, but the air outside is so biting.  I freeze and melt, freeze and melt, freeze and melt daily.  A city of extremes, of quick reactions, of confusing necessities for preparedness, and I am standing in front of what seems like boutique 1,000 not being able to face it all.  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO BUY A DANG JACKET?

I want something that will keep me warm in Paris’ coldest temperatures, but that will be comfortable during the fall cools as well, or that won’t be difficult to peel off on the metro, that won’t smell weird when it rains.  I just want something that can adapt.

In truth, I want to adapt.  I want that jacket but I also want that me.  Paris requires a versatility that I thought I had.  I want to look nice in all occasion as the Parisians do, even though the occasion can change up to 6 times a day!  This city is beautiful and very busy; strangely, I think I will always equate it with my sweat drying too fast in the cold air when I step out of the metro.



 Epee Hervé Dingong – Journalist  

Parc de la Villett

When it’s time to have fun or thinking about relaxing, Parc de la Villette in the 19th district of Paris is sometimes one of the best places. Summer or winter, you can see exhibits, shows, concerts of national and international artists of different genre of music. Zenith, Cabaret Sauvage or Trabendo are the popular places for parties and shows.

People love to hang in the park. It’s also a perfect place for kids who can play around. It’s at the same time a family place. A friend of mine from New York with her son visited the park for the first time in September. They loved the place and especially her son who played, danced and smiled for hours.
I found in La Villette “Le Café de la Musique”, it was a quiet place where I can brainstorm and work on my writing. As there are many activities and many spots around, I went there to see famous singers perform. I remember years ago when I saw the first Kanye West show in Paris at Trabendo or Wu Tang Clan at the Zenith. It’s a great place for inspiration.

Click for more info

This is the Dragon Slide - your kids will love it!

This angle of La Villette is a teaser - so much more to enjoy.

A music program like you'll find nowhere else.


Anna-Karina Caudevilla, Associate of The Shackles of Memory                   

From Bar to Bar

Festival “Bar-Bars” was celebrated on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of November.  A wonderful festival made up of bars and cafés all over France (Nantes having the most members/participants) supporting live music and other arts in small venues.  For three days there are shows of all kinds everywhere.  The vibe is great, everyone goes out on the town and the city is alive all over.  Because Nantes is a relatively small city, checking out several gigs in one night is easy.  There is something very homey about this festival.  

Out of the hundreds of choices available, my girlfriends and I opted for a night of “Queen” revival – the singer/pianist imbued with the Freddy Mercury spirit right down to the outfits.  Such a liberating evening of singing along and dancing!  As a matter of fact, every time I have gone out during this festival, I always have a serious dance moment.  Perhaps it's due to the fact that there are no pretensions behind this festival.  Simple yet real.     



Luna Vincent White was born in Chicago and when she was eight she moved to Los Angeles so that her mom could pursue her dreams of writing for television.
 Luna goes to the University of Southern California, studying a combination of history and sociology to look at racism (hopefully) with a minor in cinematic arts as well as French. She is also studying film because eventually she wants to become a director, whose films encourage empathy and cultural understanding.

    Luna has always loved traveling, and because she moved so much through out her life, she has grown used to the feeling of changing locations a lot. She was so excited to travel to Paris and has taken French since high school. Her hope is to become fluent and perhaps understand a bit of how racial prejudice and xenophobia play a part in Parisian life.

Epée Hervé Dingong is a freelance writer from Paris, of Cameroonian origin. He graduated from the prestigious C.F.P.J.journalism school in Paris.     During his time as a staff writer and freelancer he interviewed a lot of Hip Hop and R&B artists from US, France, Holland, UK and Germany.

     His work appeared in different print publications such as Radikal magazine, Tracklist, The Source France, Musique Info Hebdo, Lady Caprice magazine, Juice Magazine,  to name a few. He has collaborated with American print magazines and online publications such as The Source magazine, The Ave Magazine, Mugshot Magazine,, and He writes about music, politics and social issues.

Anna-Karina Caudevilla is a native from Washington DC currently living in Nantes, France (north-west coast).  A long time traveler, insatiable  learner, Jane-of-all-trades and militant believer in living life creatively, she has set up roots in the United States, Spain and France.  

     Anna-Karina is currently finishing a Masters in Art and Cultural Management in Nantes which led her to discover The Shackles of Memory Association – Resource & Study Centre for the Study of the Slave Trade, for whom she is now an active member.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Black Paris & Beyond - 3 New Contributors Share Their French Life

 New Section!   
 Ma vie à la Française

I’ve invited three France-based contributors : African American, American and an African French to bring us into their world. Every week you’ll hear the ups and downs of someone fresh to Paris, a Parisian journalist of Cameroonian background, and an African American cultural associate living in Nantes.

Through them you'll catch a glimpse of the French life from different perspectives.

Without further ado, let me introduce them and their first posts.

Luna Vincent White  - Student

      Hi, my name is Luna Vincent White
I was born in Chicago and when I was eight I moved to Los Angeles so that my mom could pursue her dreams of writing for television.
     I go to the University of Southern California, studying a combination of history and sociology to look at racism (hopefully) with a minor in cinematic arts as well as French.  I am also studying film because eventually I want to become a director, whose films encourage empathy and cultural understanding.

     I have always loved traveling, and because I moved so much through out my life, I have grown used to the feeling of changing locations a lot.  I was so excited to travel to Paris and I have taken French since I was in high school. Hopefully I will become fluent and perhaps understand a bit of how racial prejudice and xenophobia play a part in Parisian life.


Looking For a Dance Floor

     So far, I have been here 6 weeks.  I had really high expectations of the city… I do not know if they have been fulfilled thus far.   I really miss home.  One thing about home that I do miss, is the black community at home, and the music, dancing, and parties that come along with that specific community at the University of Southern California.  Searching for a place to dance in the city (I will address the dancing in this city later), I found myself at hip hop night (Wednesdays) at a club in the Bastille called Sanz Sans.  While the music was very fun (nineties hip hop), I did not have as good of a time as I had expected or wanted.  I can feel that I am searching for something here that I have yet to find.

     So the dancing, I have gone out a few times since I have been here, and one of my favorite things to do is to go out with my girlfriends and just dance off all my calories of the day!  

"So far, I have found the dance scene hilarious."
 I love to be silly and just have fun, and apparently so do many Parisians.  I am not sure however if they mean to be silly, I see so much crazy movements and jerky arms flings here passing as dancing.  

     At hip hop night I saw a few legitimate 80’s b-boy-looking dancers (complete with kangol hats and everything) as well as people, (possibly descendants of people from islands colonized by the French) getting down with the island-inspired hip rolls and hand claps.  Strangely though, I had a more fun at other clubs!
     Honestly though, I am really interested in finding places where people with more rhythm go to dance! At the same time though, sometimes it feels pretty great to just let it all go be silly, and not be judged because everyone else looks equally silly or, sometimes, even more so.



 Epee Hervé Dingong – Journalist  
     Epée Hervé Dingong is a freelance writer from Paris, of Cameroonian origin. He graduated from the prestigious C.F.P.J.journalism school in Paris.     During his time as a staff writer and freelancer he interviewed a lot of Hip Hop and R&B artists from US, France, Holland, UK and Germany.

     His work appeared in different print publications such as Radikal magazine, Tracklist, The Source France, Musique Info Hebdo, Lady Caprice magazine, Juice Magazine,  to name a few. He has collaborated with American print magazines and online publications such as The Source magazine, The Ave Magazine, Mugshot Magazine,, and He writes about music, politics and social issues.


Staying Healthy For Little
     Getting sick in Paris, you can not enjoy the city. Instead it makes you weak and sad. But I have not really experienced that feeling since 1989.  
"That year the sore throat cut my appetite and not eating in Paris is blasphemy."

     This time, I didn’t go to the doctor  (22 euros (about $28 US) for the consultation ). I went directly to the pharmacy late afternoon with a precise knowledge of medicines. Doliprane [a type of aspirin] or paracetamol are the best remedies against fever and headache. These drugs are reimbursed by the French Social Security when you are equipped with your “carte vitale” chip health card.

      October is a month of transition between summer and autumn is characterized by increases and decreases in temperature. It is the best way to get sick but in the end nothing serious. This experience showed me that I can recover quickly for about 6 euros. The French health system is reasonable and prices are not abusive; it is also why some say it is one of the safest in the world.



Anna-Karina Caudevilla, Associate of The Shackles of Memory                   

      Anna-Karina Caudevilla is a native from Washington DC currently living in Nantes, France (north-west coast).  A long time traveler, insatiable  learner, Jane-of-all-trades and militant believer in living life creatively, she has set up roots in the United States, Spain and France.  

     Anna-Karina is currently finishing a Masters in Art and Cultural Management in Nantes which led her to discover The Shackles of Memory Association – Resource & Study Centre for the Study of the Slave Trade, for whom she is now an active member.


Prepping An Exhibition in Nantes  for Cape Town
      Back to school always creates a rather hefty whirlwind of activities, lots of projects of every type getting placed into motion.  Considering how much goes on in Nantes, this past September and current October are no exceptions.  The cultural season is underway!  At present I am working on co-translating the latest photographic exhibition of Philippe Monges. It was designed and produced in partnership with The Shackles of Memory. His “Places of History, Memory of Places” exhibition opened in May 2012 at UNESCO headquarters, Paris.  (

      We are preparing it for exhibition in Cape Town, South Africa as part of the French Cultural Season organized every year by l’Institut Francais.  Poems, stories, narratives, speeches and photographs of slave sites intertwine to tell of a past not so distant but yet too often forgotten. Although an extremely motivating undertaking, I am a bit apprehensive as I want to make sure that the essence of the words rings clear. 
" I cannot simply translate the words as they are too important.  But how?"
   I am not a slave.  I have never been subjected to such forms of criminality.  To put yourself in one’s place is not easy.  Identity runs much deeper than symbols scrawled on paper.

      For those who did not know (I happened to be one of those when I first moved to this city in 2010), Nantes is the main port in France involved in the transatlantic slave trade.  Growing up in the US on the Atlantic coast, having learned about slavery from a very different perspective than that of Europe’s, I felt like a huge piece of a puzzle had finally fallen into place when I was told this.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Where They're Buried

I've put together a list of burial places of people who influence Black Paris history. Should you find yourself near any of the below mentioned sites in America, Europe or Africa, remember who rests there.


Eugene Bullard - buried in full military honors in his legionnaire uniform in the Cemetery of the Federation of French War Veterans section of the Flushing Cemetery, Queens.

James Reese Europe - Arlington National Cemetery.
Sally Hemings - allegedly at a site in downtown Charlottesville VA, now covered by a parking lot of the Hampton Inn on West Main Street.


Booker T. Washington - on the Tuskegee University Campus Cemetery of Tuskegee near the University chapel, AL.

Frederick Douglass - Mount Hope Cemetery, Section A, Rochester NY.


Mary Church Terrell - Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.

Anna Julia Cooper - City Cemetery, Raleigh,Wake County, North Carolina

WEB Du Bois - in his adopted nation in Accra, Ghana

Theatre Folk

Victor Sejour - Père Lachaise Cemetery, Section 15,  Paris.

Ira Aldridge -  Lotz Evangelical Cemetery, Lotz Lodzkie, Poland.

Harlem Renaissance

Langston Hughes
- ashes interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the foyer leading to the auditorium named for him within the Arthur Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem.

Countee Cullen - Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx NY.

Claude McKay - Woodside, Queens County NY, Plot: Second Calvary, Section 42, Plot R. Grave 5.


Lois Mailou Jones - Oaks Grove Cemetery, Dukes County MA.

Hale Woodruff - Mount Hope Cemetery, Topeka, Kansas.

Archibald Motley - Cook County Cemetery, Dunning, Cook County, IL.

Beauford Delaney - Cimetière Parisien de Thiais, Paris.

Henry Ossawa Tanner  - Cimetière de Sceaux, in south Paris, Division 8.

Hugh Lawrence (Larry) Potts - Thiais Municipal Cemetery, ashes strewn over the Jardin de Souvenir (Garden of Remembrance).

Post WWII Writers

James Baldwin - Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum, Westchester County, NY. Plot: Hillcrest A. Grave 1203.

Richard Wright - Père Lachaise Cemetery Columbarium, Paris.

William Gardner Smith - initially in Père Lachaise Cemetery Columbarium, but his remains are now scattered over the Jardin de Souvenirs (Garden of Remembrance) in Section in Division 77.

Chester Himes - Cementeri de Benissa, Alicante, Valenciana Spain.


Josephine Baker - Cimetière de Monaco, Monaco France.

Ada ‘Bricktop’ Smith - Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx.

Nina Simone - Ashes scattered in several African countries.

Paul Robeson - Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale Westchester County, NY.


James Arthur Briggs - Montmartre Cemetery, Division 9.

Sidney Bechet - Cimetière de Garches, west Paris, Division G.

Malcolm X - Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum, Hartsdale, NY.


Alexandre Dumas - The Pantheon, Paris.

René Maran - first Black writer to win the French Prix Goncourt (1921 Batouala), Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris.

Leopold Senghor - poet, politician, first president of Senegal, one of the founders of the Negritude Movement, in Bel-Air Cemetery, Dakar, Senegal.

Leon-Gotron Damas - poet, politician, and one of the founders of the Negritude Movement, buried in his native French Guyana.

Aimé Cesaire - poet, politician, one of the pioneers of Negritude black consciousness Movement, in Fort-de-France, Martinique despite calls by numerous French officials for his burial at The Pantheon.

If you’d like to add any, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Painting of Richard Wright Hangs in Normandy Town Hall

 Taking You Outside Black Paris

How do we keep alive the vitality and relevance of Richard Wright and his time in France - outside the classroom? We follow his footsteps back to where he wrote, we meet the people he enjoyed, we walk the ground he did. Then we give back something to keep the flame alive.

In celebrating his birthday September 4 (1908), I’d like to share with you a trip that sought to do just that.  

In April 2012, I expanded the annual African Americans in Paris study trip of University of Lausanne to include Richard Wright's Normandy. The international students of Professor Agnieszka Soltysik had pored over Wright's work, now they could physically revisit the farmhouse grounds he once owned, and drink in the calm setting at the nearby writers colony where many of his haiku were penned. 

University of Lausanne students at the Town Hall of Ailly with our hosts on the left.

Our 1-day visit had several other goals. First, to present to the town hall of Ailly a painting that would remind all who passed there of the great American writer who lived among them in the late 1950s.  The painting, made by a young Paris-born artist, Shannon Figuereo, portrays Wright as well as an interpretation of his family’s home.    

Julia Browne presenting painting of Wright to Ailly Municipal Councillor Evelyne JUHEL

It was an emotional ceremony on all sides. Mme Juhel was very touched to receive our gift and promised the painting would be displayed in the new wing of the town hall under renovation. The town administration gave to us a beautiful book on the history of their town, along with a written presentation by its author, local historian Eric Portier. 

"You are welcomed and in fact we are proud to meet you, who came in a kind of literary pilgrimage. I hope that the visit will engrave in your heart the gratitude to that man who fought for a better respect of human beings."  Eric Portier

We, in turn, were really delighted by the unexpected reception they so kindly prepared for us. There was not a drop of the local cider nor a crumb of the regional sablé biscuits (butter biscuits)  left!   

Next, we visited the grounds of La Folie Muse, the farmhouse where Wright enjoyed playing ‘gentleman farmer’ with his family. It was wonderful to revisit this residence after having seen it first when working as a production assistant on Madison Lacy’s PBS documentary Black Boy in 1993. 

At Wright's farmhouse - our guide and  Mr. Hesloin (r) who knew Wright.

Back on the bus, we followed Wright’s next move -  about 15 minutes down the road to the Moulin D’Andé. At the time, this 12th century mill turned artists retreat allowed writers, artists and musicians to develop their craft in a bucolic, friendly atmosphere. Today, the cultural centre still carries that mission. And it is still run by the woman who invited Richard Wright after the Sorbonne’s 1956 Negro Writers Conference. 

Moulin d'Andé Cultural Centre
After a sumptuous buffet lunch, the students, professors and I hung onto every word of Maurice Pons, a French writer also residing at the Moulin d’Andé and friend of Wright. Oh, the stories he told, the pictures he showed!

Author Maurice Pons opening the Moulin d'Andé Book of Memories

Wright relaxing at the Moulin d'Andé

View from a writers cottage

Put This On Your Itinerary

Ailly lies about an hour east of Paris. It's a community of 1052 souls - about the same number at Richard Wright's time. The Aillytiens, as they're called, take great effort to maintain their 'home sweet home' feel of old time French country living. But visitors are warmly welcome! There's even a soft spot for Americans. On the 24th August 1944, American troops liberated the village, as they did many others in Normandy.

A trip down Richard Wright's lane can be arranged for individual travelers and for groups. And, if you've got a novel you'd love to write in this peace and calm, or a musical score to finish, it doesn't get much more idyllic than here (and the food's great).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romancing Paris Past & Present

Isn't it the height of romance – a wedding in Paris? Or meeting that special someone, honeymooning or spending your first married years in the City of Lights?

Some of Black Paris' most well-known and talented expatriates did just that. We've put together a roster of just a few of the African-Americans who have tested the dream.

And after you're all fired up and misty-eyed, read on for advice/reality check from Paris-based wedding planner Kim Petyt of Parisian Party.

The True Art of Marriage

Painter Henry O. Tanner & Jessie Macauley Olssen

Jessie Olssen and son Jessie Ossawa Tanner
In 1897, Tanner met the tall, lively American of Swedish-Scottish ancestry in Barbizon, a small town south of Paris, home of the famous French school of landscape painting and artists colony. Although he had already faced the challenge of being the lone Black painter in his Philadelphia art school and now in Paris, Tanner still worried about the complications of marrying someone of another race.

Love triumphed! They married on December 14, 1899 in Bloomsbury, England, honeymooned in Martigues in the south of France, then spent the next 25 years between their homes in Paris and Normandy.

Jessie's energetic personality was the perfect complement for Tanner's more reflective, reserved nature. Between them reigned an intimate companionship and a stable home life with their only child, Jessie Ossawa.

The Decorated Airman and The Aristocrat

City Hall of 10th district
Aviator Eugene Bullard & Marcelle de Straumann    

In 1923, Eugene Bullard married Marcelle Eugenie Henriette de Straumann, the daughter of a wealthy Parisian family.

He was introduced to the wealthy de Straumann family by two painter friends and despite his working-class occupation as an exercise trainer (to the rich and lesser so), the aristocratic parents had no objection to him taking their daughter dancing. On July 4, 1922, with great trepidation, he declared his love for Marcelle to them. Just over a year later, July 17, 1923, the couple were married in an early afternoon civil ceremony in the City Hall of the 10th arrondissement (district).

The wedding party guests included high-brow relatives on her side and on his, friends from the military, the entertainment and sports world. They made merry at the Brasserie Universelle, at the corner of Avenue Opera and Avenue Danou, and in French style the wedding party stretched late in the afternoon. Come nightfall, the father of the bride hired 10 taxicabs to shuttle the guests up the hill to Montmartre where they continued celebrating until well into the wee hours.

The lovebirds honeymooned in the chic Atlantic seaside resort town of Biarritz, near the Spanish border. Their first apartment had a magnificent view of the Eiffel Tower, bien sur, across the River Seine. The couple had two surviving daughters, Jacqueline born in 1924 and Lolita Josephine in 1927.

Ill-Fated Union

Leon Crutcher & Mary Boyard

In 1925, Leon Crutcher, a pianist from Philadelphia and Mary-Louise Boyard, a dance hall hostess, met in a club in Nice where they both worked. They moved to Paris and found work in the jazzy, somewhat shady world of Montmartre. On Christmas Day 1925, they got married but the honeymoon period was short lived. Seems the couple chanelled their passion into their many fights, and in February 1926 after a particularly heated one, the new Mrs. Crutcher shot her husband dead. Arrested, she pleaded innocence, hadn't meant to kill him. The French court at the time allegedly went easy on women who were charged with crimes of passion. She was found not guilty.

Entertainment Royalty

Ada 'Bricktop' Smith & Peter Ducongé

She was a wildly popular entertainer and legendary club owner, he was an African-American saxophonist from New Orleans. They married in December 1926 in the City Hall of the 9th arrondissement. Settling in for the long term, they bought a home in the fashionable Paris suburb of Bougival (playground of the Impressionist painters). They led the independent life of a childless couple and never missed a night hosting celebrities, aristocrats and jazz lovers in Lower Montmartre. After some years Bricktop found out about an affair he had with a young African-American woman she had taken under her wing in Paris and though they did not divorce, she never slept with him again.

 The Many Dreams of Josephine
Josephine Baker & Jean Lion & Jo Bouillon

J. Baker & Jean Lion
J. Baker & Jo Bouillon
Josephine's third husband was Jewish French industrialist Jean Lion, who taught Josephine to fly and allegedly proposed to her mid-air. They married on November 30, 1937. As the wife of a Frenchman she could now claim French citizenship and within four days obtained her French passport.

Her fourth marriage, to orchestra leader Jo Bouillon, took place on June 3, 1947, on her forty-first birthday. The civil service was performed at the Chateau des Milandes in Dordogne, followed by a religious ceremony in the adjacent Gothic chapel, and a reception. Bouillon said that in marrying Baker he was also marrying her dream of universal harmony between races, and they went on to demonstrate that possibility by adopting their Rainbow Tribe of children.

A Long Engagement and a Soulful Marriage

Chester Himes & Lesley Packard
Lesley Packard & Chester Himes
Award-winning detective novelist Himes met 30 year old Englishwoman Lesley Packard on the terrace of the Cafe Tournon, half a block from Luxembourg Gardens. Packard, who worked for the Paris Herald Tribune, was sitting with Himes' good friend William Gardner Smith. The ladies man had met his match, “She was Irish-English with blue grey eyes and very good looking,” he wrote in his autobiography My Life of Absurdity. Although it took 19 years before they actually tied the knot, their marriage lasted until his death.

And If You Wanted to Tie the Knot in Paris Today?

To find out what getting married in Paris is like today, I asked expat wedding/event planner extraordinaire Kim Petyt, Owner and Managing Director of a Parisian Events, a full-service wedding and event planning agency.

Here's her advice - slash - reality check:

Can just anyone get married in Paris?

"Getting legally married in France as a foreigner will be one of the strongest tests to your “coupledom” as you’ve probably gone through so far. Forget about Couples Fear Factor - If you can survive this, you can survive anything…"

What's the main hurdle?

"In order to be legally wed in France, one of the couple needs to have lived in France, in the district around the city hall in which they plan to marry, for a minimum of 40 consecutive days before the wedding. Some sources say 30 days, but you have to add on an additional 10 days for the city hall to publish the Banns - a public announcement that is put up in City Hall for 10 days preceding your marriage that lists your names and your impending marriage date so that any estranged husbands or wives have one last chance to find you before you’re married off…"

Oh, is that all?

"Before asking for that sabbatical from work, though, you should know that this one little detail is actually a big one. You must show 2 proofs of domicile (“justificatifs de domicile” )- a gas or electricity bill (a cell phone bill doesn’t count), a rent receipt, a lease, a French social security card, etc. If you are planning on renting an apartment here on a short-term lease in order to meet this marriage requirement, know that it could take several months before you receive any of the above documents."

Say I meet the 40-day requirement, is it smooth sailing from then on?

"It’s important, (and I can’t stress this enough), that you get the official, most up-to-date list (of required documents) from the mairie (City Hall) in the district (arrondissement) that you are planning to marry."

Oh-oh, that list sound ominious. What will I need?

  • A valid passport or a French residence permit (“carte de sejour”)
  • A birth certificate (”extrait d’acte de naissance“): Most city halls require that you present an original copy of a complete birth certificate (with full details of your parents) issued within 3 months of your wedding date along with a sworn translation.
  • A certificate of celibacy (”attestation tenant lieu de declaration en vue de mariage ou de non-remariage“) less than 3 months old
  • An Affidavit of law (”certificat de coutume“) The Affidavit of Law certifies that the American citizen is free to get married in France and that the marriage will be recognized in the United States. Only an attorney licensed to practice in both France and the United States may execute this document.
  • A medical certificate (“certificat médical prénuptial”): You both must get a pre-nuptial medical certificate which says that you were examined by a doctor “en vue de mariage.” The marriage banns cannot be published until medical certificates have been submitted to the mairie.
  • Proof of domicile (”justificatifs de domicile“) (see above)
  • A “certificat du notaire“: If you are planning on having a pre-nuptial agreement, you must go through a lawyer (a notaire) who will provide a “certificat du notaire” which must be submitted to the mairie as well. It must have been drawn up no more than 2 months prior to the marriage.
  • If either of you were previously married, you must provide a certified copy of the death certificate of the deceased spouse or a certified copy of the final divorce decree.

Okay, so we don't scare easily and this is really our dream. The second part of our dream is having the ceremony in one of the city's majestic churches.

"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. 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.
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.

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."

Ouch! What other differences should I be prepared for?

"My husband and I were once at a wedding here in France when, around 11:30PM- just as dessert was being served, a couple mysteriously showed up and sat down at our table. I assumed that they must have had an emergency during the evening, and came to the wedding as soon as they could make it. After chit-chatting with them for a bit though, I realized that I had already spoken to them earlier during the day. I mentioned this to my husband, and he casually remarked, “Oh, they must have just been invited for the dessert” Me: “Um, WHAT?” Lui: “Yeah, Jean-Luc only works with Philippe, so they were probably invited just for the dessert”. Me (completely dumbfounded) “And they came????” Lui: ” Oh, you Americans are so sensible (sensitive)”

A guest in France can be invited to all, or only part of the wedding festivities- even JUST dessert around midnight, and they won’t get offended by it!"

Okay, I'll be in France and I want to do like the French, what's my wedding going to be like?

"A typical French wedding lasts all day AND into the next. It starts with a civil ceremony at City Hall in the morning, and is followed by a religious ceremony, then a vin d’honneur (a small cocktail reception), followed by a 4 or 5-course meal, and then dancing. The dancing often starts between dinner courses, in order to give guests a chance to work up more of an appetite! A typical French wedding doesn’t end until 3:00 or 4:00AM, or even later."

All above advice copyright Parisian Party


Sounds daunting, but where there's a will there's a beautiful solution!

For more indepth details on getting married in Paris, take a walk down the aisles of Kim's blog Parisian Party - Tales of An American Wedding Planner in Paris.