Getting Married in Germany: Practically Speaking

Whoops, it’s been nearly seven months since my last post. Didn’t really intend that, started a 2020 recap post somewhere along the way that I never finished, and though this feels a little bit like tonal whiplash if someone stumbled across this blog and just scrolled through, oh well, I’m going with it.

It’s been nearly a year since we got married and I thought if anyone else was looking to go through the process, I’d give a little bit of insight into how it looked for us, as well as how much it cost. As with any post here that has to deal with the oh-so-romantic aspects of German bureaucracy, it’s important for me to say this:

Via: https://giphy.com/gifs/theoffice-the-office-tv-secret-santa-BXOEmFSzNkOObZhIA3

Disclaimer: This is how it worked here, in our corner of Franconia, in the year of our Lord, 2020, for a German citizen and an American who’s been here 10 years (9 at the time), with a well-established working permit (now permanent resident), and depending on where you are, your mileage may vary. There are differences on what might be required depending on what German Bundesland you’re in, which district, which official you’re dealing with, what moon phase you might be in, and how quickly Germany gets knocked out of whatever football championship is currently ongoing. Also, pandemics are apparently a thing now so already-terrible government office hours are, surprise!, even worse than before.

Ahem. Moving on.

As I mentioned in the first wedding post, we started looking at planning in February, visited some locations, and were pretty darn close to putting down money. Thankfully we didn’t go through with it, and then the world shut down and we started to regroup. Given the fact that we had all these documents that needed renewing in October/November, we decided pretty quickly that either way we’d do the civil ceremony in 2020, and play it by ear with how we celebrated at the time.

In mid-April, BV reached out to the local registrar to see what documents we’d need, and what the process would be. Within a few days we had our list, and paid a small fee of €25 for the privilege of the information.

We needed:

  1. A certified copy of BV’s birth certificate (ordered from the city of Nürnberg for ca. €13)
  2. A long-form certified original of my birth certificate, which must be issued no more than 6 months out from filing date (ordered online from the state of Wisconsin with postage for $33)
  3. A German translation of said birth certificate from a certified translator (€35.04, and translator found via the official portal http://www.justiz-dolmetscher.de)
  4. Both of our current valid passports (or BV’s ID card would do)
  5. My current work/residence permit
  6. A sworn affidavit of my current marital status and allowance to marry (done in front of registrar in the office)
  7. Express declaration of both of our domiciles*
  8. Proof of income for both of us (i.e. pay slips for the last 3 months)

*The domicile thing had us both a bit confused, but basically what it broke down to was your birthplace and where you live now. For me it was fairly uncomplicated as the only place I lived in the U.S. was in Wisconsin, and they really don’t care how often you moved within the state or where your last address was. So when we had our appointment I said yes I was born in Wisconsin, that’s where I lived, now I live here, done.

Another thing to note: Bavaria is a bit different, in that they only require the affidavit that you are free to marry. As far as I know, in the other German states, you do need official documentation of this from the U.S. Not mad about missing out on that one.

Edited to add: upon publication I was informed that as of 2021, swearing an affidavit is allowed in all areas of Germany without documentation. Again, if it’s 2022, Venus is in retrograde, or you live in Landkreis OberUnterDorfau, they may do things their own way so always speak to your friendly local Beamter*innen.

So we gathered up our documents, I ordered my birth certificate at the beginning of May and that arrived in about three weeks, I had it translated, and we submitted everything first via email/pdf. Then, we waited.

A couple of weeks went by and we got a call from the registrar that everything looked good, so the next step was for us to come in and have an appointment to go through everything, me to swear the affidavit, etc. She was very adamant that if I was not a native German speaker, we MUST have a translator as we were doing a Very Legal Proceeding, and BV was not allowed to translate for me when necessary. I appreciate her commitment to her job and not getting accidentally sold for a small herd of cattle or something, but I know from other people that they have gotten away with less than perfect German and no translator so again… variance.

The gal who had translated my birth certificate was unable to join us, so it was back to the portal and I was lucky to find a lovely woman who was a dual citizen born in the U.S. and normally worked at conferences, etc., but was free to join us for several hours one afternoon in July at our appointment. We were there for nearly three hours going through all the paperwork, and reading in great detail, because both the laws of Germany and Wisconsin (that domicile again), the laws that apply to Wisconsin/Germany that would or would not preclude us from marrying.

Fun fact! In the state of Wisconsin, you can legally marry your cousin IF either the bride is old enough that children are no longer a possibility or the groom is proven to be impotent.

You’re welcome for this knowledge. I paid the translator €271.44 to learn it. I accept both Paypal and snacks, if you’re so inclined. But again, the translator was really great, super helpful, and said afterwards that our registrar was, in her experience… unusually detailed.

At that point all the t’s were crossed, all the i’s were dotted, and our paperwork was sent off to the Oberlandesgericht Nürnberg, or the Nürnberg High Court. Three weeks later in mid-August, our registrar got the okay from them, we submitted the final fee of €185, and were free to set our date for our civil ceremony. And that was it.

All told from first contact with the registrar to ceremony date, the whole thing took 5 months and one day, with a cost of about €557, give or take a Euro for whatever the dollar exchange rate was in May last year.

As far as the ease of the process goes, for me after 10 years here and the wealth of bureaucratic hoops I’ve had to jump through due to my own error or just life, this was SHOCKINGLY EASY. I know people have gone abroad specifically to avoid the pain of marrying in Germany, but if you’re not under an enormous time crunch, I really can’t say that any part of this was problematic for us. I’ve also never longed for a big, fancy wedding with all the trimmings, so keeping it just us was actually kind of perfect. Yes we still do want to celebrate at some point in the future with other people, but as it’s (checks watch) a year and a half into the pandemic and it’s just now maybe? a little bit? getting better here, we have no idea when that will be. For now, we’re married, and that’s what we wanted.

Bonus pic from our honeymoon. 🙂

Sound like fun? Sound like a nightmare? Leave a comment and let me know where you stand… ’til the next time (hopefully sooner than six months from now…)

And Just Like That, We Were Married

Well not quite. This being Germany, there was, of course, a healthy amount of paperwork that went along with the whole thing. I might do a post on that subject specifically (interest, anyone? Bueller?) at some point, but since it’s not the important part, let’s start with the good stuff.

Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie

We started planning back in February/March, and I have to say that a global pandemic was really not a factor that I had ever figured into my very few ideas about how/when we might get married at some point. All things considered though, I’m glad we hadn’t gotten too far down the planning road. So many people lost so much time, money, energy, and hope, really, this year. Right before everything in Germany shut down, we were very close to putting down money on a location for a date at the end of October and I am so so so glad that we took a few days to think about it.

I wasn’t wild about October 31st (not a Halloween fan), and the weather possibilities, but the pro of that location was that they had the possibility of doing your standesamtliche Trauung, or civil ceremony, on-site. The civil ceremony is a must in Germany, and it’s rare to find a location that has permission to do those ceremonies outside of the local town hall.

Why the rush? Why not just wait until next year? Well, that particular location was already booked up for all the preferable (aka, summer) dates, and also surprise surprise bureaucracy!

In a nutshell: we wanted to do it this year because 1) my passport is up for renewal in November, 2) my residence permit (tied to passport validity length) is up in November, and also 3) BV’s passport is up for renewal in October.

I’m not worried about a new residency permit at all and should be eligible for permanent residency either way at this point as I’ve been here more than seven years, but we figured that if had to do all this paperwork this year, let’s not do it again next year for an additional spousal status change? Not to mention changing names on all that crap? Nein, danke. So this year it would be.

So as the months of pandemic wore on, we decided we’d just get our ducks in a row, and if everything got the green light, we’d do the civil ceremony as soon as we could, and hopefully have the party and some type of “free ceremony” next year.

In the end, our plan went off without a hitch. We submitted everything we needed to submit, got the ‘okay’ from the high court, and set the date for September 18th.

We went back and forth a bit on if we’d want to have anyone there or not, but with all the restrictions on how many people from how many households and who would or could or should attend, we decided that the best choice was no one besides ourselves and a photographer. We wanted at least a few decent pictures to show our families if they couldn’t be there, and luckily for us, Martina, a very lovely and talented local Fotographerin* was available that day.

She was the only one who joined us for the ceremony, which took place in a large room in our Rathaus, or town hall, and was officiated by the same registrar which had handled our paperwork. Where we live it would have either been one of two town registrars, or our mayor. Masks were necessary as we came in, but when we all sat down, with our registrar separated from us by a Plexiglass shield, we were welcome to take them off if we wanted. The registrar did a nice job, and tried to personalize it a bit, which was nice. My personal favorite part was when she talked a bit about how she was the type of person who likes things to be very neat and orderly and I’m just very happy that she found a career as a Beamtin which most definitely fits that personality type. Folks in Germany know what I mean. 😉

Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie

The ceremony itself lasted about fifteen minutes, we said ‘ja‘ (seriously, that’s all you have to say), and of course signed more paperwork.

Check all ze papers! Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie

Then the deed was done, we accepted the registrar’s congratulations and headed out. Afterwards, we planned to go over to the local castle garden and take some more pictures. However, we had to delay that just a little bit as we rounded the corner of the Rathaus and saw that a few people had turned up to surprise us with mostly-distanced Sekt, bubbles, and a few hugs if they were feeling risky (not pictured, don’t want to incur the wrath of the Antirisikoamt).

Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie
Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie

The surprises were lovely and we all had a good laugh at their having bumped into each other outside (three separate parties) and their debates over just which door we’d emerge from. But then, toasted and congratulated, and with the next wedding guests and bride arriving (most Standesamt ceremonies are on Fridays), we said goodbye to the surprise crew and went over to the castle garden.

Surprise! Informational signage!

We had a gorgeous day, and even better, there was nearly no one around so we had the gardens all to ourselves. I’ve always loved the Fachwerk, warm sandstone tones, and dramatic archways to our friendly local castle, and we really couldn’t be happier as to how these came out.

Photos by Martina Strauß Fotografie

After we finished with the photos, we bid Tschüss to Martina and went back home to drop off gifts, etc. Then it was back in the car (we had a rental for the day), and to the bakery to pick up some cake to take over to BV’s dad’s place. The rest of the afternoon was spent having coffee and cake with his parents, before dropping off the car and hopping onto the U-Bahn for a very overdressed ride to Nürnberg.

We had invited a few people to join us for dinner, and between pandemic and babysitters, it wound up being just six of us. It was a lovely, small round, and nice for the Villagers to be able to finally meet some of our more local friends. We also managed to eat a truly impressive amount of food at da Gallo, one of our favorite Nbg spots. Some less professional pictures…

The Villagers gifted us with a Nürnberg Bridal Cup, so that’s what is happening in that first picture. Technically the groom should probably take the larger part but… oh well. It was a nice red wine though, so I really do not recommend trying this at home.

The party broke up when they closed the restaurant, and L. saved us a trip on the train by chauffeuring us home. And that was it.

As I said before, we are hoping to do some sort of larger celebration in the future. I’m hoping that can still happen but I’ve also been hoping the US can get their shit together for months and… well, you’ve probably all seen how that’s gone. If we could do it on our first anniversary it would be rather nice and neat, but at the end of the day, I’m not a Beamtin and it’s not the most important thing in the world. It would be nice to celebrate with the other people who couldn’t make it, and we’ll make that happen whenever we can.

To the next chapter…

20/52

*linked in the photo captions

Sunday Snapshots: Festivity!

Wisconsin, 2016

This is what happens when your friend and her fiancé figure, “hey, everyone will be in town for the holidays anyway, let’s get married right before Christmas!”

Which is exactly what they did. Winter weddings can be so pretty, and done for a dime if a venue is already decorated to the nines like theirs was. Major wedding hack right there. Then just get all the aunties to supply the Christmas cookie bar and it’s off to the races! Win win win. 🙂

Norway Road Trip 2017: Sæbø on Hjørundfjorden

The first stop on our Norwegian adventure was in Sæbø, a small village about an hour away from Ålesund in western Norway. The Storfjord is the main fjord in the area, and many people pass through here on their way to and from the Instagram/Pinterest-perfect UNESCO Wold Heritage Site that is the Geirangerfjord, which branches off of the Storfjord. However, that was not on our list. We were invited to a wedding in Sæbø, which is located on Hjørundfjorden, another branch. Got all that? If not, check a map because I can’t say fjord that many more times without hitting myself. But there are pictures, so click on!

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Sunday Snapshots: Outside the Chapel

Outside Prague, 2016

A set up scene from what may go down in history as one of the most fun (and hipster) weddings of all time. There was a tattoo artist. And a band, And curry. And a giant tent to sleep in, which thankfully we skipped out on as there was a complete deluge overnight.

But… one year ago on this day I got to see one of the girls from my original gangster TEFL course marry an absolutely fantastic Czech dude in a ceremony that was incredibly fitting to the both of them. It was good times.