Getting Married in Germany: A Primer

Getting Married in Germany: A Primer

If you are thinking about getting married in Germany, or if you are considering a civil partnership there, prepare yourself for some formalities that may be different from your home country. Read on to discover the intricacies of getting married in Germany.

Which public Authority is Relevant for Your Marriage?

In Germany, all marriages are handled by the local registry office (Standesamt)  located in the Town Hall (Rathaus) local to either you or your partner. You must be living in that locality (or, if using your partner’s locality, they must be living in that locality) for at least 21 days.

You must go there and give notice of the impending marriage, so you go there ahead of when you want to get married. Because the Standesamt might only be open for a few hours, it is prudent to check the hours of the office before you go.

Which Documents Do You Need to Get Married in Germany?

You will need to submit documentation to the Standesamt (Civil Registry Office) to prove that there are no legal impediments to the marriage – i.e., that if there were any previous marriages, they have been permanently dissolved through death or divorce, etc. Documentation varies (so again, it is prudent to check with your locality first!) but can include:

  • A valid passport/ ID
  • Official Statement of Residency (Meldebescheinigung )
  • Original long form birth certificate (with parents’ names)
  • Certificate of Free Status (Ehefähigkeitszeugnis) certifying both parties are single and legally free to marry
  • German residence permit -(where applicable)

If you or your potential spouse has been married previously at all, additional documentation might be needed, such as the marriage certificates of any previous marriages, certificate of finality of divorce or death certificate, and so on. Note that a simple divorce decree might not be enough.

If one partner is under 18, parental consent is required for marriage, and so a statement of parental consent would be included in the documentation requirements for these cases. Again, please check with the Standesamt beforehand to make sure you have what you need.

Translate all the documents in German

Also be sure that in addition to the documents themselves, which have to be issued within the previous six months (so you might have to budget extra time into your schedule to make sure you can get any documents issued or re-issued as necessary from the appropriate authorities), all documents not already in German must be translated into German by a sworn translator. Special rulings may apply to members of foreign (non-German) forces abroad, so please check with your home country for rulings and instructions. For example, if you work for the United States military in Germany, the US Department of State has further instructions for you here.

Getting married in Germany: A Primer

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Once the documentation has been processed, you can get married. You must get married within six months of the documentation being processed, or else new documents (and more processing) will be required.

The Civil Ceremony

Both partners must physically attend the civil wedding ceremony, which is held at the Standesamt local to one of the partners. There are several different wedding rooms kept for exclusive use for civil ceremonies and these rooms are quite lovely, often in the finer buildings in town, albeit they are careful to avoid any decorations that might be deemed too religious in nature.

As the ceremony is conducted in German, you might wish to have a certified translator present, if you don’t speak fluent German. Signing a marriage certificate means signing a legally binding contract, so both partners need to understand exactly what is being said and done during the process.

Most German couples do not have anything other than this civil ceremony but if you want to have a ceremony within your faith tradition, by German law that must only occur after the civil ceremony. A further note: civil marriages accord all the legal rights and obligations of marriage.

While the documentation and procedure for registering the union are similar for same-sex unions (civil partnerships), legal rights – especially when it comes to sensitive issues like healthcare coverage, taxation, and adoption procedures – are not equal to each other, which are different than even some places in the European Union and may be different from laws in your home country. Please be aware these matters are still being discussed in German politics and in the courts, and make the best decision you can.

Changing Your Surname After Marriage

In Germany, a person’s name doesn’t automatically change upon marriage. Couples can choose a shared “married name” (Ehename) by registering it at the local office.

The other spouse can add their previous name with a hyphen. If married in Germany and the new name is on the marriage certificate, no further declaration is needed for a passport application.

What About Your Child’s Last Name?

If a married couple shares a common married name, their newborn automatically inherits that surname. For example, if both parents are named Schmidt, the child will bear the same name. However, if one parent has a compound surname like Schmidt-Müller, the child can also be given the double name.

In cases where a married couple has distinct surnames, a decision must be reached by mutual agreement, provided they share joint custody. The family name can be either the mother’s or the father’s, and this name is then assigned to all subsequent children born to the couple. It is not permissible to give different children in the family different surnames.

Religious Ceremonies in Germany

As we already explained, in Germany, all official marriages must be registered at the Standesamt, irrespective of whether a religious ceremony is desired. Legal permission is required for priests to perform marriages in Europe and the United States.

If opting for a religious ceremony in a church, temple, or synagogue, a civil ceremony at the registry office is a prerequisite. Alternatively, couples can choose a Catholic or Protestant wedding ceremony in Germany, though these lack the legal effect of a civil ceremony and are symbolic.

Such ceremonies can take place in historical churches or other venues officiated by a priest or pastor. English-speaking ministers are essential for Catholic weddings, and couples may opt for privately-owned chapels in Germany for a personalized religious ceremony.


Planning a wedding in Germany entails various expenses that couples should carefully consider. You can consider hiring a wedding planner to ensure a smooth and organized event, with fees ranging from a few hundred to several thousand euros, depending on the level of service.

The wedding ceremony itself incurs expenses related to venue rental, decorations, and any necessary permits. Additionally, the bride’s dress is often a substantial part of the budget, with prices varying widely based on the choice between a designer gown and a more affordable option from the high street.

On average, the bride’s dress, accessories, and jewelry typically amount to €1,000 to €5,000. It’s important to note that this estimate excludes wedding rings, which can add an additional cost ranging from €500 to €2,000 each.

Getting Married in Germany for Same-Sex Couples

In 2001, legal recognition was granted to registered partnerships for same-sex couples. However, this did not grant gay couples the same rights enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples.

In 2017, Germany granted homosexual couples equal marital and adoption rights. This legislation, known as “Marriage for All” or “Ehe für alle,” marked a significant step towards equality.

For gay couples already in a registered partnership, there is an option to apply for marriage status and get a marriage certificate. To do so, you simply need to schedule an appointment at the registry office where your partnership was formalized. In the presence of each other and the registrar, you declare your intention to live as a married couple and get your marriage registration.

The registry office will record the date of marriage as the day your registered partnership was established. Importantly, couples in a registered partnership have the choice to maintain that status; getting a ‘marriage license’ designation is not mandatory.

Not quite ready to get married yet? Well, we can get you started. Learn how to say I love you in German and many other affectionate phrases over at our blog.

FAQs about getting a German marriage certificate

Here are some of the questions people ask about getting married as a foreign or German citizen.

Can I get married in Germany as a foreigner?

Yes, it is possible for foreigners to get married in Germany. However, specific requirements and documentation will vary depending on your nationality. It’s advisable to check with the local registry office (Standesamt) for the exact process and necessary documents.

How can I get married in Germany as a non EU citizen?

Non-EU citizens seeking to get married in Germany usually cannot do so on a visitor visa. Instead, they must obtain a visa valid for three to six months.

If marrying a German citizen, it’s typically possible to acquire a residence permit to facilitate the marriage process. It’s important to check and comply with the specific visa requirements and foreign documents required to ensure a smooth process with the German authorities.

Do I need to register my marriage in the US if I got married abroad?

The United States has no national registration of marriages, foreign or domestic. U.S. states recognize marriages performed in other states and in other countries. If your marriage has been legally performed in the country or state where you got married, then it grants you legal marital status in the United States.

How much does it cost to register a marriage?

The costs of a civil marriage vary in different federal states. The desired day of the week and the number of required documents and certificates affect the price. In general, charges between €50 to €100 can be expected if you decide to get married on a weekday. If you want to marry on a Saturday, you have to reckon with higher costs.

What is Germany’s position on same-sex marriage?

Germany officially legalized same-sex marriage on October 1, 2017. The decision came after the German Parliament passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry, granting them the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples.

Summing Up: Getting Married in Germany

Planning a wedding in Germany involves navigating specific formalities, particularly for non-EU citizens. Understanding the relevant public authorities, all the paperwork and legal requirements, and the civil ceremony process is crucial. Expenses, including those for a wedding planner, ceremony venue, and the bride’s attire, must be considered.

Germany’s legal landscape has evolved, granting equal rights to all regardless of sexual orientation through the “Marriage for All” legislation. Whether it’s a civil or religious ceremony, careful preparation of the required documents ensures a smooth and memorable wedding experience in Germany. If you’d like to know more about German culture, come check us out at SmarterGerman!