Getting married in Germany: A Primer

Getting married in Germany: A Primer
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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.

Which public Authority is relevant for you 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 are needed to get married?

You will need to submit documentation to the Standesamt 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, prudent to check with your locality first!) but can include:

  • Passport
  • 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

If you or your potential spouse has been married previously at all, additional documentation might be needed, such as the marriage certificates of any and all 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. 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: http://germany.usembassy.gov/acs/getting_married/

However! Once the documentation has been processed, now 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. Both partners must physically attend the civil wedding ceremony, which is held at the Standesamt local to one of the partners. There are 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 translator present, depending on how fluent you are in German.

Most Germans do not have anything other than this civil ceremony; if you want to have a ceremony within your faith tradition, 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.

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