In Germany, marriage are considered legal unions, and essentially legally binding contracts between 2 persons. The union is protected under the German Constitution. Persons getting married in Germany only need to appear physically at a Standesamt for a civil ceremony. Witnesses are not required in this case and a religious ceremony is optional.
Documents and Requirements when Getting Married in Germany
The civil registrar's office in each region of Germany can provide the exact information on the required documents and process of getting married in Germany. However, typically the following documents are required by both partners with the registrar:
- Certified true copy of identification document with photograph (e.g. passport, identity Card)
- Birth certificate (not older than 6 months) in original or as certified true copy showing parents' names. A translation might be required. A baptismal certificate is not acceptable. Certificate of Naturalization must also be exhibited if applicant has been naturalized.
- If widowed, original death certificate or certified copy of deceased spouse. A translation might be required.
- If divorced, a certified copy of the divorce decree accompanied by a translation into German made by a certified translator.
- If the previous marriage was dissolved by a court other than a German court, the divorce decree might have to be approved by the appropriate German federal-state administration of justice department.
- If one of the fiancés is a minor, a statement executed by a legal representative, i.e. father and mother or guardian, before a notary public, giving consent in accordance with the laws of the individual's country. Since some German States require a special form of consent, the appropriate registrar should be contacted for detailed Information.
- All persons not registered in Germany but marrying there require an “Ehefähigkeitszeugnis”, which is a Certificate of no impediment to marriage, stating that they are legally free to marry.
- In case the civil registrar’s office requires an affidavit (“eidesstattliche Versicherung”) stating that the applicant is unmarried, it can be taken at the competent German Mission iabroad. Please contact your German mission in advance.
- Financial statement
It is important to note that the registrar’s office may request that all foreign documents must be presented with an Apostille.
Another requirement is that one must also be living in the locality for at least 21 days before visiting the town hall and apply for a marriage date.
Foreign Partners Getting Married in Germany
If one or both of the partners intending to marry is foreign, the foreign documents may be sent to a higher regional court in order to verify the legal status of that person. However foreigners can legally get married in Germany. Foreigners not from an EU country would require a German VISA valid for stays of 3 to 6 months. That means visitor VISA’s are not accepted for the intent of marriage.
If a foreigner is marrying a German citizen, it is possible to obtain a German residence permit. It is also important to check if marriage in Germany is also recognised in your home country if you intend to move back at some point and wish to get it recognised.
Religious and Traditional Marriage Ceremonies
A civil marriage is required before an optional religious marriage may be performed. Civil marriages are completed at the Standersamter. These are generally non-regligous in order to suit a marriage union from all religious backgrounds. Once completed, a religious or traditional ceremony may be performed.
Same-sex Marriage in Germany
Same-sex civil Partnerships were legally recognised in Germany during 2001. Although there are legal differences between a marriage union and partnerships, the process is the same. On October 1st, 2017 same-sex marriage became legal with all the obligations of marriage according to the German Constitution.
After the change in law, civil partnerships were obsolete and any same-sex partnerships entered into before October 2017 have the possibility to covert the partnership into an official marriage. Furthermore, same-sex marriages officially recognised in any other country is also recognised as legal marriage in Germany.
The Process of Getting Married in Germany
How to get Married in Germany
- Visit town hall Visit the town hall (Rathaus) to give the intention to marry (foreigners must have been living in the locality for at least 21 days);
- Translated documents Have your documents translated into German by a certified interpreter;
- Submit documents Submit documents to the registry office;
- Appointment for marriage Organize the wedding ceremony to take place within the following six months;
- Register witnesses (if applicable) Notify the registrar of the names of any witnesses you wish to attend at least eight days before the wedding.
German Wedding Traditions
While Germany has many wedding traditions found in most other Christian weddings, such as the bride wearing white, the father leads the bride down the aisle, cake cutting at midnight and the first dance, there are a few German traditions as well.
One of these German traditions is the night before the wedding, guests attend a party called polterabend, which includes breaking porcelain plates to wish the couple good fortune.
Another tradition is the baumstamm sagen, which is a ritual of sawing tree logs. By sawing the logs together, it displays the couple can work together and symbolises a long marriage.
The groomsmen can also “kidnap” the bride after the wedding ceremony and take her to a bar. It's the groom that must find her and pay the entire bar bill she and the groomsmen have accumulated. So the quicker he finds her the better.
Other German wedding traditions may include pranks on the newly wedded couple, such as filling a room with balloons or hiding alarm clocks on the wedding night.