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Why you should not get married in Germany · 2007-03-31 02:32 by Wladimir Palant

Until recently I thought that the low number of marriages and the relatively high age of people getting married in Germany was solely an expression of the mentality where everybody only relies on himself. Now I have learned that there is another factor as well — getting married in Germany is just difficult, despite all the talk about “improving family-friendliness of the state”. To attain the permission to get married (something I assumed to be a mere formality) you have to jump through all sorts of bureaucratic hoops. After having spent the last three years in Norway I simply didn’t expect this. Of course I should have known better but you easily get used to the good things.

According to the web page of the marital office you basically only need to bring your passports and fill out a few papers. Well, it also says that there is some additional talk for foreign citizens but that cannot be too bad? It came out this talk was only there to tell what additional certificates are required, something that they “absolutely could not tell on phone” (despite the fact that the official requirements are available on the internet — if you only know what to look for).

So my fiancé had to get a confirmation from the Ukrainian consular office in Frankfurt that she wasn’t married already even though she left Ukraine before reaching legal age. Guess what Ukrainians wanted to have for that? Right, a paper from a German register office that states her marital status. This actually makes sense given that Ukraine doesn’t have a central database for marriages and I simply don’t believe they received information from archives all over the country within a few hours. But this service was worth €80, so the German state once again did something to save a few Ukrainians from starvation (the paper from the register office was really cheap in comparison, only €5).

In addition to that we had to translate birth certificates and my pay check (try to find a certified translator for Norwegian). Why they need the pay check? Apparently they want to get paid depending on your income, so far all invoices we received have been fixed numbers however. Whatever, we got it all done in less than two weeks.

But next time I came they had another surprise: my fiancé‘s birth certificate wasn’t worth anything. There were stamps of the Ukrainian Ministry of Inner Affairs on it confirming its authenticity but those weren’t enough. You also need a special confirmation from the German embassy in Kiev. I thought I weren’t hearing right. “Cannot we get this in Germany?” “No, this is something only the embassy in Kiev can do.” Of course I didn’t believe and studied all the official documents, but that’s really the way it is. Instead of appearing in person you can also send in the documents (only the originals!) with the post, a good joke for everybody who ever had experience with the post in Ukraine. In the end my father-in-law did in fact go to Kiev, two days with the bus in each direction.

With this addition to the pile of paper our application was finally accepted and sent over to the regional court (“It will take four to six weeks”). Not all was well of course: “What do you mean your fiancé lives in Cologne? Why didn’t she come then? This could be a problem, the court will not like it. She couldn’t get this day off? Why, this is important! Doesn’t matter that this is your last day in Germany, if you were abroad you would have an excuse not to come.”

Also, it came out that the German bureaucracy didn’t get enough data on us. For example, the maiden names of our mothers were absolutely essential, and the birth certificates didn’t have this information. These names were so essential to the whole process that we had to sign statements under oath (€17 each). Then they needed some confirmation that this marriage was legal under the Ukrainian law. Too bad Ukraine hasn’t learned how to make money out of that yet. So instead the court had to deal with it — this service is far from being free of course.

This isn’t just our bad luck. I talked to a friend and he had to go through the same procedure (including statements under oath). Heck, my own brother had to go through it! Why didn’t I even think about asking him before the whole thing? I would have been warned. But on the bright side, after racing through the process (it took exactly two months) we finally know what our big day will be. And it is even the day we wanted for ourselves.


Comment [21]

  1. IceDogg · 2007-03-31 02:48 · #

    Not that this is of much comfort to you, but I it could be called a waiting period (with a high cost bonus) and maybe more people would be sure they really want to get married making the devoice rate much lower? I’m just trying to see a bright side for that mess. Here in the states you can get married on a whim and the devoice rate is VERY high. Just a thought.

    Sorry it was such a mess for you, but congrats to you and your fiancé.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    It doesn’t work like this. If this procedure convinces somebody that they are better off not formalizing their relation it might improve the official statistics – but it will not change the fact that these people will live together and then split up. If anything, it increases the chances that they will split up. Since I couldn’t care less about official statistics I don’t see the point.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Addition (I meant to write that but forgot): you don’t make durable marriages through bureaucracy, you make them by educating the right values. If people don’t understand what it means to be married no amount of waiting will possibly help.

  2. IceDogg · 2007-03-31 06:19 · #

    For the most part you are correct. But I’ve seen people rush in a lot around here. If they had waited only a few days it would have made all the difference. However, I do agree that you don’t make durable marriages through bureaucracy.

    I was just trying to see the possible positive side of it.

  3. chewey · 2007-03-31 11:21 · #

    Yes, german bureaucracy sucks big time for marriages where at least one partner is non-german. A lot of those laws are in fact residuals from Imperial Germany(!), and nobody really cared to improve them. “Heiratsfähigkeitszeugnis” is a very german thing, and can be very tough – and expensive – to obtain. Try getting one if you are from an african state and don’t even know your date of birth…

    If both are german, there have been significant improvements over the last decade or so, but most of them aren’t applicable to foreigners, even if they are citizens of another EU state.

    You of course hit the bureaucratic Jackpot by trying to get married as non-EU citizens. How dare you!

    You have my deepest sympathies, I promise to change this as soon as I rule the world ;-) – and I wish you both the best of luck and a great wedding.

  4. chewey · 2007-03-31 11:28 · #

    PS: Wikipedia has a great piece of legalese about it, demonstrating at least a part of the subject’s madness. (in german, sorry)

  5. xeen · 2007-04-04 15:49 · #

    Reading this I think it would have been faster to obtain Norwegian citizenship, marry and move back to Germany.

  6. Hermann · 2007-04-05 11:23 · #

    Hi Wladimir,
    Congratulations. Are you going to marry in Darmstadt? Hochzeitsturm auf der Mathildenhöhe is a nice location for doing this. I know from two friends how hard it is to get the original papers, including scarce opening hours at the embassys, and long waiting lines.


    The Russian Chapel was built on russian soil.

    Grüsse aus Darmstadt


    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Thanks, Hermann. No, my stay in Darmstadt was only a temporary thing. We are going to marry in Köln.

  7. Alexander · 2007-04-12 01:59 · #

    See what this service can do for you: marry in Denmark,it works, I did it myself.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    I know, some people do this and we discussed this option a few times. But to get the marriage accepted in Germany you have to go through all the same bureaucracy again.

  8. FL · 2007-04-12 19:44 · #

    Only 2 months, consider yourself happy !
    In the last 2 years, in France, it has become even more difficult : to marry my wife, Chinese, even with some higher officials’ support and the family doing trips to Beijing to get papers, etc, it took us more than 6 months to finish everything…

  9. Chrissi · 2007-04-25 07:29 · #

    Hey Wladimir,

    I am a german citizen, lived there for over twenty years, and I laughed when I read your article. The funny thing is, I went through the exact same thing with my american husband. It was ridiculous! The problem was that he was married once before. They told us they wanted a divorce certificate. So, he contacted the office in the state where they got divorced, we received the certificate, took it to the “Standesamt” to find out four weeks later that our marriage got denied by the judge. He needed a statement (I don’t know how its called in english but I think it is a statement) by the divorce lawyer, which my husband (THANK GOD) already had. ( I so did not understand this… the divorce certificate had the seal of the state AND the signature of the judge on it!!!)
    We paid 60 Euros for the application and the lady at the office didn’t even tell us about this ridiculous price. She put the check in front of my nose and said “That would be 60 Euros, please!” I could feel my jaw dropping on her table (I just didn’t expect that much money for two signatures on an application, you know)
    Right at the same time we had also moved to the city (which still was in the same county) So, we went to the “Rathaus” where the “Standesamt was located in and told them that we had applied to get married and if they could please ask the other office to transfer our papers. Of course, we expected way too much of these productive working bees, which means that we had to apply again and this time it wasn’t 60 Euros for the application, no, it was 85 Euros! How wonderful! (“this better be a damn good marriage”, my husband told me)

    Anyways, I hope I’m not forgetting anything, after that we set a date and finally got married.

    Bureaucracy in germany is just the most incompetent, unorganized and inefficient bunch of idiots I have ever come across.
    (I guess before I moved to the states I was just used to it)

    Thank you for this article, at least I’m not the only one now :)


  10. Bijayaraj Ghimire · 2007-10-13 11:12 · #

    Thank you very much for an interesting article!

  11. Kilimanjaro Kikore · 2008-05-04 00:21 · #

    Mmh Iam African from Tanzania, Ive a girl in German and we are in Love, we want to get married ! But after reading all this, I just start giving up.
    Yes I love her,but how can we go thru all these crazy style. I dont want to believe that we will go through this way!

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Well, I am happily married despite all the bureaucracy. Yes, all the hurdles they put in the way are very tiresome but you can make it – so if you are serious about wanting to get married, go for it!

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    On the bright side, I don’t think you will need “legalization” of your documents or anything else from Tanzanian embassy – I don’t think Germany trusts any documents from Tanzania, no matter who confirmed their authenticity. So you should get away with a statement under oath which is both faster and cheaper.

  12. Dmitry DLed · 2008-06-17 22:04 · #

    oh my goodness :)…
    shouldn’t consider marrying here – will take a long vacation to russia for that, i guess.
    my quite long and partly long-distance relationship broke up due to the german visa office and arbeitsamt, so, I congratulate you on the powers to win against the bureaucracy!

    +thank you for the irreplacable plugin


  13. Barry · 2008-06-23 15:17 · #

    Congratulations on your marriage. I am English (previously divorced) and my wife is Ukrainian. We married in Weiterstadt near Darmstadt in 2002. We had to go through all the hoops as well, such as translations, 2 trips to Kiev, wife travelling on the train to her home town for certificates, queuing at the German Embassy in Kiev, etc, etc, etc……….. All very annoying, time consuming and expensive. So much so that we still didn’t save for our honeymoon. We do have two wonderful children and are happily married and looking to emigrate ASAP !
    Good luck with your future together.

  14. Alicia · 2008-09-17 15:21 · #

    Thanks for preparing me for this process! My fiance and I are both American and we are planning to marry here in Germany in January. I guess we need to get started now since it takes so long. I love him, so he’s sooooo worth it. :o)

  15. Mars · 2008-12-23 23:07 · #

    my fiance is from Russia and I am a German citizen. We want to get married in Germany but he only has a visa for 3 weeks… im guessing it will be more than impossible to get married in that short amount of time :( do any of you happen to know if there is any country in the EU where the process is a lot faster? Would it be easier to get married in Russia?

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Denmark is a lot easier, that’s where people often get married when the German way gets too hard. Problem is that such a marriage won’t be recognized by the German authorities unless you get together exactly the same amount of paper (or maybe even more) as when you just get married in Germany. And it isn’t fast either.

    I am afraid you will have to get married in Russia, at least unless your fiance can get a new visa. It used to be a relatively simple and fast procedure, at least when my parents got married – I doubt that Russia reached the German level of bureaucracy here yet. Expect that it will take at least half a year until your marriage is recognized in Germany, from what I know this is a pre-requisite for your fiance to get a residence permit here. And you have to stay married for three years before he can apply for a German citizenship (which will give him a permanent residence permit).

  16. suganya · 2009-06-18 22:11 · #

    Hi,i am a norwegian girl and want to marry my german boyfriend, we are planning to have the marriage in Norway. My boyfriend does still live in Germany. So do you think we have to go threw all the stuff you guys did?!

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    I have no idea, don’t know what it takes to get married in Norway. What I am sure of however: to get the marriage recognized in Germany after that you will have to jump through all the same bureaucratic hoops.

  17. ram · 2009-06-22 17:29 · #

    We are planing to get married in near future. But seeing such difficulties i wonder how would Germans run his own family.
    I have been in Germany as foreign student from India since 3 yrs.Since 2 yrs I got engaged with a Indian girl who has permanent residence n has been living since 10 yrs.She is divorced and and has a son from previous German Husband.
    Recently we planned of geting married in near future.We saw some options like Denmark .But not sure about it as Wladimir mentions Denmark marriage won’t be recognised.
    We appreciate your recommendations :)

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    In the end, you will have to go through that bureaucracy – either before the wedding or after it. If you want a marriage that will be recognized in Germany, there is no way around it.

  18. chirag thakur · 2009-08-31 23:01 · #

    hey i m Non EU and im going to marry my love soon. i wan to know wat papers required and how it work and wat important thing i have to know.. plz do let me know…..

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    They will tell you everything at Standesamt, the papers are different from case to case.

  19. Annethe SH · 2009-09-23 16:04 · #

    Oh dear…thanks God to find this cause everything’s writing here is absolutely true…

    Am Australian & my sweetheart from Germany…After more than been mad & driving ourselves crazy with this great govermental way of make u feel like damn Fuckingshi$** …hopefully after this huge sunami of Burocracy…we will get married!!!

    Remember that “good things comes for those who wait”…

    All the best!!

  20. chirag thakur · 2009-09-26 21:14 · #

    hey i m NON Eu and i m from india and i love is from germany. need to know how much money they will charge for process.

  21. Thinh Nguyen · 2010-02-24 17:17 · #

    Hi there,
    I’m planning to get married with my German girlfriend and currently living in Vietnam while she’s in Germany. Can any of you please tell me if it would be better/easier/faster for us to register for marriage in Germany (I come to Germany frequently for business) or we have to start all the paperwork from here ? I told her that I would prefer to come to Germany first with a tourist visa as usual and we both go to register there… Would be appreciated if you guys can tell me whether I’m allowed to do so by the German law !!!
    Thanks in advance

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