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Getting Married in Germany

Updated June 2017

Weddings in Germany can be as romantic as you could wish, but allow some extra time for the red tape.

Marriages and civil partnerships are considered legal unions or "legally binding contracts" between the persons involved. While Civil Partnerships were recognized legally in 2001 (and paved the way for same-sex unions), marriage has traditionally been protected from the outset under the Constitution. Everybody getting married or entering into a civil partnership in Germany must first appear physically at a Standesamt for a civil ceremony. This is actually all that is needed, and the great majority of couples go no further. The cost of the Standesamt wedding (and document processing) can range from €65 to €200 and the ceremony usually is conducted in German so it may be advisable to have an interpreter present.

Couples planning to get married or enter into a civil partnership in Germany should get started with the legal formalities as soon as possible. Several months out is not too soon. Things can usually be disposed of in far less time than that, but a number of legal issues, particularly previous marriages, can create a hassle.

The first places to check when you decide to get married are your local embassy or consulate and the local magistrate's office (Standesamt). Ask at these places what documentation is needed. Requirements may vary from region to region and there may be some extra requirements depending on the nationality, previous marital status and other circumstances of one or both partners.

Both partners will most likely need:

  • A valid passport
  • An official birth certificate
  • Proof of a minimum of 21 days of continuous residence in Germany (this can be a Meldebescheinigung issued by the local Anmeldeamt)
  • Proof of being single (Ledigkeitsbescheinigung)
  • Birth certificates of children (if any) the couple may have had together
  • The required application and questionnaire from the Standesamt

One or both partners may have to provide the following depending on their particular circumstances and the requirements of the local magistrate's office:

  • Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) (Befreiung vom Ehefähigkeitszeugnis)
  • Marriage certificates from previous marriages
  • A financial statement

Persons who were previously married must present either a death certificate for the former spouse or proof that the marriage was permanently dissolved by divorce. The former is usually no problem; the latter a rock on which many marriage plans have been wrecked. A simple divorce decree from an American or British court is usually not enough. Proof probably will be required that this decree can no longer be contested. It is usually necessary to get a statement to this effect from the court that granted the divorce.

Certified translations of non-German language documentation may also be required and many documents' issue dates shouldn't be older than six months.

If either one of the partners is a foreigner documents may be sent to a higher regional court in order to verify the legal status of that person.

Though it is no bar to a marriage, those planning to return to their homeland one day may wish to consider the legal status of their partner. There may be some bar, such as nationality, criminal record or medical condition, that would keep the partner from accompanying you. Your embassy or consulate can advise you on all emigration formalities. It is also a good idea to check if a marriage in Germany will be recognized in your home country.

They take great pains at the Standesämter to avoid any trappings (organ music, for example, or stained-glass windows) that might rightly or wrongly be deemed "too Christian." Quite a few Muslims, Jews and atheists get married at the registrar's office, and they can be sensitive about such things.

Nevertheless, the wedding rooms are usually nice, exclusively for weddings and located in one of the community's finer buildings. Frankfurt, for example, has two magistrate's offices: one in the baroque city hall, or Römer, the other in the equally handsome Bolongaro Palace in the heart of the picturesque old Höchst district. The right atmosphere is created with flowers, subdued lighting, oil paintings and deep carpeting.

If there is to be a more traditional wedding it must take place after the civil ceremony. Germany has many magnificent cathedrals, palaces and castles that offer wedding arrangements. There are agencies in most larger cities that will rent out the clothing necessary for the wedding; not only for the groom and ushers, but also, what was once but rarely seen in America, for the bride and bridesmaids. Wedding coaches, drawn by four white horses, are also available as well as antique cars, limousines and the like.

Legal Differences Between a Marriage and a Civil Partnership

While the process is the same when getting married or entering into a civil partnership, there are still some legal differences between the two unions.

A legal union between same-sex partners confers many of the legal protections (and obligations) that a marriage confers in matters regarding tenancy and inheritance rights; basis for obtaining a residence permit if one of the partners is a foreigner; the taking of a partner's name; the obligation to support a partner financially and a settlement in case the partners separate. In recent years other rights have been extended to same-sex couples: survivor's pension, protection against testifying against a partner in court and the ability to adopt the biological children of a partner.

There are currently some differences in how the tax code is applied to same-sex couples and how inheritances are taxed. But, these issues are in the courts and may be resolved soon. It should be noted that same-sex marriages that are officially recognized in other countries, they are also recognized as legal civil partnerships in Germany.