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Living in Germany
Marriage in Germany
When romance meets reality: Organizing their wedding in Germany can cost foreign residents some time and effort, especially for the required paperwork. Our article introduces the legal framework for marriage in Germany. We provide administrative advice – and it’s your job to add the romance.
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Generally speaking, getting married in Germany is a short and matter-of-fact affair. The country offers plenty of romantic scenery and beautiful locations for your dream wedding and honeymoon. However, the Federal Foreign Office regards marriage as “a legally binding contract” rather than an act of love. Therefore, it can take some bureaucratic effort.
In Germany, any valid marriage must be performed at the registry office (Standesamt), regardless of whether there’ll be a religious wedding as well. Priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, or consular officers may not perform a legally binding marriage – only an official registrar can do so. If you intend to have a wedding e.g. at your church or synagogue, the civil ceremony at the registry office (Standesamt) must come first. When planning the wedding reception, allow several months to take care of all formalities.
Apart from weddings for heterosexual couples, Germany recognizes same-sex civil unions (Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaften). While parliament avoided the word “marriage” in the respective law passed in 2001, same-sex partners have to meet the same requirements as bride and groom. They also enjoy many (but not all) of the benefits and obligations applying to heterosexual marriage.
Which documents are required from foreign residents for a legally binding marriage in Germany mostly depends on two things: country of origin and marital status. However, the requirements of your local registry office may differ. Remember to make enquiries at the nearest Standesamt well before your wedding day.
This is only the beginning. All required documents must be translated and be no older than six months. You need to hire a sworn interpreter for the translation or a lawyer to certify it. This can get rather complicated: in a worst-case scenario, your home country requires your presence when issuing the paperwork – simply going to the embassy or consulate won’t do. Try to get as much information as possible before planning your wedding.
Please remember that German law might be more restrictive when it comes to changing your family name than your home country. You should talk to your registrar well in advance to find out what your options are.
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- Both partners must be present at the Standesamt.
- Each has to provide a birth certificate.
- Both parties need a passport as well as proof of residence that has been valid for over three weeks.
- A requirement that seems rather peculiar to foreigners is the so-called Ehefähigkeitszeugnis. This certificate states that there are no legal hindrances to your marriage in Germany (e.g. ongoing divorce proceedings). Your embassy can help you obtain this document, but the diplomatic staff often cannot issue it.
- For civil unions, a Ledigkeitszeugnis replaces the Ehefähigkeitszeugnis. This document declares your marital status is single.
- The minimum age for marriage is eighteen. With parental consent, one party may be younger than eighteen, but not younger than sixteen years of age. You might have to consult a family court.
- If you were married before, you need proof that all previous marriages were dissolved, for example your late spouse’s death certificate. A divorce decree, however, might not be sufficient. You need further proof that the decree cannot be contested. This depends on the country where you got divorced.
- You also need two witnesses and – if necessary – an interpreter. Ask the Standesamt if they can provide the latter.
- The civil ceremony usually costs about 100€-200€. However, there may be additional fees during the application process (for having special documents approved, choosing to get married in a different state or a special venue, or for getting a Stammbuch).
Keep in mind that marriage ceremonies at the Standesamt are only performed on weekdays and during opening hours. Some cities make an exception here if you are willing to pay an additional fee or if you decide to get married in a special venue.
If you are a foreign national getting married to a German citizen, it can impact your residence status. If you aren’t living in the country yet, you may need to apply for a special visa. Non EU-nationals cannot enter the country on a visitor visa if they are planning to get married in Germany. The required German visa is usually valid for three to six months.
Once you are married to a German national, you are normally entitled to a residence permit. Marrying a German national does not automatically result in German citizenship, though. Depending on your citizenship, you can apply for naturalization later on.
A few other important consequences are listed below. Most of them also apply to same-sex civil unions, but there are some still discriminatory differences, especially with regard to taxation and adoption. For legal advice on same-sex unions, please contact the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency or the LSVD (Lesbian and Gay Organization Germany).
- If a spouse dies, property and pensions are passed on to the widow(er).
- The partners have to support each other financially.
- In case of a divorce, a binding settlement can be demanded.
When it comes to recognizing a foreign divorce in Germany or recognizing a German divorce abroad, things get complicated. We strongly recommend you to ask a lawyer specializing in family law.
If you got married in Germany and want to keep living there, the easiest and most pragmatic solution is getting a divorce there as well. If both parties agree to the divorce, they have to be separated for at least one year before the divorce is finalized. If one partner opposes, the law usually requires three years of separation.
Of course, we do hope that your marriage in Germany will have a happier ending.