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February 2005

Tying the Knot

Love will conquer all—even German bureaucracy

There is a German children’s game called “Verliebt, verlobt, verheiratet” (in love, engaged, married), which involves kids throwing a ball to one another while standing in a circle. If you miss a catch, everyone shouts “verliebt” and you have to put a hand behind your back for the next turn. Another miss and you go down on one knee while the others shout “verlobt.” A third miss and you have to catch from a lying position and are “verheiratet.” Getting married in Germany, with all its bureaucratic hurdles, can be a bit like this game, so, if you are planning to tie the knot any time soon, here are a few pointers.

First, it is important to know that a marriage (Ehe) is legal only if it is carried out in a registrar’s office (Standesamt). Once you have decided at which registrar’s office in or around Munich you wish to marry, you will need to get together a number of documents for the registrar (Standesbeamter). Along with a valid passport (Pass) you will need your birth certificate (Geburtsurkunde) and a certified translation if the document is not in German. Your country’s consul will generally have addresses of certified translators.

If your birth certificate does not give any data on your parents other than their names, i.e., their dates of birth and/or date of marriage, you may be required to supply a copy of their marriage certificate too, also with a certified translation if necessary.

Another important document is the Single Status Declaration (Ledigkeits-bescheinigung/Ehefähigkeitszeugnis). The procedure for obtaining one of these varies depending on your nationality. In general, however, it will require you to go to your local consulate and swear or affirm an affidavit (Affidavit/eidesstattliche Erklärung) in front of a consular officer. Please note that most consulates charge for this service. Should either you or your partner have been married before, you will also need to provide legal evidence of a divorce or the death certificate (Sterbeurkunde) of the former spouse.

Next on your list of documents should be an official Statement of Residency (Meldebescheinigung). This can be ob-tained from your local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt). Again a small fee (Gebühr) will be charged for this certificate—don’t forget to take your passport along to the Einwohnermeldeamt.

For some foreign nationals additional documents may be required. For example, in some states in the U.S. a health certificate (Gesundheitsbescheinigung) is mandatory. Check with the U.S. Consulate in Munich to see if this applies to you. If neither bride (Braut) nor groom (Bräutigam) are German, you may need to make your initial application to one of the four alien registrar’s offices in Germany—fortunately one of these is Munich’s main registry office, at Ruppertstrasse 11, bus and subway stop Poccistrasse. At whatever registry office you decide to have your civil ceremony it is a good idea to check their opening hours by phone before going along. Both the potential bride and groom will need to be present at this interview, where you will be asked to fill in a declaration of accession (Beitrittserklärung). The fee for a civil wedding (standesamtliche Trauung) is approximately € 100, which can be paid either in cash or with a Eurocheque card but not by credit card. The people you choose to act as witnesses (Trauzeugen) should bring a valid passport to the ceremony. Most registry offices provide extra services, such as a photographer and music, however all these details should be discussed at the initial interview.

If all this sounds rather complicated and unnerving, take comfort in the fact that German bureaucracy will never allow you to get as far as saying “I do” without approving all the paperwork, so once the big day arrives, you can relax and enjoy the ceremony. Good luck.


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