How to get married in Germany

This guide was kindly submitted by Lucile Danilov. Thank you for sharing your experience with the community!

First off, although it sounds obvious, you want to make sure to get the legal proceedings out of the way and settle on a date for the ceremony as soon as possible, preferably before any of the other preparations (reception, invitations, etc.). Despite being in 2017, Germany does love its paper trail, and you will often end up waiting weeks in front of your physical mailbox for “that one last paper”. Of course, you can have a reception without a prior visit to the local city office (or Standesamt), but if you’re bringing guests over, you may as well hit two birds with one stone, right?

You may also want to know that this process will be expensive, especially if you do not speak fluent German, as you will have to bring a sworn interpreter at your side for both the initial appointment and the ceremony itself (emphasis on the “sworn” – you cannot bring just a friend who speaks German, the credentials of the interpreter you bring will be checked).

Finally, of course, your mileage may vary – this that this is based off my own experience as a foreigner, living in Germany and marrying a German citizen who was born abroad. You may not be asked for these exact documents or go through the exact same steps, but this should give you a rough outline.

The requirements

As a EU citizen (in my case, French), you will need the following:

  • A certified copy of your birth certificate (not a simple photocopy). You can usually request one to be sent free of charge through your birth’s city website. If it’s not in German or English, you need a certified translation.
  • A registration certificate for your current address in Germany (Anmeldebestätigung or Meldebescheinigung). This document must be dated less than 3 weeks. It must reflect your current address. If you have been stupid like me and forgot to register yourself when you moved back to Germany, you will have to pay an extra fee. Keep in mind that you need to register yourself in Germany at the civil office (Bürgeramt) as soon as you can
  • A valid passport. Make sure your passport is not expiring anytime soon. You will need to bring the original document and the city office will make a copy themselves
  • An income certificate (Einkommensbescheinigung). If you have a work contract, your employer’s HR department should provide you with a copy. If you’re a freelancer, download this form (here’s a copy) and ask an accountant to review/sign it for you.
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage (Ehefähigkeitszeugnis) This certificate is delivered by your embassy and can be sent by postal mail provided you send them all the necessary elements. Here is a page from the French embassy on the “certificat de capacité à mariage”. In order to obtain this certificate, you will need to provide yet another copy of some documents mentioned above, so make sure to do multiple copies of each. Note that some countries are not allowed to provide the Ehefähigkeitszeugnis in the name of Germany while some other are. France’s certificate is not legally an Ehefähigkeitszeugnis and had to be approved by the superior court Kammergericht, this obviously also costs money and time. In our case, we had to pay around €75 but got lucky on the waiting and got our papers within a week – we were told it can take between 1 and 5 weeks.

Of course, your fiancé(e) will need to bring the same papers, translated to German if necessary. In my case, my husband’s name was changed after emigrating from Ukraine, so he had to get a certificate of name change (Bescheinigung über Namensänderung) as well as a certificate of nationality (Staatsangehörigkeitsurkunde). Fun times.

The proceedings

Ideally, you want to start the procedure 8 to 10 months before your planned ceremony date, especially during the “wedding season” (May to October) when city registries are overwhelmed with applicants. We’ve been insanely lucky to be able to book a ceremony less than 2 month in advance, but you definitely do not want to follow our example.

Here’s a timeline idea:

  • 9 months before: Book an appointment at your local citizens registration office (Bürgeramt) to get the list of documents you need in your specific case.
  • 8 months before: Request all important documents from abroad.
  • 7 months before: Send over required documents to your embassy. The process takes around 3 weeks.
  • 4 months before: Once you have assembled all required documents, book an appointment at your local registry office (Standesamt) to bring all the papers. Both people applying for marriage must be present, as well as an interpreter if needed.

After your application has been approved (approx. 2 to 4 weeks), you will receive a document that confirms you are able to get married, and can start calling your local registry offices and set a date for the ceremony. Once you find a suitable registry office, both parties applying for marriage must be present once again for a “final” appointment where you will be given all the details and regulations regarding the ceremony (max. amount of people authorized, music, duration, etc.)

Note that with your certificate in hand, you can get married anywhere in Germany, and you have multiple choices of locations in Berlin alone. However, some offices do not offer ceremonies on Saturdays.

The costs

While a wedding is generally an expensive affair, I wholly underestimated the total cost of the legal proceedings. Once again, this is just a reference and your mileage may vary.

That brings us to a whopping 680. Note that if you speak fluent German, you can cut that amount in half and do without an interpreter. However, if the Standesamt deems that your language level is not sufficient to read and sign the documents provided (some parts are in legalese), your application may be rejected.