Getting married is an exciting time for most couples; You’ve found “the one” and you’re ready to face the good, the bad, and the ugly with this person for the rest of your life. In America — in most states at least — the process is pretty easy, so long as you have your birth certificates readily available. After that, all that’s left to worry about is which dress you’ll wear, who to invite, what kind of food you’ll be serving, which rings to buy, and all the other minor, but crucial details that come along with planning a wedding.
But what happens when you’re in a foreign country and you and your partner are from two different nationalities or are foreigners altogether? Your to-do list becomes a lot more complicated and it may even seem impossible to get all the paperwork in order before your anticipated big date. The good news is there are a few options, some of which can be done with an incredibly quick turnaround.
The standard, and lengthier procedure, for marriage in Germany requires both parties provide their original documents to their local German Registrar’s Office (Standesamt). Many of the required documents are the same for all locations, but it can vary from state to state and from situation to situation. You’ll want to check with your Standesamt before making an appointment. The basic requirements are: being 18 years of age or older, having a valid passport, birth certificate (issued within the last 6 months) and Certificate of Free Status (Ehefähigkeitszeugnis), as well as having all US or foreign (non-German) documents stamped with an Apostille for authenticity. The time it takes from start to finish can vary, with some couples reporting over six months’ wait time. Factors that delay the process are: previous marriages, couples from different nationalities, and being foreigners.
The good news? This is not the only way, nor is it the quickest way to get married if you’re located in Germany, or even Europe for that matter. It’s also not my personal suggestion, because thinking about waiting half a dozen months and what sounded like a thousand documents later just to be official with my husband was not what I had in mind for my marriage. Instead, my husband and I took the quick and easy route and traveled up to the wonderful little country of Denmark and sealed our fate within three weeks’ time. Well, three weeks after initiating the official marriage process, that is. Both Denmark and Gibraltar offer quick, easy, and painless marriages that are recognized worldwide. In Denmark, all the documents you’ll need are a valid passport, residence permit of the international country you’re living in or military orders, a divorce decree or death certificate if you’ve been previously married, permission from your commander if either or both parties are active duty and your original birth certificate. The best part about this process is there are hundreds of licensed and reputable companies in Denmark and Gibraltar that you can find online to make the process extremely smooth. Most of them will have you submit your documents online to prove them and then set a date for you to bring yourself and your partner with the original documents to finalize everything.
In Gibraltar, the process is reported to go as quickly as 24 hours. My husband and I were offered a weeklong wait time from our Denmark wedding planner, but due to our personal plans, we pushed it out three weeks. These wedding planners offer everything from the most basic courthouse style weddings to all-out destination weddings. Sure, you may have to travel a little way, but it makes for a great story and for a great experience.