A German wedding: Order of events

Many couples consider their wedding day to be the most beautiful day of their lives. However, it is also a highly official event. Before you can walk down the aisle of a church, you have to get married in a civil wedding ceremony. In Germany, the official secular marriage certificate is a binding prerequisite in order to marry in a church. On this page you will find all of the necessary information on the  documents that are required, the order of events, and  obstacles you are likely to encounter when it comes to marriage in Germany. Moreover, you will learn about  situations for which you may need a wedding interpreter or translator.

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        Compile all relevant documents for marriage notification

        Before you register for marriage at the registry office (Standesamt) in your place of residence, make sure that you  have all of the required documents at hand. Should you lack any documents, be sure to request them in sufficient time before your appointment. The following documents are required if you want to register for civil marriage:

        • ID or passport
        • Residence permit 
        • Birth certificate

        Depending on your personal situation, the registry office can request the following documents:

        • Divorce certificate or death certificate
        • Certificate of parentage for mutual children
        • Statement of parental consent (if a party is under 18)
        • Certificate of no impediment to marriage

        The certificate of no impediment is particularly important for marriages between foreign nationals in Germany. This certificate can only be requested and issued by the consulate of the home country. It verifies that the marriage can be accepted without reservation.

        Please make sure to have all relevant documents in German. If the documents were issued in a language other than German, then they must be accompanied by a certified translation. The registry office only accepts translations by a certified German translator. Important: If either of the bridal couple does not understand the German language, an interpreter has to be present during any appointment at the registration office. 

        Before your appointment at the registration office, ask which documents are required and whether they have to be accompanied by a certified translation.

        Important information when giving notice at the registry office

        In order to register for marriage, you have to make an appointment with the registry office in your place of residence. This appointment can take place up to 6 months before the marriage. It is recommended that both the bride and the groom are present in person. In order to finalise the notification, you need a signed authorisation if one party is missing. 

        At the beginning of the appointment, the registrar checks if the documents are correct and if the couple is fit for marriage. Afterwards, the registrar informs the couple about their options on keeping their surname or adopting their partner’s surname. In Germany, it is common practice for women to adopt their husband’s name - but this is based on your personal preference. It is recommended to think about which surname you want bear, since you have to decide this when giving notification. At the end of the appointment, the registrar repeats the record, which then has to be confirmed or corrected. The whole procedure lasts for about an hour. If one of the bridal couple does not understand the German language, an interpreter orally translates the notification before it is signed.

        Order of events at a civil marriage

        The civil wedding ceremony at the registry office is a rather formal event which follows the principals of German law:

        The registrar validates the identity of the couple, so please don’t forget to bring your IDs to the ceremony. Then, the clerk holds a marriage sermon according to the couple’s requests and the flexibility of the registrar. The sermon is followed by the question if both agree to the marriage. If answered with “yes”, the newlyweds may kiss and exchange rings. At the end, the registrar reads out the marriage protocol which then has to be signed by the bride and groom. 

        The presence of groomsmen is not necessary in Germany, but many choose to get married in the presence of official witnesses.  

        Costs of civil weddings

        The cost of a German civil wedding depends on several factors, such as the extent of the ceremony and how personalised it is.

        Registering for marriage costs EUR 40 for German citizens. If one party does not have  German citizenship, the notification costs EUR 65. A family register and marriage certificate cost between EUR 20 – 60. The prices can be higher if you wish to marry outside of working  hours or in certain locations. The prices for a wedding interpreter depend on time and language combination. 

        Civil marriage vs. civil partnership

        There are differences between a civil marriage and a civil partnership. Same-sex couples are only allowed civil partnerships in Germany. Marriages are superior to partnerships when it comes to pension entitlement, adoption, health insurance and nursing  insurance. Moreover, many countries do not acknowledge civil partnerships.

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