Getting married in Germany [How-to Expat Guide]

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Let’s face it before a wedding becomes a romantic event, milestone, party, or whatever you have in mind; it becomes a life-changing legal choice. Getting married in Germany means entering a legal contract with your significant other.

This article will give you the rundown of everything you need to know to get legally married in Germany (standesamtliche Hochzeit) and not trip on the usual German bureaucracy. 

Who can marry whom in Germany?

Anyone can pretty much marry anyone in Germany, as long as you follow these requirements:

  • Both partners need to be at least 18 years of age 
  • Both partners cannot already be married
  • Both partners need to be able to freely express their will to get married (legal capacity)
  • Both partners cannot be related to each other

Civil unions for same-sex couples have been possible since August 2001 and same-sex marriage was legalized in Germany on October 1, 2017.

Marriage in Germany has become more popular in the past ten years, as 416.340 weddings were recorded in 2019. That is 10% more than in 2009.

How do you get legally married in Germany?

Marriage (Eheschließung) in Germany is considered a legal contract, which enables certain rights to spouses. Therefore, you can only get legally married in Germany through a marriage registrar (Standesbeamter für Eheschließung). For that to happen, you need to follow four steps.

The church wedding you might dream of is not a legal wedding, but rather a ceremony. You can only get married in the church if you are part of it and pay church taxes.

Where can I get married in Germany?

The standard location to get married in Germany is at a civil registry (Standesamt). However, that is not all that romantic, and a lot of couples opt for unique locations. Most civil registries offer their services in special locations, such as castles, for an extra fee. You can choose, which city you will get married in.

Can foreigners get married in Germany?

Yes, foreigners can get married in Germany in most cities, as long as they have lived in the city, where they want to get married for at least 21 days. There are exceptions, such as in Munich or Frankfurt, where you can also get married, if you don’t live in Germany. For further information, you will need to consult the civil registry (Standesamt) directly.

Which steps does the marriage registration in Germany entail?

Like with many things in Germany, there are precise processes to follow to get things done. Here are the four steps you will need to do to get married in Germany:

1. Personal consultation with the civil registry 

When? About 8-10 months in advance of your planned wedding date.

Each city handles the process differently, and some cities require a personal consultation at your Standesamt before you can register your wedding date. During this consultation, you will be told which documents you will need to provide based on your home country and German law. Check your civil registry’s homepage for further information on whether to book an appointment online or to call.

We have linked to the homepage of the Standesamt of the major German cities for expats:

Berlin
Düsseldorf
Munich
Hamburg
Frankfurt
Stuttgart

2. Getting the documents ready

When? Right after you consulted with the civil registry.

Which documents do you need to get married in Germany as a foreigner?

To get married in Germany as a foreigner, you will need to provide different documents than a German. In most cases, the following documents are required to get married in Germany:

  • Your birth certificate 
  • Your valid passport or ID (Personalausweis)
  • A registration certificate for your current address in Germany not older than 14 days (Erweiterte Meldebescheinigung) – if you get married in the city where you live and are registered, the Standesamt can usually pull this information and document from the system, so no need to bring it.
  • A certificate of no impediment to marriage (Ehefähigkeitszeugnis

You can request the birth certificate and the certificate of no impediment to marriage from your embassy or consulate. They will either provide those documents or advise you which institution in your home country is responsible for it. Depending on whether Germany accepts these documents as legal documents, you might need to get them legalized or approved by the German embassy in your country or a superior court here in Germany.

Once you have the original documents and their legalisation, you will need to translate them through a certified translator in Germany. Lingoking is a translation service provider you can check out for fast and certified translations.

Homepage of Lingoking
Source: Lingoking

My wife Jen, who is from Guatemala, gave a close friend in Guatemala City the power of attorney to request the birth certificate and certificate of no impediment to marriage at the national registry office. With those in hand, he went to the German embassy in Guatemala, who legalized the documents. He then shipped them to us in Germany, where we sent them to a certified translator.

3. Registering your wedding at the Standesamt

When? Exactly 6 months before your planned wedding date. Some civil registries allow a reservation of the desired date (Wunschdatum) up to 18 months in advance, of course, for a fee (e.g., Stuttgart).  

Most civil registries allow registration of a wedding (Anmeldung der Eheschließung) a maximum of six months in advance. You need to be aware that during the wedding season (May to October), Fridays and Saturdays are in extremely high demand, and you need to plan ahead to secure one of those spots.

Please refer to your Standesamt, as each city has a different registration process. In some cities, you can register online, in others only by postal mail (e.g., Munich) and in some only in person (e.g., Dusseldorf, Berlin) or by phone (e.g., Stuttgart). 

If you have to go in person, be sure to bring the original documents and a copy with you. If only one spouse can attend the registration, you can usually still do it, as long as you bring a power of attorney for your fiancé and their ID or passport.

The day our desired wedding date got unlocked for registration, Jen and I ‘camped’ in front of the Standesamt in Dusseldorf at 6 am and believe it or not, we were not the first couples waiting. When the doors opened at 7 am we felt like storming a shopping center on Black Friday in the US. Well, it was worth the struggle, as we got our desired wedding appointment at noon on a Saturday in August. 🎉

Can I choose the city I get married in?

Yes, you can get married at any German Standesamt. However, you need to register your wedding at the Standesamt in the city you or your fiancé are registered, even if you wish to get married in a different city.

Let’s say you live in Dusseldorf, but you would like to get married in Heidelberg. You will need to register your wedding in Dusseldorf, and the Standesamt in Dusseldorf will then give the Standesamt in Heidelberg the authorization for the wedding. It is your responsibility to make sure the date you wish to get married is available in Heidelberg. You also need to book the appointment in Heidelberg yourself.

4. Getting married through a registrar

On the day of your legal wedding, you will need to bring your ID or passport. Depending on your level of German, you will also need a certified sworn interpreter during the ceremony. 

In Germany, it is common for each partner to bring a witness (Trauzeuge) and close family and friends. The civil registry wedding is a rather smaller ceremony with fewer guests than at a big traditional wedding. It is also typical for the bridal couple to wear a different outfit for the wedding at the Standesamt and the second ceremony.   

Picture of two hands with wedding rings holding each other

How long does it take to get married in Germany?

The ceremony at a Standesamt in Germany usually takes about 15 minutes. The appointments tend to be scheduled tightly – like four per hour tight. So unlock your inner German and be on time. ⏰

How much does it cost to register a marriage?

The cost to register a marriage in Germany ranges between 40 euros (Stuttgart) and 300 euros (Munich) depending on which Standesamt in Germany you choose to get married. Additionally, you will have to pay for the wedding certificate, your documents’ translations, a potential interpreter, and additional fees for a special location or a Saturday appointment. 

Example calculation of our wedding cost

  • Legalisation of birth certificate and the certificate of no impediment to marriage = 25 euros
  • Certified translations of both documents = 80 euros
  • Assessment of marriage under foreign law = 66 euros
  • Excerpt of the birth register = 10 euros
  • Two registration certificates = 18 euros
  • Saturday wedding = 100 euros
  • Marriage certificate = 10 euros

Total cost to register a wedding in Dusseldorf of a German and a foreigner = 309 euros

Final Thoughts

There you have it. I hope I could answer all of your questions and give you a realistic rundown of how to get married in Germany as a foreigner legally. Remember, the process for registering and the actual cost are highly dependent on the Standesamt in the city of your choice.

Now that you are an expert on the legal stuff take a look at some of the German wedding traditions and customs. Maybe you want to incorporate some of them. 

Happy wedding planning! ❤️

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Yvonne
About the author: Yvonne was born and raised in Germany and has lived in the United States, France, and Spain. She understands the struggle of settling in a new home and is happy to share simple services and tips on how things are done in her home country, to help expats get their German experience started.