It was right around this time last year that we completed the paperwork for our Germany wedding. As soon as we got engaged, I spent hours googling “how to get married in Germany” and “U.S. citizen marrying a German.” There was a lot of information to dig through, and it’s good we started the process early. You definitely want to leave plenty of time for the red tape.
As a German citizen, Sebastian needed his ID card and a fresh copy of his birth certificate, which I think he was able to obtain through the mail. As an American citizen, I was required to provide a bit more information.
- Birth certificate
- US passport
- Certificate of free status
- Proof of income
We were aiming for a church wedding on July 16, and we wanted the legal ceremony to take place before then. Only marriages performed at a Standesamt (registrar’s office) are legally valid in Germany. And you can only apply up to six months before the wedding date. We decided that I should travel to Berlin the week of January 18 to ensure we had the best chance of being approved for July.
There was some prep work to complete for we applied. First, I needed my birth certificate, but I needed it to be issued within the last six months. This was easy to obtain through my county’s Vital Statistics department. I mailed a request along with payment, and my certificate arrived in about a week.
In order for my U.S. birth certificate to be accepted by German authorities, it required an Apostille. The U.S. and Germany are part of a treaty called the “Hague Convention,” which allows documents originating in one country to be recognized in all other countries as long as it bears the Apostille stamp. Luckily, I could also get this by filling out a form and sending it along with payment and my birth certificate to the Ohio Secretary of State service center. I think this also arrived back in about a week.
The kicker was that all my English documents had to be submitted along with an official translation. I had to make sure I received everything early enough so we could hire a translator to translate everything into German. I sent all my documents to Sebastian, and he handled this on his end.
I also needed an “Ehefähigkeitszeugnis,” which is a certificate of free status stating I was legally free to marry. This document could only be obtained by appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin or the Consulate General in Frankfurt, so I made an appointment for when I would be there.
Once I arrived in Berlin, we had one week to complete everything, and it was definitely stressful at times. Our first appointment was with the Standesamt. We arrived with all our documents (minus the certificate of free status, since it could be turned in later) early Tuesday morning in hopes of getting the first appointment of the day. It all started smoothly. The registrar checked our documents while we filled out the rest of the application. However, we didn’t realize we needed an official translator for the appointment. We had assumed Sebastian could translate for me, but this was not the case. We couldn’t submit our application and began scrambling to find a translator. For a heftier fee we found a guy who was available on Thursday.
On Wednesday, I went for my appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin to receive my certificate of free status. It was January, absolutely freezing, and we had to wait outside in the cold before being processed through security. There has to be a better system, people. You also can’t take anything with you, including my phone and purse. Or your Fitbit. I had to leave mine behind with security since I forgot to take it off. It worked out that Sebastian couldn’t come with me since he served as my personal locker. Once inside, I went to the appropriate office and began waiting. Even with an appointment, you still have to take a number. I sat for about 30 minutes before being called. The paperwork took another 20, and then I had to wait another 30 before paying. It was a long, boring process, but I left with my official certificate. Yay!
We went back to the Standesamt on Thursday, along with our official translator. In no time at all we completed our application and paid the fee. At the end of the appointment we were penciled in for July 15. We still needed to be approved by the high state court since I was a foreigner, but a few weeks later Sebastian received confirmation we were approved. Woohoo! We were on our way to becoming husband and wife.
In case you’re wondering what everything cost, here’s a rough breakdown:
- U.S. Birth Certificate + Express Postal Fees: $50
- Germany Birth Certificate: $15
- Apostille + Express Postal Fees: $30
- Translating Documents: $70
- Certificate of Free Status: $50
- Translator: $140
- Application Fee:$75
I want to do a longer post about our Standesamt ceremony, but here’s a picture of us shortly after we were married…
Totally worth the red tape.
P.S. Happy six months of wedded bliss, Sebastian! xoxo