Caroline and Rick thought Berlin was pretty special and loved the idea of getting married in Germany. But they weren’t even sure if it was possible. Neither of them is a resident, and neither of them is German. They scoured the internet and eventually asked a German lawyer for help, who in turn told them to get in touch with Red Tape Translation. Turns out, it absolutely is possible. We guided them through the whole process, helped communicate with florists and hairdressers and saw it through in a beautiful ceremony in Berlin Charlottenburg.
Paragraph 12 of the Personal Statute Act is what makes it possible to get married in Germany even if you don’t actually live in Germany.
“The persons wishing to be married must register the intended marriage ceremony verbally or in writing at a civil registry office responsible for the region in which one of the persons wishing to be married has their residence or usual abode. If neither of the persons wishing to be married has a residence or usual abode in Germany, the civil registry office in which the marriage ceremony should be performed is responsible for receiving the application.”
For Caroline and Rick, this meant two trips into Germany from the USA on a limited annual vacation allowance. Naturally, when advising them on what to bring, we wanted to make sure that we got it right the first time.
Step 1 – The Gathering of Papers from the USA
We sent the pair on a bureaucracy adventure tour around their hometown, gathering newly issued original certificates and other documents from public authorities and a notary public. Luckily, they turned out to be extremely resourceful and efficient, and within a few weeks, all the boxes were checked.
Step 2 – Certified Translations
Caroline and Rick needed certified German translations of this thick pile of freshly procured documents. It was a big job, but the certified translations were completed by Red Tape Translation and were ready and waiting by the time the pair stepped off the plane in Berlin, exactly 6 months before the big day. This was so they could reserve “Friday the 13th” as their wedding day, which was only possible by registering in person (soonest exactly 6 months before the date) and proved to be an extremely popular date. There was one time slot left at 9:20am. They snapped it up.
The first hiccup
The betrothed and Red Tape interpreter Thomas walked into the Standesamt and met a very lovely civil servant, who said that although they’ve done everything right, she couldn’t process the registration on that day for other reasons, could they come back tomorrow? Luckily, Caroline and Rick had allowed for an extra day on their whirlwind Berlin trip in case something went wrong, and Kathleen managed to step in as interpreter at the last minute, showing up with intern Fiona and Kathleen’s newborn baby Laura, who slept through the entire appointment (the baby, not the intern). It was like the betrothed had brought an entourage with them.
Step 3: Registration of marriage
The registration went smoothly. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The betrothed got back on the plane a day or two later and returned to Louisville.
Step 4: Hair, makeup and flowers
How to find a hairdresser and makeup artist close to the hotel willing to open the salon at 7:30 in the morning on a Friday? We made the calls, organised payment and a trial hair and makeup day. We communicated with a florist and helped to organise bouquet delivery on the day of the ceremony.
Step 5: The ceremony
The day beforehand, Caroline, Rick and their friends and family hired hot rods and zoomed through the streets of Berlin. There were no injuries, but everyone was a little sore the next morning.
The second hiccup
The hair and makeup people were late. Caroline and Rick were a little anxious that there might be traffic. There is no being late to your own wedding in Germany, after all! Not when you have a 20-minute slot. They finally arrived and got Caroline looking fabulous in 20 minutes flat. Everyone thanked their lucky stars that there had been a trial hair and makeup day so that they could discourage the makeup artist from applying caterpillar eyebrows. There was no traffic – crisis averted.
The third hiccup
The groom put his passport in the wrong jacket and it didn’t make it to the Standesamt. But after an initial double take from the civil servant processing the registration, we smoothed it over. His passport had already been sighted at the registration. No need for an emergency taxi to the hotel and back.
The ceremony goes ahead
Caroline and Rick chose Villa Kogge, a beautiful historic villa in Charlottenburg to tie the knot. It’s surrounded by manicured gardens and inside, everything has been lovingly preserved and restored. They brought two witnesses and some close friends. The flowers were fresh and gorgeous and there wasn’t a caterpillar eyebrow in sight – just smoky eyes and happy faces. The civil servant chose to include a short poem by Heinrich Kleist in her spoken words: luckily, Kathleen has asked her for a copy of the poem just as she was calling the guests into the room, and had 40 seconds to think of an elegant way to translate the poem into English. Mission accomplished.
The civil servant was warm, friendly and humorous. Caroline and Rick exchanged their “Ja”s and exchanged their rings. Papers were signed. They did it!
Red Tape Translation would like to congratulate Caroline, Rick and their friends and family – thank you for giving us the chance to accompany you through this really cool adventure! And all the best for a fabulous life together.
- Written Translation (certified translations of all certificates into German)
- Skype coaching: Preparing for the trip to Berlin and the registration of the marriage
- Take a Translator: interpreting at the registration of the marriage and at the ceremony itself
- Life Admin: Coordinating flowers, hair and makeup, communication with the Standesamt