Getting married in Germany is usually a fairly straightforward procedure of submitting the required paperwork to your local registry office (Standesamt). However, your application to marry may become more complicated if either you or your partner is from outside the EU, or if either of you has been married before. In Germany, only registry offices can perform legally-binding marriages, regardless of whether a religious wedding is planned as well.
Requirements for getting married in Germany
Before even getting started on the paperwork, you need to fulfil the following criteria in order to be allowed to get married in Germany:
- You are not already married.
- You are aged above 18 (16 with parental consent).
- You do not want to marry a blood relative.
- You have lived in Germany for at least 21 days.
Application to registrar’s office (Standesamt)
The first step towards your German wedding is to submit an application at the registrar’s office (Standesamt), where either you or your partner is registered. This should be done at least several months before you plan to marry, to give you enough time to collect and submit all the required documentation. Once you have submitted all your documents and had them approved, you must get married within six months or risk having to start the process over again.
You need to make an appointment in advance, especially if either of you is not a German citizen. You must both attend the appointment in person, where they will talk you through the process and the exact documents required. This varies according to your personal situation, your nationality, and how your federal state (Bundesland) interprets the law. You may also be required to have your documents translated into German by a certified translator. The total cost, therefore, varies according to the complexity of your case, anywhere between 60 and 600 euros. The required documents might include any number of the following:
- Valid ID, such as a passport or identity card (not a driving licence)
- Birth certificate (issued in the last six months), original or certified true copy showing parents’ names.
- Certificate of no impediment to marriage (Ehefähigkeitszeugnis), which can be obtained from your local mission or embassy.
- Income certificate (Einkommensbescheinigung), which you can get from your employer, or fill out yourself and have signed by an accountant if you are self-employed.
- If you are widowed, original (or certified copy) death certificate of your deceased spouse.
- If you are divorced, a certified copy of the divorce decree. If the marriage was not dissolved by a German court, the divorce decree might have to be approved by the authorities in Germany; you may also have to get a statement from the court who granted the divorce testifying that it cannot be contested.
- If either of you is a minor, a statement executed by a legal representative (parent or guardian) before a notary public, giving consent.
- Registration certificate, proving you have been resident in Germany longer than three weeks.
- If you are not a German or EU citizen, a valid visa or residence permit.
The ceremony will be performed at the registry office. You can, if you wish, follow this with a religious ceremony or reception, but this will have no legal effect. Registry offices usually have several different rooms you can choose between, depending on your preference and the number of guests you wish to invite. You do not necessarily need to have any guests or witnesses. You can also choose to hold the ceremony in a different municipality, but you will need to arrange this with the registry office in the municipality in which you are registered.
Note that, as marriage is considered a “legally-binding contract” in Germany, strong emphasis is placed on both parties being able to fully understand what is taking place at the wedding ceremony. Therefore, if either you or your partner does not speak fluent German, you will need to have an interpreter present at the ceremony. They need to be certified; a friend or a member of your family will not suffice. Your local registry office can help you find someone suitable.
Registering a marriage not held in Germany
If you wish to register a marriage that was made in another country than Germany, you can apply to your local registry office with your marriage certificate and they will check its authenticity. Depending on the country in which you were married, you may need other documents to attest to the validity of your marriage certificate.
If you arrive in Germany already married, you will need to present your marriage certificate to your local citizens’ office (Bürgeramt) when you register to make sure you are recorded as a married couple and assigned the correct class for income tax.
Registered partnerships in Germany
Registered partnerships are no longer available in Germany, either for same-sex or heterosexual couples. In 2017, marriage rights were extended to same-sex couples and registered partnerships ceased to be an option. All same-couples who entered into partnerships before 2017 were given the option to convert their partnerships into marriages.
If you wish to be officially recognised as a couple in Germany (e.g. for a more favourable rate on your tax return or for health insurance), you are expected to get married.
German citizenship after marriage
If you marry a German citizen, you are not automatically entitled to German citizenship. However, spouses of German citizens are permitted to apply for citizenship by naturalisation much sooner than others: usually after two years of marriage. See our German citizenship page for more details.