some steps to marriage

In my last post, I wrote about some of the sight-seeing and fun things I did while in Munich at the end of May/beginning of June. One other great big event also happened! Julius and I had our civil wedding ceremony in Germany!

During the ceremony

This is one step along our path to marriage – and, like all other parts of our journey – it is more complicated because of the international aspect.

We’ve been asked by many Americans why we chose to do it this way. The shortest most pragmatic answer is that it de-complicates the immigration process considerably.

If you’d like to know more, you may read on…

In Germany every couple that wants to get married has to go together to apply at their town’s registrar (Standesamt) for marriage. Once the registrar’s office makes sure that both parties are free to wed, the couple receives an appointment (no sooner than 6 weeks after the application) to appear before an official at the Standesamt and get married. When the marriage involves a foreign-born person, it is more complicated: extra documents are required from the home country, official translations, visiting the German consulate in the US, paying lots of money, etc.

So, when I get to Germany in August, I will have 90 days to apply for my residence permit. If we had not gone ahead with the civil ceremony in June, we would have been cutting it close on the time frame potentially. Since we did though, I can begin immediately with the application for a residence permit when I arrive and complete it well within the 90 days.

Believe it or not, this is an oversimplification of the issue, but let it suffice to say that we also didn’t want to jeopardize a future US-immigration process for Julius by becoming legally married in America. I’ll write another post about my foray into the world of US immigration. For now, the summary: we were advised by an immigration legal assistance program to do the legal part in Germany.

So, on June 2, 2014, in a ceremony that lasted approximately 6 minutes, we were each asked if we wanted to marry the other, and when we both said yes, we were pronounced married. Then a report of the proceedings was read aloud and documents were signed, congratulations were given, and it was over!

The signing
And after!

Most German couples stop with that. Civil ceremony and then a party. Those who want to have a wedding in a church might plan their civil ceremony one day and church ceremony the next day, but the civil ceremony is the only legal way to become married in Germany.

Some American folks have been a little befuddled by it all. “So are you married?” (Perhaps wondering why we’re even having a wedding in the US after this…)

“Well, we’re legally wed,” I like to say.

But if our case has shed light for me on anything, it is that wedding traditions vary greatly. Customs and laws vary from country to country (and in the US, from state to state). When religion is thrown into the mix, things get more complicated.

To get a picture of the diversity of wedding traditions within a different culture, just read the Wikipedia article on Hindu weddings.

The German system of having the civil ceremony be the only legal way to get married was actually introduced in order to provide religious freedom for non-Catholics and non-Lutherans … listen up, Baptists … to be able to get married according to their customs, too. On the grounds of separation of church and state, the wedding that takes place in the church has no bearing on one’s legal status.

In an attempt to answer that question, though – “are you married?” – Julius wrote the following for our wedding web site:

So: Are we married? Aren’t we married? Which is the big day? Which one is the “real” wedding? We have tried to answer this question, but we are not satisfied with the results. Somehow we are already married, but some things are still missing. Both of us want to ask God’s blessing for our lives together. We want to have the support of our friends and families. We want to announce our commitment to each other and to our relationship in front of our loved ones. We want to celebrate with you. This all happens in August.

So are we already married? According to whose definition? In the end we are as clueless as you. What we do know is this: by the end of August we will definitely be married (and very much so!) and we are looking forward to our next step, which is the church wedding in Atlanta and the party with all of you Americans!

My answer: The ceremony that happened on June 2 was “real” and served a specific purpose. It was joyful and significant. We had Julius’s parents and a few dear friends there and went out to celebrate afterwards. And for us, it doesn’t take away from the significance or “real-ness” of the wedding in August. It will also be joyful and celebratory. And, by the way, in Germany in September we’ll have a blessing in the church and a party afterward with all of Julius’s family and friends who aren’t able to come to the US in August.

So, we’re taking a few extra steps to get married.

And as Julius wrote, after the months-long process is over, we will be very married.

3 thoughts on “some steps to marriage

  1. Love it! I can totally understand the multiple weddings (legal, church, blessing) thing. We're going through the same thing (without the immigrating to Germany part). Wishing blessings, blessings, and more blessings on you both.


  2. Woohoo! This is awesome! Love hearing about everything you all are doing together. Best of luck in August. I so wish I could be there but know that I am sending my love from Cambodia!


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