Marriages in Germany have always been steeped in history and cultural significance. From the romantic proposal to the joyous ceremony, each step holds a special place in the hearts of those embarking on this lifelong journey. However, the world is constantly evolving, and so too are our ideas about love and commitment. In this age of digitalization, a new option has emerged for couples: getting married online.

While traditional weddings remain deeply ingrained in German culture, online weddings offer a unique alternative. This innovative approach allows couples to say "I do" virtually, regardless of geographical boundaries or personal circumstances. It's a testament to the flexibility and adaptability of modern society, and it opens up a world of possibilities for those seeking a less conventional or more convenient path to marriage.

This article will be your comprehensive guide to getting married online in Germany. We'll delve into the legal aspects, explore the various steps involved, and provide helpful tips and resources to ensure your online wedding is both meaningful and legally binding.

german flag next to government building

The Legality of Online Marriages in Germany

Before the 2019 pandemic, certain regions enforced strict prerequisites, requiring the physical presence of both the officiant and the couple for a marriage to be legally binding. Furthermore, couples needed to personally visit the county clerk's office to obtain a marriage license.

Then 2019, the Utah County marriage license office, collaborating with information technology departments, introduced an innovative digital process for marriage license applications. This progressive system eliminated the necessity for couples to physically visit the office, simplifying the process of obtaining and submitting their marriage licenses.

One notable feature of Utah's online marriage procedure is its inclusivity, providing accessibility regardless of individuals' place of residence. Typically, marriages legally solemnized in one state gain recognition throughout the United States, adhering to state and federal regulations. Consequently, a couple legally marrying online through Utah's system will have their marriage acknowledged by other states.

Note that marriages legally conducted in one country are generally accepted in most other nations, illustrating the widespread recognition and validity of such unions on an international scale.

Marriage Recognition in Germany

In Germany, there exists no special procedure or authority exclusively empowered to recognize marriages entered into abroad. The determination of a marriage's validity is always a preliminary issue connected to other administrative acts, such as a change of name or application to start a family book. The agency responsible must address this preliminary issue at its discretion.

Fundamentally, a marriage entered into abroad is deemed valid in Germany if it adheres to the legal provisions of the foreign state. Additionally, both the bride and groom must meet the legal capacity requirements for marriage under the law of their respective home states, including being single, of a minimum age, and not closely related.

German nationals are not obligated to apply to start a family book or change their name upon marriage. Consequently, someone can be validly married without this information appearing in German civil status records. Engaging in a further marriage without legally dissolving an existing one could result in bigamy, subject to annulment upon the application of one of the spouses or the competent administrative authority.

Attention: Immigration officials in Germany may not accept online marriage. Please contact your local government for more up to date information.

Traditional marriage process in Germany

Eligibility Criteria

Age Requirement

You must be over the age of 16 to legally marry in Germany. If you are under 18, parental or guardian consent is mandatory.

Cognitive Capacity

Individuals must be fully capable of understanding the marriage process and the implications of entering into matrimony.

Blood Relations

Marriage is not permitted between individuals with close blood relations, such as parent and child, grandparent and grandchildren, siblings, aunt/uncle and nephew/niece, or adoptive parent/child.

No Marriage of Convenience

Couples must not enter into marriage solely to obtain legal residency in Germany. Marriages of convenience are not legally recognized.

Inclusivity

Regardless of sex or nationality, everyone has the right to marry in Germany. The legal framework supports both same-sex couples and foreign couples in solemnizing their unions.

Applicants must file marriage applications with the registrar's office in Germany where either party has their residence. If neither resides in Germany, contact the registrar's office where the marriage will occur.

Documents to Submit

The civil registrar’s office provides information on necessary documents. Both fiancés typically need to submit:

  • A certified true copy of the identification document with a photograph (e.g., passport, identity card).
  • Birth certificate (not older than 6 months) in the original or as a certified true copy showing parents' names. Translation may be required.
  • If widowed, the original death certificate or certified copy of the deceased spouse, with possible translation.
  • If divorced, a certified copy of the divorce decree accompanied by a translation into German.
  • If the previous marriage was dissolved by a court other than a German court, approval from the appropriate German federal-state administration of the justice department may be needed.
  • If one fiancé is a minor, a statement executed by a legal representative before a notary public, giving consent according to the laws of the individual's country. Some German states may require a specific form of consent.
  • All persons not registered in Germany but marrying there require an “Ehefähigkeitszeugnis,” a Certificate of no impediment to marriage, indicating legal freedom to marry. Under certain conditions, US citizens may obtain this certificate from US missions in Germany.

If the civil registrar’s office requires an affidavit (“eidesstattliche Versicherung”) stating that the applicant is unmarried, it can be obtained at the competent German Mission in the US. Advance contact with the German mission is recommended.

Marriage for Foreigners in Germany

Foreign residents seeking a legally binding marriage in Germany must navigate a process influenced by their country of origin and marital status. The required documents vary but generally include:

  • Valid Passport or ID: Including a photograph. If nationality is unspecified, a certificate from the responsible authority in the country of origin is required.
  • Visa or Aufenthaltstitel (German residence permit): Depending on legal entry into Germany, and for those with a German residence permit, an Aufenthaltsbescheinigung der Meldebehörde is needed.
  • Ehefähigkeitszeugnis: A certificate confirming legal eligibility for marriage, obtainable through the embassy.
  • Financial Statement (Einkommensbescheinigung): Required where applicable.
  • Translations by an Authorised German Translator: Professional translations are necessary.
  • Legalizations: If applicable, additional legalizations may be required.

The specifics can differ, so couples are advised to contact their local Standesamt for personalized requirements. 

Application Process

  • Apply at the local registrar’s office where either party resides. If both are non-residents, choose any registrar’s office in the country.
  • Ideally, both parties should register in person, but authorization is possible if one cannot attend.
  • If neither can attend, a valid reason is required, and application submission can be done in writing or via an authorized representative.
  • The registrar’s office investigates identity, marital status, and living arrangements.

Fees

Civil ceremony fees vary from €50 to €200. Additional fees may apply for foreign nationals, ceremonies outside normal hours, or at different locations. Inquire directly with the registrar’s office for specific fees.

Wedding Ceremony

The ceremony takes place at the registrar’s office in a designated 'wedding room.' Two witnesses are required. If participants do not speak German, an interpreter should be hired. Both parties must be physically present and declare mutual consent. Furthermore, no religious content is allowed during the civil ceremony.

Marriage Certificate

After the marriage, the registrar issues a marriage certificate. Additional copies, including international certificates, can be requested in writing from the Standesamt where the marriage took place.

Note that all records are public, and anyone can request a marriage certificate with a valid reason.

Courtly: Simplifying the Online Marriage Process in Germany

Courtly offers a convenient and effective solution designed for couples in search of a simple marriage process. This innovative platform provides couples with the flexibility to oversee the entire procedure remotely, eliminating the requirement for extensive documentation. Utilizing Courtly's efficient approach, couples can promptly acquire a valid U.S. marriage certificate, enhancing the matrimonial experience with ease and convenience.

Step-by-Step Guide for Getting Married Online in Germany with Courtly

With Courtly, couples enjoy the convenience of conducting the entire marriage process online, regardless of their location. Acquiring a valid U.S. marriage certificate is made quick and straightforward, often within 48 hours, eliminating the need for extensive documentation.

Here is a step-by-step guide to using Courtly:

1. Create an account

To register with Courtly, click on the "Get Married" icon in the top right corner and follow the provided instructions. Once your account is created, you gain access to the platform.

2. Select the ceremony details

Choose the ceremony format, setting, and officiant that align with your preferences. Depending on your selected time and day, Courtly pairs you with a legally qualified U.S. officiant.

3. Make payment and receive email confirmation

Complete the payment for your chosen wedding package and await the confirmation email from Courtly. This marks the commencement of your wedding preparations. For detailed information on available packages and add-ons, refer to the Pricing Page.

4. Celebrate your marriage online

Tie the knot online from the comfort of your home or any location with a reliable internet connection. The ceremony typically lasts around 15 minutes.

Upon completion, you'll receive a digital copy of your U.S. marriage certificate immediately after the online wedding. A printed copy will be delivered within 1 to 2 weeks, and you can also download your digital marriage license shortly after the ceremony.

Registration of Online Marriages in Germany

If you marry abroad, you will also need to have your marriage officially registered in Germany. To initiate this process, applicants must submit a request for a marriage certificate to the respective Civil Registry Office. Alongside the marriage certificate, the presentation of an "apostille" may be necessary to authenticate the document. The apostille serves as an official confirmation of the marriage certificate's authenticity. 

All required documents, including translations, must be completed by a certified translator. Platforms such as justiz-dolmetscher.de or bdue.de can be consulted to find certified translators. Official recognition of a marriage in Germany is granted only after the marriage is registered within the country.

If a marriage is contracted abroad but lacks the presentation of a marriage certificate (and apostille), it will not be acknowledged in Germany. In such instances, it becomes necessary to re-register the marriage.

Additionally, if one's partner lacks a German residence permit after marrying abroad, they must apply for a visa for "Subsequent entry of spouse" ("Ehegattennachzug") at the German embassy. Prerequisites for this visa include a basic understanding of the German language by the applicant and the partner's satisfactory living conditions and adequate income in Germany. Upon arrival, the spouse needs to apply for a residence permit at the relevant Immigration Office ("Ausländerbehörde").

German Immigration Officials on Online Marriage

The approval of a foreign spouse's migration application to Germany is subject to partial acceptance or rejection. The marriage, valid under Utah Law where it was solemnized, is generally recognized in Germany as long as it complies with the legal requirements of the respective state. However, the German Civil Registry Office holds the authority to decide whether to acknowledge and record the marriage in the German Registry Office.

The issue arises when the German Registrar's Office asserts that, despite the marriage being contracted in Utah, it falls under German jurisdiction due to the partner's residence in Germany. 

According to Art. 11 EGBGB, a legal act is considered formally valid if it complies with the formal requirements of the law governing the legal relationship or the law of the state where the act takes place.

In cases where the marriage is perceived to have been concluded in Germany, Art. 13 IV EGBGB specifies the required form for marriages within the country. However, if two non-German nationals intend to marry and one is a national of another state, the marriage may take place before an authorized person from that state, following its prescribed formalities.

The acceptance or rejection of the visa application for the foreign spouse's migration to Germany rests with the Migration Office. Subsequently, the recognition of the marriage is contingent upon the decision of the German Civil Registry Office. The complexities arise from the interpretation of where the marriage was concluded and the applicable legal framework, with German authorities playing a crucial role in determining the validity and recognition of the union.

Apostille certification for online marriage certificates

In countries that followed the Hague Convention, which eliminated the need for the legalization of foreign public documents on October 5, 1961, there is no requirement for the legalization of public documents. Instead, these documents need a "Hague apostille." This convention applies to various public documents, including marriage and birth certificates, university degrees, etc., excluding documents executed by consular officers and those issued by administrative authorities related to commerce or customs.

The "Hague apostille" serves to confirm the authenticity of a public document, and it must be submitted along with the original to the designated authority. Issued by authorities in the state that issued the document, contacting the German mission in that country is unnecessary.

An apostille is a unique certificate issued by either the Secretary of State or the Lieutenant Governor, allowing a legal document from one country to be recognized and accepted in another. Obtaining an apostille validates your marriage certificate as a legally binding and authentic document, adhering to the standards of The Hague Apostille Convention of 1961. This ensures recognition in countries that are signatories to the convention.

Courtly provides the option to obtain an apostille certification for your marriage certificate, a process typically taking 15 to 30 business days to reach Germany after an online ceremony. This certification reinforces the legality and validity of your marriage certificate in Germany or any other country recognizing apostilled documents.

Staying informed about the specific requirements and procedures for obtaining an apostille certification in your jurisdiction is advisable. Consultation with Courtly or relevant authorities is recommended to ensure accurate and up-to-date information.

Conclusion

The landscape of marriages in Germany is transforming with the advent of online marriages. As digital platforms become more prevalent, the traditional notions surrounding marriage are evolving. The legal recognition and acceptance of online marriages in Germany, however, remain a complex and nuanced matter, with the absence of a codified "online marriage" category. 

Couples opting for an online marriage in Germany should navigate the legal intricacies carefully, ensuring that their union aligns with the established legal frameworks. While the process may involve challenges, the flexibility and accessibility offered by online platforms can provide couples with a unique and personalized approach to solemnizing their commitment. 

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