Until recently I thought that the low number of marriages and the relatively high age of people getting married in Germany was solely an expression of the mentality where everybody only relies on himself. Now I have learned that there is another factor as well — getting married in Germany is just difficult, despite all the talk about “improving family-friendliness of the state”. To attain the permission to get married (something I assumed to be a mere formality) you have to jump through all sorts of bureaucratic hoops. After having spent the last three years in Norway I simply didn’t expect this. Of course I should have known better but you easily get used to the good things.
According to the web page of the marital office you basically only need to bring your passports and fill out a few papers. Well, it also says that there is some additional talk for foreign citizens but that cannot be too bad? It came out this talk was only there to tell what additional certificates are required, something that they “absolutely could not tell on phone” (despite the fact that the official requirements are available on the internet — if you only know what to look for).
So my fiancé had to get a confirmation from the Ukrainian consular office in Frankfurt that she wasn’t married already even though she left Ukraine before reaching legal age. Guess what Ukrainians wanted to have for that? Right, a paper from a German register office that states her marital status. This actually makes sense given that Ukraine doesn’t have a central database for marriages and I simply don’t believe they received information from archives all over the country within a few hours. But this service was worth €80, so the German state once again did something to save a few Ukrainians from starvation (the paper from the register office was really cheap in comparison, only €5).
In addition to that we had to translate birth certificates and my pay check (try to find a certified translator for Norwegian). Why they need the pay check? Apparently they want to get paid depending on your income, so far all invoices we received have been fixed numbers however. Whatever, we got it all done in less than two weeks.
But next time I came they had another surprise: my fiancé‘s birth certificate wasn’t worth anything. There were stamps of the Ukrainian Ministry of Inner Affairs on it confirming its authenticity but those weren’t enough. You also need a special confirmation from the German embassy in Kiev. I thought I weren’t hearing right. “Cannot we get this in Germany?” “No, this is something only the embassy in Kiev can do.” Of course I didn’t believe and studied all the official documents, but that’s really the way it is. Instead of appearing in person you can also send in the documents (only the originals!) with the post, a good joke for everybody who ever had experience with the post in Ukraine. In the end my father-in-law did in fact go to Kiev, two days with the bus in each direction.
With this addition to the pile of paper our application was finally accepted and sent over to the regional court (“It will take four to six weeks”). Not all was well of course: “What do you mean your fiancé lives in Cologne? Why didn’t she come then? This could be a problem, the court will not like it. She couldn’t get this day off? Why, this is important! Doesn’t matter that this is your last day in Germany, if you were abroad you would have an excuse not to come.”
Also, it came out that the German bureaucracy didn’t get enough data on us. For example, the maiden names of our mothers were absolutely essential, and the birth certificates didn’t have this information. These names were so essential to the whole process that we had to sign statements under oath (€17 each). Then they needed some confirmation that this marriage was legal under the Ukrainian law. Too bad Ukraine hasn’t learned how to make money out of that yet. So instead the court had to deal with it — this service is far from being free of course.
This isn’t just our bad luck. I talked to a friend and he had to go through the same procedure (including statements under oath). Heck, my own brother had to go through it! Why didn’t I even think about asking him before the whole thing? I would have been warned. But on the bright side, after racing through the process (it took exactly two months) we finally know what our big day will be. And it is even the day we wanted for ourselves.