Yes, Klaus and I have just got married!
However, this is not just a short blog post about it, as if anyone has ever wondered how easy it is for two divorced people from different countries to get married in Germany, now you can learn the answer – not that easy!
Klaus completely took me by surprise when he proposed to me on the way to a holiday in Berlin in October 2019. We had had some conversations in the past about our future plans and he had told me that marrying again was not his plan (his divorce was still in progress at the time anyway). We had discussed it as I was trying to arrange my dual citizenship because of Brexit and marriage would have given me more rights, but it was clear that his divorce would take a while so it probably wouldn’t be a solution for us anyway. Which it wasn’t – I got my citizenship before Klaus was even divorced and we would have had to be married for two years before I could claim citizenship through marriage, so long, long after Brexit was complete.
So I had no expectation that he would propose… and yet he did! After giving it some thought (only for form’s sake, I knew the answer straight away) I answered him “yes”.
While we were in Berlin we went to visit our friend Rebecca on the Baltic island of Usedom. Rebecca is a jeweller (Goldschmiedegalerie) and could make us our wedding rings. She has a range of jewellery which incorporates elements of architecture in the Baltic houses on Usedom and I thought this design idea would work well for rings for us, but using our names (both 5 letters) instead of the architectural designs. I had some ideas and explained them to Rebecca and she set to work to design the rings.
As you can see above, our names are included in gold on a silver base.
And here was my ring when completed, the ‘ele’ of Helen visible on the left and ‘Klau’ visible on the right:
Here are both of our rings together. Klaus’s (on the left) is significantly larger. In the photo they show signs of tarnish as they have been in the ring box for ages – we cleaned and polished them up before the wedding!
Of course, in England Engagement Rings are a big thing, but they are not so important in Germany so Klaus wasn’t planning to get me one. However, he wanted to buy me something nice for Christmas 2019 (he was thinking about earrings) and we happened by a high quality jeweller in Kempen, Ophir Box, who had beautiful, simple rings. I suggested to Klaus that an engagement ring would be a rather nice thing and so he went along with the plan.
I love rubies and we spent a good hour with the jeweller looking at various stones, ring settings etc and I ended up choosing an engagement ring with a ruby that was already set in another ring (he took it out and set it in the ring design of my choice). It was such a beautiful red colour, whereas rubies are often rather pink. It was not in any way cheap but is beautiful and I have been proud to wear it throughout our engagement and will continue to wear it now.
And here are all three rings together.
So, we were engaged, we had the engagement and wedding rings… now to get married.
Paperwork for marriage
I have mentioned before that I read the Toytown internet forum for expats in Germany and there are innumerable tales on this forum of people having real difficulties getting the paperwork to get married in Germany.
As I had been previously married in the UK and was a British Citizen when we started looking into this, it was clear it would be rather difficult.
The problem is that many German Standesämter (Registry Offices) provide a huge list of documents which are required, some of which don’t exist in the UK. They usually have to be certified copies of documents which are less than 6 months old, must often have an Apostille (official stamp from some other British authority!) and be translated. What often seemed to happen was that one document did not come through and so all the others go out of date. I read stories of people who spent up to 2000 Euro on documents and still didn’t have everything required for marriage in Germany.
Here’s the information from a very informative website:
Requirements and documents:
Both partners will most likely need:
* A valid passport
* An official birth certificate
* Proof of a minimum of 21 days of continuous residence in Germany (this can be a Meldebescheinigung issued by the local Anmeldeamt)
* Proof of being single (Ledigkeitsbescheinigung)
* Birth certificates of children (if any) the couple may have had together
* The required application and questionnaire from the Standesamt
One or both partners may have to provide the following depending on their particular circumstances and the requirements of the local magistrate’s office:
* Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) (Befreiung vom Ehefähigkeitszeugnis)
* Marriage certificates from previous marriages
* A financial statement
* Persons who were previously married must present either a death certificate for the former spouse or proof that the marriage was permanently dissolved by divorce. The former is usually no problem; the latter a rock on which many marriage plans have been wrecked. A simple divorce decree from a British court is usually not enough. Proof probably will be required that this decree can no longer be contested. It is usually necessary to get a statement to this effect from the court that granted the divorce.
Certified translations of non-German language documentation may also be required and many documents’ issue dates shouldn’t be older than six months.
If either one of the partners is a foreigner documents may be sent to a higher regional court in order to verify the legal status of that person.https://www.howtogermany.com/pages/marriage.html
The overwhelming advice on Toytown was “get married somewhere else!”
The top choice was Denmark as it is easy to get to from Germany and their paperwork requirement is not too taxing. So Klaus and I were initially planning to get married in Denmark – once his divorce had come through.
But then things changed again – Germany no longer accepts marriages that take place in Denmark.
So the next possibility was Gibraltar, as it counts as the UK but you only have to stay there one night. We could have got married in the UK but would have to be there for three weeks and Klaus and I simply didn’t have enough annual leave for that. So Gibraltar was a good option, although slightly fiddly to get to from here.
And then came Covid… and travel became impossible.
Klaus’s divorce finally happened in February 2021 and now we could actually start trying to see if we could get married. We contacted the Standesamt Kempen and asked them what documents we would need to get married there. Things were a bit easier as I was now a German citizen, having been awarded my dual citizenship in December 2020, so this would reduce the required paperwork somewhat.
The Standesamt informed us that we needed the following documents:
- eine aktuelle Abschrift aus dem Geburtenregister ausgestellt durch das Standesamt Mannheim (a current copy of the birth register issued by the Mannheim registry office)
- eine Abschrift aus dem Eheregister mit Auflösungsvermerk, ausgestellt durch das Standesamt Heppenheim (a copy of the marriage register with notice of dissolution, issued by the registry office Heppenheim)
- einen gültigen Personalausweis oder Reisepass (a valid identity card or passport)
- eine aktuelle Abschrift aus dem Geburtenregister, ausgestellt durch das Standesamt Bergisch Gladbach (a current copy of the birth register issued by the Bergisch Gladbach registry office)
- eine Heiratsurkunde, ausgestellt durch das Heiratsstandesamt (a marriage certificate issued by the marriage registry office)
- eine Bescheinigung gem. Art. 39 Brüssel IIa Verordnung über Ihre Scheidung ausgestellt durch das britische Gericht, welches die Scheidung ausgesprochen hat (a certificate according to Article 39 Brussels IIa Regulation about your divorce issued by the British court that granted the divorce)
- Ihre Einbürgerungsurkunde (your citizenship certificate)
- einen gültigen Personalausweis oder Reisepass (a valid identity card or passport)
- Die britischen Urkunden müssen gemäß dem Haager Übereinkommen mit einer Apostille versehen sein. (British documents must be apostilled in accordance with the Hague Convention.)
- Alle Dokumente in fremder Sprache müssen von einem vom Oberlandesgericht vereidigten Dolmetscher in Deutschland nach ISO-Norm in die deutsche Sprache übersetzte sein. (All documents in foreign languages must be translated into German by an interpreter sworn by the Higher Regional Court in Germany in accordance with ISO standards.)
This actually looked OK for me at first glance, but very soon it became clear that item 3 (non-contestable divorce decree) would be a BIG problem. Lots of googling eventually informed me that I MIGHT be able to get this document, called a D180, from the court that did the divorce. So I phoned up Bury St Edmunds Court, waited in the queue for 40 minutes (Corona times) and eventually got through to a young-sounding chap who said yes, they could provide this document. I needed to fill it in, email it back and the judge would stamp it. Eventually. Maybe after 9 weeks or so. There was no cost for this service.
He emailed me the document and I filled it in as best as I could and returned it by email 30 minutes later. And then I waited.
After nine weeks I got an email from them saying:
Thank you for your email.
Your divorce application is currently being dealt with by our court at Bury St Edmunds. We are currently processing correspondence received on 10/03/2021
You will need to re-send this email, and send all future correspondence to:
Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre
St Andrew’s Street North
Bury St Edmunds
The court will be able to assist with your query.
I couldn’t work out why they were asking me to re-send this email to a different address when I had replied to the original address, but I duly forwarded the email. I assumed the 9 week wait had started again. Sigh. I still wasn’t convinced I would get a usable document at the end, and as I wasn’t being charged anything for it it was rather hard to put pressure on.
So then we hit upon the idea of marrying in Scotland. This would avoid the need for 3 weeks staying in the country, and I would be getting married as a British citizen so the paperwork ought to be easier. Klaus would need his birth certificate in English so he ordered that from Mannheim. He would also need an Ehefähighkeitszeugnis (Certificate of No Impediment) from Kempen but that should be easy to get hold of. We didn’t apply for that as due to Corona we couldn’t travel to Scotland anyway, but we started looking into it – firstly at Oban (my Dad loved it the Isle of Mull) and then at Gretna Green because, well, Gretna Green.
Divorce and Prenup
Klaus’s divorce finally took place in February 2021 and he was free to marry again, hurrah! It turned out to be very expensive for him and his ex-wife, their divorce in total costing 8 times more that the combined cost for James and I, and their assets were significantly less than those of James and I. German lawyers…
We got in contact with a Notar (Notary Public) to prepare an Ehevertrag (Pre-Nuptial Agreement) as we both wanted to take all financial issues away from the marriage. We would both keep all our money and assets separate during our marriage and if we ended up divorcing everything would already be agreed. The Notar is surprisingly expensive in Germany as it is means tested, but we weren’t quoted a price at all, I just read up a bit on it. We spoke to him over the phone for half an hour for the initial discussion and he sent through the draft document a few days later.
So the Ehevertrag was discussed and arranged. We didn’t sign it immediately as we were waiting to find out in which country we would marry as this is mentioned in the document.
And then… Corona restrictions started lifting for the UK. Maybe we could go to Scotland finally!!
Marrying over the anvil in Gretna Green?
It was time to phone up Gretna Green as it looked as though we might be able to get married in summer 2021.
I had of course done lots of googling about documents required, but spoke to the Gretna Registry Office to confirm this. And the chap said that we would need the following:
- birth certificates
- a divorce certificate if either you or your partner was previously married
- a certificate that you are free to marry under the law of your own country if not normally domiciled in the UK.
I said this was all fine, Klaus could get number 3 (which is the Ehefähigkeitszeugnis or the Certificate of No Impediment) as this is available from Standesamt Kempen. But the chap on the phone said we BOTH need this document as I am not domiciled in the UK.
Argh! I wasn’t sure this was possible.
So I phoned up Standesamt Kempen and asked if I could have an Ehefähigkeitszeugnis. The lady obviously looked me up in her records as she said “no problem, you. just have to provide me with the documents I asked for in my letter of 8 March 2021, including die Bescheinigung gem. Art. 39 Brüssel IIa Verordnung über Ihre Scheidung ausgestellt durch das britische Gericht, welches die Scheidung ausgesprochen hat”. This is the document that I was failing to get from Bury St Edmunds.
So I said to the lady that I was stuck in a circle with no way out, needing this document which it seems very hard to get. She said to me, “I always wonder why the Brits find it so difficult to get this document.” This at least showed me that it wasn’t just me! And then she said “perhaps your divorce certificate will be enough. If you send it to me, with a certified translation, I will see.” I already had this document (also with Apostille) as I had it prepared for my citizenship. The document, apostille and translation were now 2 years old but the lady said that was OK. She suggested I send her scans of all the documents and she would check them through, and if they were OK I could deliver the real documents for checking later. I said that my marriage certificate wasn’t translated but she said that was OK. Fortunately I have a German birth certificate and I had already got the various documents she needed. So I sent scans of everything over and she said:
Die von Ihnen eingescannten Unterlagen reichen aus. Eine Übersetzung für Ihre Heiratsurkunde ist nicht nötig.
In other words, all my documents were in order and I didn’t need a translation for the marriage certificate (her English was obviously good enough).
Now Klaus had to send her his documents and then we could get married in Kempen if all was in order. I didn’t have to provide the document from the Bury St Edmunds Court. Phew!
Nicht Gretna sondern Kempen
Wow, this was a surprise. Kempen was back in the lead for the Race to Matrimony.
The next day Klaus sent across his documents to the lady, and then got a rather pert email in reply:
Allerdings reicht der Auszug aus dem Geburtenregister nicht aus.
Ich benötige eine Abschrift aus dem Geburtenregister, sowie Ihre Partnerin ihn vorgelegt hat.
Now Klaus has been German for 54 years and he’s pretty good at the language, but he couldn’t identify what the difference was between an Auszug or an Abschrift. Technically an Auszug is an “excerpt” and an Abschrift is a “transcript” or “copy”. Anyway, he had sent the document he had from the Geburtenregister, but apparently this wasn’t right. He compared the information on it with the information in my Abschrift which the lady said was the correct type of document and it had all the same information except for his parents’ jobs at the time of their marriage. He got quite cross about this as the whole paperwork exercise was wearing us down. He wrote a pert email back as he discovered he in fact did already have the correct document as he had ordered it when arranging the bilingual birth certificate, so he sent that document and asked the lady if she would kindly explain to us sometime the difference between the documents.
Her response was to say the documents are now all correct and we should phone her up for an appointment. She would explain the difference between the two documents when she saw us.
We phoned her, and she offered us the next week for a wedding! We thought this was a bit soon, and as she was then on holiday we fixed on 27 August. This was six weeks away and gave us time to plan and organise things a bit.
But finally the Paperwork Mountain had been conquered!
And then… three weeks later… an envelope from the UK arrived. Lo and behold it was my document from Bury St Edmunds! We didn’t need it now but at least I could prove such a thing did exist, it’s just that it took six months to get here!
Signing our Ehevertrag
When the final marriage location of Kempen was fixed we confirmed the details with the Notar and then visited in person to sign the documents, after he read them out and made a few additional comments.
We had also put a special document called a Vorsorgevollmacht mit Patientenverfügung which is a kind of medical Power of Attorney document. This was to make Klaus rather than my mother my ‘next of kin’ in case of medical emergencies or end-of-life decisions and to make me his ‘next of kin’ rather than his father, as we felt that this would make things much easier (I didn’t like to think of a German hospital phoning my Mum up and asking her if they could go ahead with treatments). It was valid immediately upon signing.
And as for the bill? All this time we didn’t know how much the Ehevertrag would cost. Various German websites gave hints but I couldn’t work out what it would be for us – potentially between 500 EUR and 5000 EUR, so that was a big gap!
The bill at a Notar is Means Tested so we had to send him information about our cash, assets and liabilities (debts) and then lo and behold the bill arrived. It was in two parts, one for the Ehevertrag and one for the Vorsorgevollmacht/Power of Attorney. The costs were different for both, and in both parts of the invoice he listed our Geschäftswert (net worth together); knowing the amounts that we sent him for cash, assets and debts, I couldn’t work out how he arrived at these two different figures. I was eventually able to work out that for the Ehevertrag the fact that Klaus still had a mortgage meant that they divided the value of his assets in half; as I had no mortgage all my assets were included in the calculation. We had assumed that the outstanding mortgage would pretty much wipe out our assets but no, not with this calculation.
The Geschäftswert for the Power of Attorney was a different figure again, about 60% of the figure he had calculated for the Ehevertrag, and I could not work out, with any combination of figures, how he achieved it. So it will always be a mystery.
The Notar has a table of figures he can use to charge, and a multiplier for different types of work, and (as with many German things) it is very complicated. Which is why I really thought he should have given us a rough estimate before we started, as we could have given him a rough idea of our assets and outstanding mortgage value. But there you go.
The total invoice from the Notar ended up at just under 1500 EUR so that was OK as we had thought it could be quite a lot more. There were other costs also to be added to the official German register for Powers of Attorney etc but overall it wasn’t too bad.
A small wedding in Kempen
We were to have a small wedding. Klaus would have his daughter there (she would need a day off school but that’s allowed for a parent’s wedding) and I invited my Mum. She was a bit nervous about all the travelling on her own so I had the bright idea of also inviting my sister who was fortunately able to get the time off work. The Ryanair flights from Stansted to Köln-Bonn Airport are 10 pounds each way. Crazy!
So it was planned for Mum and Anna to arrive on Thursday late afternoon, with the wedding at 10:30am the next morning. We also invited Gudula and Frank (our landlady and landlord) and friends Christine and Andreas from round the corner. Christine, who is an English teacher and translator among other things, said she would translate the service for my mum and sister so they knew what was going on.
I had to spring into action to sort myself out – wedding dress etc. I went to the shop Hochzeitsfee in Nettetal-Kaldenkirchen and the woman there was really great at helping me choose a dress. I knew roughly what I wanted but she gave me lots of excellent advice. I tried on three dresses and the first was great, the second not so good and the third perfect. So that was an easy choice!
She also let me try on some shoes which were lovely but at 150 € a bit steep for one day. I ended up finding some similar ones for a much more manageable price.
As I had bought a sheath dress I realised I would have to buy some helpful underwear to smooth out the residual lard (when you lose weight your skin doesn’t always shrink back properly and so I had a tendency to rolls of apparent fat around my midriff). So I spent several weeks trying various options, which all had drawbacks but eventually found some shapewear I thought would be comfortable for the whole day and which held the right bits under control.
I of course also needed accessories such as a handbag (that was easy to find), tights (tried several, found some good ones!), something to do with my hair… Klaus’s daughter Lara and I experimented with various hair things and in the end we fixed on curling it a bit using her special curler and I bought some weddingy hair clips. Lara and I had two practice-runs for the hair curling so we knew what we were doing and how long it would take. She is much more expert at this kind of thing than me.
Another problem I had was my foot suntan. As I wear cycling sandals a lot I have semi-permanent suntan marks on my feet which would show with the nice shoes. How to deal with this problem?
I decided to practice using fake tan to build up the white areas and hopefully cover the worst.
I bought some self-tanner and applied it once a day carefully on the white bits, avoiding the suntanned bits. I experimented doing just the left foot so I had a control (the right foot) to compare it to. As you can see, it was pretty successful.
I would also be wearing tights which would hide a bit more too, and I hadn’t been especially careful with the fake tan application for this test (this was 6 weeks before the wedding and the tan wears off after a week).
I considered this a successful proof-of-concept so five days before the wedding I started slowly building up the tan on both feet so that the white patches are less noticeable. I was reasonably successful!
And the wedding countdown was happening in our household – the blackboard in the downstairs hallway had the tally of how many days to go…
And then it was the day before the wedding!
Despite having only worked for 9 days in my new job I had built up over an hour of overtime so they said I could go home early on the Thursday, so that was at 11am.
I had arranged a Ferienwohnung for Mum and Anna when they came over – in fact where our original second garage was, now converted into apartments and holiday lets. I picked up my flowers from the florist and took them straight to the Ferienwohnung, along with my clothes and other bits for the wedding as I was planning to get ready there – Klaus would collect us when it was time to head to the Standesamt.
After a few hours at home having lunch and generally faffing about we set off to Cologne airport to collect Mum and Anna. Their flight was delayed and the roads were really busy so it took us 2 hours to get there but still had a short wait. It was great to see Mum and Anna.
We drove to collect Lara from Viersen (took nearly 2 hours, should be less than 1 hour) and then went straight to the restaurant Ela for a very tasty evening meal. We dropped Mum and Anna off at their Ferienwohnung, I would go round there at 8:30 the next morning for final preparations.
The wedding day
I woke up at 5am but this was to be expected. After failing to get back to sleep I decided to go for a run after a cup of tea – to burn off at least a few of the calories that I would take in later in the day!
Before I started running I decorated Klaus’s car and my Smart with some white ribbon so they looked like wedding cars – this is normal style in Britain, in Germany they tend to have lots of flower displays.
I ran my standard 5k and in a pretty good time too!
I went back to our flat and had my shower, dried my hair and dressed in normal clothes and then Lara and I headed off on foot to the Ferienwohnung where Mum and Anna were starting to get ready.
Lara curled my hair, having straightened her own the day before (yes, we always want the hairstyle that we don’t have naturally). Lara then went back to our apartment to support her father as he got ready and I faffed around opening cards and presents, before getting my dress on ten minutes before Klaus was due to pick us up.
My sister had done us an embroidery and if you look closely at it, she has got my dress absolutely correct! Mum sent her a photo of the dress and she embroidered it, including the slit above my left knee and the lacy sleeves!
Klaus picked us all up to take us to the Standesamt.
We waited outside till all our little party (of 9) were ready and then went in.
It was a short ceremony, about 20 minutes long, where the Standesbeamtin read out some thoughts about love and then we had to just say a few short words to finalise the marriage.
And then of course we exchanged rings – they were laid first on a special tray.
And then it was done! We signed the documents as required, were given copies and then we filed outside to take a few photos.
There was another bridal party waiting to go in so we headed off after five minutes to Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk where we would have some wedding cake.
We had a selection of cakes on the Etagère and they were, of course, very tasty! Here I am looking surprised at one of the 3 Etagères we had, as well as some individual portions of cake.
And here is the happy couple!
Klaus did his bit to show his support for marrying a British woman!
Here is the new family, full of cakes.
And here are my lovely flowers.
After all eating our fill of cake (and more) we headed home to rest for a couple of hours before meeting up again to go out for a luxury meal at Küppersmühle in Duisburg. As always the food, setting and service were stunning – a great evening was had by all.
When I returned to work a few days later my colleagues gave me a gift, a decorated candle (I work for a candle manufacturer):
We are feeling very loved and we had a wonderfully relaxed wedding day. I am really happy to be married to Klaus and I look forward to many years of contentment together.