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Why so many couples in Germany go to Denmark to get married

Paul Krantz
Paul Krantz - [email protected]
Why so many couples in Germany go to Denmark to get married
Will and his fiancée pose amidst a roaring river. They plan to marry in Denmark this year. Photo provided by William Bryan.

Couples with at least one non-German partner who try to get married in Germany often run into near-impossible hurdles. The solution that many international couples resort to is crossing a border for a day or two and returning as newlyweds.

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Germany is not particularly well known as a wedding destination, but its neighbour Denmark is.

Denmark has been an especially popular wedding destination for people coming from Germany since the 1960s. 

To be clear it's not that couples in Germany are swapping their wedding carriages for tandem bicycles, or that they want Smørrebrød at their reception dinners. 

Actually what attracts couples to Denmark for marriage is not what the country has, but what it doesn’t have – that being outrageous bureaucratic hurdles.

The Local spoke with one newly wed husband and one engaged bachelor who both opted for Danish weddings. They explained why they avoided getting married in Germany, and how seamless the process can be in Denmark.

Impossible documents and language barriers

For many foreigners, and even some native born citizens, Germany’s paperwork and German language requirements for the marriage process are simply too much.

Sam Care, 32, who lives in Berlin told The Local that he didn’t spend too much time investigating the marriage process in Germany. Rather he and his newly wed wife were recommended to marry in Denmark from the beginning.

“Given our experience with German bureaucracy, it didn’t take much to convince us,” Sam admitted. But he did look into the process enough to realise the list of required documents is substantially longer in Germany than it is in Denmark.

“I’m sure lots of people don’t arrive in Germany with their birth certificates and proof of civil status. At least we hadn’t, so the German process had this added hassle of trying to get documents from my wife’s home country.”

newlyweds in Denmark

Sam Care and his newlywed bride as seen in Copenhagen shortly after getting married. Photo provided by Sam Care.

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While requesting documents from your home country (and then getting them translated and apostilled) is difficult enough if you are coming from the US or the UK, for example, it can be nearly impossible for people coming from countries like Kenya or South Africa, or countries where regular processes may be disrupted by conflict, like in Ukraine or Russia.

William Bryan, 28, who is scheduled to marry his fiancée in Denmark in a few months said that as a German-American he had made an honest effort to start the German process.

“It was so quickly, overwhelmingly bureaucratic in classic German fashion,” Will told The Local. 

He added that an official translator was required at the marriage if either of the partners couldn’t prove sufficient German language skills – which would have been an issue for his fiancée – and they didn’t offer options beside German language for the ceremony.

Ultimately, Will says the extra paperwork and the language barrier, and the fact that both of those issues could be avoided with a quick trip to Denmark, made it an easy choice.

‘You could be married next week in Denmark’

Beside the language and paperwork barriers, another issue for those trying to marry in Germany can be the timing. Scheduling a marriage in Germany can take months, especially in bigger cities where local venues are often fully booked well in advance.

Of course marriage is not something to rush into, but there are certain situations where couples may need to marry sooner than later.

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Will noted that after he and his fiancée submitted their documents to Danish authorities, they received approval on their application within five business days.

“You could probably apply today and get married next week,” Will said.

bride and groom celebrating

A bride and groom celebrate their union with a toast. Photo by Pexels via Pixabay

Sam also noted how easy and quick the Danish process was: “You just go to the Danish website, upload a few documents, get approved, choose a venue, done!”

He said that they did have to register a day ahead of the marriage at the town hall: “When we got to the town hall there were a bunch of couples from around the world. It was actually sweet to see the other couples in a similar situation to ours, all in need of a feasible way to secure their lives together.”

Germany gets its papers either way

There is one catch. When German residents are married abroad, they need to have their foreign marriage officially recognised in Germany before that marriage will count in terms of tax and citizenship / residency effects.

Sam, who was married by the end of 2023, says he is still in the process of having his marriage recognised by the German authorities, which would also be required to arrange a name change in the country.

READ ALSO: How to have your marriage abroad recognised in Germany

“In my experience it’s not so straightforward,” Sam said. “Depending on your circumstance, you have to either go to the Standesamt or Bürgeramt and it's not entirely obvious which one until you contact one and are told to go through the other – and then over to the Finanzamt.”

Typically, married couples can start this process by presenting the marriage certificate at their local registry office. But if you're moving to Germany for the first time, you can try brining the certificate with you to your first Anmeldung appointment.

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But here also, coming from Denmark has an advantage. Danish weddings come with marriage certificates in five languages (Danish, English, German, Spanish, and French) at no extra cost. 

So at least you won't have to translate your marriage certificate when you turn it in to the relevant authorities in Germany.

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Comments (3)

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Nigel 2024/05/13 17:50
ahhhh the memories... the horrible horrible memories :D Loooong story short we started, fought for and eventually gave up on a German wedding and ended up in Denmark. Both my wife and I are expats from different countries, but same/similar salaries, visas, time in Germany, etc. Eventually with name change to common family name required creativity on our behalf...
Anonymous 2024/05/13 14:05
Last time I checked, Denmark is directly north of Germany…
  • Rachel Loxton 2024/05/13 14:20
    Thanks for your comment, we amended that.
  • ben.mcpartland 2024/05/13 14:20
    THank you.
Simon SLADE 2024/05/13 13:27
Popping over the Scotland was also a breeze

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