Are you planning to get married to your German partner? Are you thinking about where you should get married? Should the wedding be in Germany, or back in your home town, or both? I went through the same struggle a few years ago when I got married. I am from Hong Kong, and my husband is from Germany. In the end, we decided to get married not in Hong Kong, not in Germany, but in New Zealand! In this post, I am going to tell you why, and also what you should know about German weddings.
Why did I not marry my German husband in Germany?
Documents required for marriage in Germany
This is the number one reason why we did not get married in Germany. Germany is known for its bureaucracy and paperwork. This was the first marriage for both of us and we did not have any kids. To get married in Germany, we would need the following documents:
- Birth certificate
- Certificate of Absence of Marriage Record (Ledigkeitsbescheinigung)
- Filled-in questionnaire from the civil registry office (Standesamt)
- Proof of residence in Germany (Meldebescheinigung)
The document required depends also on your situation. If this is not your first marriage, or if you have kids already before, then additional documents are needed. You should check the latest requirement at your local Standesamt. Besides, the document obtained should also not be older than six months. Any document in a foreign language needs to have a certified translation to German. You can get your translation here.
At first, we planned to get married in Germany and I was checking how I could get all the documents needed from Hong Kong. At some point in time, I gave up as there was so much to do to get the documents, especially when I was not in Hong Kong. Besides, every document costs money. Not to mention the translation of each of the documents. Getting all the documents within six months was also stressful for me. I wanted to make sure I got every document needed before my marriage.
So, we started to look at other locations where we could get married easily. In the end, we chose New Zealand. The only document we needed to get married in New Zealand was the completed statutory declaration. I still remember, when we went to the registration office in New Zealand and told them that we had already sent them declaration form before, they did not even ask for our passports! This was how easy it was!
After we got married in New Zealand, to register our marriage in Germany, the only thing we had to do was to translate our marriage certificate and apostille into German. We used the online translation service from lingoking and easily got it translated. Instead of translating so many different documents, we only had to translate one. This saved us a lot of work and money.
To be married in an English speaking country
The marriage ceremony is very special and touching. I wanted to have my ceremony in a language that I was familiar with. I wanted to make sure I understood every word before I said “yes” to a lifetime promise. With that said, the ceremony definitely could not be in German. So, I was searching for the wedding requirement in each English speaking country and New Zealand came to our conclusion.
To satisfy both families
My family would like my wedding to be in Hong Kong. For the family of my husband, they would like our wedding to be in Germany. That was very normal that both families wanted to be close to the wedding. To be fair to both, we decided to get married neither in Germany nor in Hong Kong, but in New Zealand. We were in New Zealand alone, without inviting any guests. I understand that for some people, they really want to have a big wedding with many friends and family members around. It was lucky that both my husband and I had the same feeling that we would rather do it alone. We did not have any hassles about whom to invite and we did not need to organize any party. We just had to take care of our own, he and I. The only work we had was to plan our honeymoon travel and our wedding outfits. We hired a wedding planner for the rest.
Sometime after our wedding, we organized two dinners: one in Hong Kong and one in Germany. This was to share our happiness with our family members from both sides.
To combine our marriage with a honeymoon
We took a total of three weeks’ vacation for our wedding and honeymoon travel. Both my husband and I had never been to New Zealand. It was an exotic place for us, which was full of nature and scenery. We directly started our honeymoon travel after our marriage and traveled across the whole country with a campervan. We went to national parks, volcanos, mountains, etc. I could not imagine any other ways to have our marriage and honeymoon.
How about a wedding in Germany?
Even though I did not get married in Germany, I have been invited to many different German weddings from friends and family. So, what should you expect in a German wedding?
Unlike in Hong Kong, where it is common for the brides to rent several dresses and change different ones throughout the night, most German brides buy their own wedding dress and they have only one wedding dress. It is VERY EXPENSIVE to buy a wedding dress in Germany in a shop. It costs easily more than 1000 EUR. It is a lot for me, considering that I would only wear it for one day. Therefore, I did not buy my dress in a shop. Instead, I bought it online.
I bought my wedding dress from the online shop Taubenweiß. I know. It was scary to buy such an important dress online without even trying it on before. However, in this online shop, you can actually enter all your measurements for your dress, e.g. the centimeter of your arm, shoulder, breast, etc. You can enter every measurement in details and they will tailor-make the dress for you. I was so glad that the dress matched perfectly to me when I tried it on. And it looked exactly like what I expected from the picture. I ended up paying 270 EUR for this tailor-made wedding dress and I was super happy about it.
For other wedding accessories like my veil and wedding wraps, I got it online as well at lightinthebox.com. It might take longer to ship but it was SO MUCH CHEAPER to buy them there! Alternatively, you can also get these things on Amazon like this wedding veil or this wedding wraps.
Size of a German wedding
Comparing to the Hong Kong wedding, a German wedding has a pretty small size. It is normally less than 100 people at the wedding. German couples invite people who are truly important to them, like their closest friends and family members. Basically, the guests are whom the couples personally know. For example, for the wedding of my sister-in-law, she only invited around 15 people. These were not even all the family members, but only the closest ones.
In Hong Kong, a wedding can be a couple hundreds of people, including a lot of people whom the couples do not personally know or are not really close with. It has something to do with Chinese culture. At a Chinese wedding, the wedding is actually more for the parents of the couples, than for the couples themselves. For example, the wedding is a great chance for the parents of the couples to invite all their friends, colleagues, etc. whom the couples may not know at all. The parents feel very proud of their children’s wedding and basically, the wedding is their time to show off.
In Germany, wedding gifts can come in different forms. It depends really on the marrying couples. Sometimes, they may put some hints in the wedding invitation. For example, they may indicate that they want to get cash, or they may let you know that they have a wish list. In case cash is preferred, the common way to give cash is to buy a small present which is nicely decorated with some Euro bills wrapping in it. German people find it awkward to just give out the cash as it is. Wrapping the cash in a small present shows that the present givers have spent some time to think about the present and also put effort to make it look nice. In general, people give around 50-100 EUR cash per person, depending on how close they are to the marrying couple.
For some others who may not feel like giving out cash directly, they may give away cash coupons instead. An example would be a cash coupon from a furniture store if the couple is going to move to a new house after marriage.
Bachelor/ Bachelorette Party
There is no wedding shower in Germany. However, influenced by the US, some German people prefer to host a Bachelor/ Bachelorette party before their marriage. A Bachelor party is a party held for the man who is about to get married, while a Bachelorette party is for the bride-to-be. Normally, the best friend of the groom-to-be/ bride-to-be hosts the party. The activities can be anything, for example, drinking, water sport, hanging out at a beach or lake, etc. The aim is for the groom-to-be/ bride-to-be to spend a nice day with their good friends together before marriage. Note also that a Bachelor party is only for men and a Bachelorette party is only for women to join.
The man should not see the woman in the wedding dress before marriage
Some people believe that it brings bad luck if the groom-to-be sees his future wife in the wedding dress before the marriage. Therefore, many women prefer to go shopping for a wedding dress with their female friends or family members, but not with their future husbands. This culture comes from the old-time when arranged marriage was still very common. The man was not allowed to see the woman before marriage to avoid him running away, in case he did not find the woman attractive. Nowadays, many women still keep this tradition and some think that this keeps the marriage more exciting and mysterious.
Some people have kids before getting married
In Hong Kong, people are very traditional. People must first get married before they have kids. In Germany, people are more relaxed about it. I know quite many people who have kids first before getting married. Or some people are together with their partners for 20-30 years with kids but never get married. Even my parents-in-law also only got married 3 years after having their first kid. I was quite shocked to hear this at the beginning, probably because of my own traditional culture.
I have talked with several of my colleagues to understand why they didn’t get married. There are different reasons. Some said that they were too lazy. There was a lot of work associated with the wedding. It would cost a lot of time, money and effort. Others told me that they realized that they were pregnant before they decided to get married. Since they had to get everything prepared for the new baby, they had no time to plan their wedding. And once the baby was born, they had no time left for wedding planning either. That was why they ended up getting married a few years afterward.
I also had some other friends who told me that they did not think that the marriage certificate was meaningful. For them, it is sufficient when they are together with their partners. By the way, I also heard that the man can get an official paper which proves that he is the father of the kid even without marriage. This is to ensure he also has child custody.
Engagement ring and marriage ring
When the man proposes to the woman, he gives her the engagement ring. The woman wears the engagement ring on her left-hand ring finger. At their wedding, they exchange the marriage ring. Both the groom and the bride wear the marriage ring on their right-hand ring fingers.
For the engagement ring, the man has to decide on his own which ring can impress the woman. For many men, it is a challenge to buy the right finger size. It is lucky for the men if their women have other rings at home. They can just check the size of those rings. In my case, I never wear any rings. My husband asked a friend of mine (who has a similar body size like me) for her finger size. Based on that, he bought the engagement ring. It fitted perfectly on my finger in the end.
For the marriage ring, we bought it together in Hong Kong (much cheaper than in Germany). Normally the marriage rings for the man and woman match together, i.e. color, style, etc.
The marrying couple starts the wedding party with a dance
There is normally a lot of dancing involved in a German wedding. In the night, the marrying couple starts the party with a dance. They can choose any sort of dance they like, and the most common one is Waltz. A lot of couples learn and practice the dance a lot beforehand to ensure they do a good dance at the wedding. Once after they finish their dance, other guests can join in the dancing floor and the dancing party starts.
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Did you get married in Germany? Or have you been invited to a German wedding? Leave a comment below and share your experience!