How to register a Danish marriage in Brazil and Germany – or not

How to register a Danish marriage in Brazil and Germany – or not

After being happily married for a couple of weeks, there were only two more things to do: find out if we can change our names and have the marriage registered in Brazil. The second would be important for when we move to Brazil, because the registration of our marriage would be the basis for a visa. And this was in fact easy. Changing our names was optional, because you can’t do this in Denmark when gettig married but we would’ve still liked to have a mutual last name. I know people are complain a lot about Brazilian bureaucracy, but again – facing German administration and bureaucracy was far worse than our experience with Brazilian authorities and that makes me wonder.

Legalizing the Danish marriage certificate

Legalizing the marriage certificate was necessary to have the marriage registered at the Brazilian embassy in Berlin (we did not want to travel to Copenhagen too much). And it was easy: we included a number of international postal return stamps, paid the fee electronically and sent everything to Copenhagen. Hahaha, it was of course not quite as easy! Try to buy some international postal return stamps in a German post office. The fun thing is: you can´t. The nice sales person explained, that these things are so rare, that they are not kept in the post offices, they have to be ordered and bought online. Even more ridiculous: the Brazilian embassy made clear, that all stamps have to be stamped by the issuing country, so after we had ordered them online, we returned to the post office, only to start the whole conversation about what these little things are again – because nobody seemed to know what to do. In the end (and after checking their online knowledge database), the stamps were stamped and we were told, that this should actually not be necessary anymore. (How Brazilian is that!) Anyhow. Two weeks later we got our marriage certificate back with a wonderful stamp stating, that this document is recognized by the Brazilian embassy in Copenhagen as a legal document.

Register the legalized marriage certificate at the Brazilian embassy

With our now legalized marriage certificate we showed up at the Brazilian embassy in Berlin a couple of days later, to have the marriage registered. With the service of a nearby notary office, which copied my passport, this was not a problem. Ten days later we received a wonderful small certificate stating, that our marriage is registered in Brazil. But we were told, that we would have to reconfirm this at a notary office in Brazil, once we arrived there. (This went pretty smooth as well). So everything was set from the Brazilian side. But what about the Germans?

Trying to register the marriage in Germany or: “Go away”

I had talked to the German Standesamt (registrar’s office) before and was told a quite confusing thing: since we were married in Denmark, the marriage is recognized in all countries of the European Union and therefore also in Germany. Since our marriage certificate is multilingual (German as well), we should have no problem sending this to organizations or administration, which could be asking to see our marriage certificate. However, there was no guarantee, that everyone would recognize this foreign document, because organizations and administration are only legally required to accept a marriage certificate from Germany. If we want to change our names, the marriage has to be registered in Germany. Period. No way out. Our marriage had to be officially recognized (nachbeurkundet) in Germany and a “Familienstammbuch” to be opend (a document containing birth certificates, death certificates and so one, but nobody could explain, what this is actually good for, since you do not need to have one).

In order to have our marriage officially registered in Germany, we would have to prove all the documents as if we would want to get married in Germany. I asked different people several times, but I got the same answer: “Yes the Danish marriage certificate is valid in Germany” and “No, the Danish marriage certificate is not valid to register your marriage in Germany, because, you know, the Danish are a little too relaxed about these things.” Does this make sense? Not to me. And it was a big disappointment, since we were facing the same problem again, which made us chose Denmark instead of Germany as the place to get married in the first place. All because the German authorities did not recognized the divorce certificate of my wife, which means we would have to spend several weeks with authorities in Brazil to get several documents, hire an attorney to open the court archives and make a transcript of the court judgment, then have all these papers legalized and translated into German. All of this would at a rough estimation cost us about 2 months of work and more than 5000 Euros. Sarcastically (even though I think the woman had good intentions) I was told, that we do not have to hurry, that the names can be changed anytime in the future, once the marriage is registered in Germany. A little bit sad my wife and me decided to let the name situation unchanged for the moment and I left Germany with the utterly strange and unsatisfying experience of being married, but not really – at least when it comes to German authorities.

A Danish Piece of Cake – Married in Copenhagen

A Danish Piece of Cake – Married in Copenhagen

It is over. Done. Finished. We are married. Hooray! And it was easy like eating a piece of Danish cake. Well technically it was a little bit more exciting than that, but in a good way. And this is how it went:

We received the confirmation of our wedding date together with a small How-To (“throwing rice is prohibited by law”) and a “What to do on the day of your wedding”-leaflet on the same day, I transferred the processing fee. Booking flights and a night in a hotel was easy – we wanted to arrive the evening before, so we would not be stressed about any flight delays or whatever.

In Copenhagen

The hotel was ok and only 3 minutes from the city hall, where we arrived somewhat early on the big day, which was sunny though a little chilly. I have to confess that I was very nervous, but after all it was my first and hopefully also the last time, that I am getting married. We had to wait inside the impressive and old city hall for about 20 minutes, which was perfect, because my two Danish friends arrived with their family in this time and we could say hello.

The waiting room in front of the marriage hall was impressive: big, dark and it looked like 300 years old (but in fact is only 100 years old), yet it was a nice ambience. There were never more than 4 couples waiting at the same time, and the waiting room was big enough to make us all feel comfortable. The wedding room itself was small but festive and decorated with old wall paintings (I remember polar bears). Two couples are scheduled for every 15 minute-slot, which gives each couple exactly 7,5 minutes alone with the officials, and while this might seem a little bit like an assembly line, the procedure itself felt surprisingly relaxed.

Once again the Danish surprised me (or the German in me) by not wanting to see any papers. Whatsoever. My wife and me confirmed by voice, that we were who’s name were printed on the paper and after a short but lovely speech by the, once again, incredibly friendly Danish official we said our “yes”, kissed and exchanged rings. Then we signed the official document for the city archive and we were handed over our international marriage certificate. It was easy, friendly, nice and warm. And off we went into our new life as a couple, which started with a wonderful meal at the impressive Restaurant Maven, which is situated in an former church in the city center.

That was only a week ago. Today I am still incredibly excited and very happy and there is only one more thing to say: Thank you, Copenhagen, for making our wish come true, in a not very complicated way. You may be cold, when it comes to weather, but you are awesome!

Run, Mr. Mailman, run! Sending official documents

Run, Mr. Mailman, run! Sending official documents

Let me first say something about Brazilian documents: they are awesome. Having this beautifully crafted green document with many, many tiny lines printed on it and a holographic sticker in your hand makes me feel special. Seeing them next to my “right out of a laser printer” birth certificate shows more than a difference. It makes me want to be born in Brazil. No joke. They are awesome papers, even I treat them with awe.

As you can tell, the papers are finally here in Germany (same as the best bride ever, by the way), so it is time for the next step. We need to send them to Denmark. Again there were choices:

Option number one was to send all the documents to our marriage expert, who would check if everything is correct and then forward them to the appropriate marriage office in Denmark. Since we already know that we want to get married in Copenhagen (since they said, they would not have problems with our papers), we would not need any advice on chosing a city. We were warned though, that the process in Copenhagen would take at least between 3 and 5 weeks to check our documents, after which we would have to wait approximately another 3 weeks for the next available appointment. But with the somehow fragmentary information about the legalization process in Brazil in mind, I thought it would be best to try my luck again with Danish administration and call and see what they would recommend. Once again, that was a very delightful experience.

The first delight were the somehow arbitrary opening hours, which reminded me a lot of Germany. I tried on Thursday, on which they were closed, but I was told, they would work again Friday between 10am and 1pm, during which it was no problem to contact the wedding office.

Second delight was the friendliness of the woman I talked to. Even though she were not as fluent in English as the first woman, she tried very hard and was very helpful.

Third delight: a surprising honesty. To my questions, whether I should send the original documents, I was told “Oh, no – no original documents. Things get lost in the mail. Please, only send copies.” And the answer to my question, if it would be faster and easier to send the documents via e-mail, was: “Well, this might seem old fashioned now, but if you send the documents with normal mail, they will be processed faster.” My question, if we would have to be in Copenhagen three days in advance to the date of marriage, as it is said on their homepage, because the original documentes have to be checked, the answer was: “If we need to see the original documentes, yes. But honestly: we hardly ever want to see the original documents.” As I said: delightful.

Fourth delight was her estimation of how much time all of that would take: processing the documents should take not more than 10 days and we should be prepared to wait another 14 days for an appointment. That sounded almost to sweet to be true. And it would be absolutely delightful, if all that she told me would be true. And I thought it might be foolish not to try it.

So after this short but encouraging phonecall I went to copy the beautiful Brazilian documents (which miraculously show the word “copia” on each of the copies, where the original showed nothing but green lines – amazing) and the rather dull German documents (which showed nothing different on the copy). Off to the post office it was and now the documents are on it’s way to Copenhagen and there are two things to be nervous about. First: if the documents are ok and secondly: that it all might become true in a lot less time than expected. Time to chose the rings!

We are legalized! Danish friendliness saved the week

We are legalized! Danish friendliness saved the week

Did I mention that the legalization process in Brazil is an exception to the rule? We found that out and it cost us some nerves, but let’s start out with a lucky coincidence. The best bride ever and me were very lucky, because the sister of the best bride ever had to go to Brasilia on a business trip and she agreed to take the papers to Brasilia to have them legalized at the Ministry of External Relations and the Danish embassy. This process would have taken us roughly 4 weeks for each legalization, doing it in São Paulo or via mail, but in person and in Brasilia, the legalization was actually done in two days! One day at the Ministry of External Relations, one day at the Danish embassy. How lucky we were, how happy we are now. But isn’t something missing? Yes it is: a third legalization.

Relying on “experts”

But nobody in Brazil wanted to give us the third legalization. Why? We didn’t know and talking to our marriage-in-Denmark “expert” did not help so much. He told us that he knew of couples who “slipped through” with only two legalizations, and we should try to get the third legalization anyways. But where? Even the website of the Danish embassy in Brazil only talked of two legalizations. When the best bride ever called there however, the employee did not want to give any information – we should check this with the registrar’s office in Denmark where we want to get married. Finally, a friend of the best bride ever, who happens to be also a lawyer, gave us the information that in Brazil, the Ministry of External Relations, of Interior and of Justice are organisationally united, therefore we would not need another legalization. With this information, I thought I’d try my luck in Denmark and searched the web for information. And finally (and because they have a website in English), I called the Citizen Service of Kopenhagen.

Scandinavian Friendliness

Having dealt with administration in Brazil and Germany, I was very curious (and a little shy) about how things would work in Denmark. First positive surprise: everyone speaks English. Hooray! Second positive surprise: everybody is incredibly friendly and very helpful. The woman on the phone took some time, she was looking up all documents we would need in Kopenhagen, she even found their Portuguese names and tried to pronounce them – which led to total fail of communication, because me trying to understand someone talking with a very strong Danish accent pronouncing something in Portuguese just did not work out. But we had fun, we were laughing a lot and in the end, everything seemed to be a lot more relaxed than I thought possible.

And I realized: We already had all the documents, two legalizations would be accepted and regarding the question, whether the documents should be translated by a sworn translator in Brazil or in Germany, the answer was: “it only has to be a professional translator”. “Wow!” – I thought, and for the first time, getting married in Denmark not only seemed like a good idea, but also quite possible. And as the Brazilian documents are already sufficiently legalized, the only thing we need now is a proper translation.

Denmark here we … oh yes, documents!

Denmark here we … oh yes, documents!

Denmark may be less problematic when it comes to necessary papers, but that does not mean that it is easy or, by any means, obvious and clear about what kind of papers you need. Our questions were: what kind of papers? How are they legalized and which language should they be translated into? So we started to do some research on the internet and soon it got obvious that nothing is obvious.

Making a mistake: asking an (somewhat unofficial) agent

I found out though, that there are agencies who offer their service in advising people on the legal, administrative and organizational questions of getting married in Denmark. They all claim that their service is important, because what kind of papers you need in Denmark is something that every municipal district decides itself. So there are as many different rules as there are “Standesämter”? At least the Dansih embassy in Brazil suggests the same. To make things short and save ourselves some nerves, we hired an agent to give us the information we could start with, and the security that we are not doing anything wrong. Hey, it wasn’t so expensive either. Unfortunately, not everything turned out to be correct.

The necessary documents

The necessary papers we need are: a residence certificate, a birth certificate and, in case of the best bride ever, a copy of the divorce certificate. Well – at least these are the necessary documents for many registrarś s offices in Denmark, and the only thing you need to find out is: which ones. The documents though did not seem to be to difficult at all. Unfortunatly I was thinking very German, because Brazil does not have the obligation to register. If you are required to prove your address, you just show a recent letter you received with this address. That’s it. But clearly that would not be enough for a registrar’s office in Denmark. Luckily for me, the best bride ever did not give up easily and found out, that there is something like a residence certificate in Brazil, even though nobody ever uses it. So after not too long. we seemed to have all the documents in hand (by the way, did I mention that official Brazilian documents are very impressive? My “Meldebestätigung” is a simple piece of paper that came out of a laser printer with a signature and an official stamp on it, but the Brazilian documents are carefully crafted, like giant bills of money – wonderful).

So we do have all the documents. Are we good? Yes, of course. And no, of course, because documents need to get legalized, if they want to be used outside of the issuing country. Seems logical? Yes, I thought, until we began the process of legalization…

Where, why, how and what papers? Denmark is the answer

Where, why, how and what papers? Denmark is the answer

Out of practical and organisational reasons, which have to do with me being employed and her being self-employed, it became clear soon, that we would get married where I live: Berlin, Germany. After some extensive research on required documents, we started to rethink this and finally decided differently. But first things first. And in Germany, if you want to get married, the first thing is a “Ehefähigkeitszeugnis”.


If you don’t speak German, the “Ehefähigkeitszeugnis” is a reason alone to learn it. It translates to “certificate of no impediment to marriage” but it has the great sound and associations of “report card” and “capability certificate” as well. So the “marriage capability report card” has to be the first step you have to take to get married in Germany. And, of course, both parties have to present certain documents and fulfill criterias in order to get their Ehefähigkeitszeugnis.

Now, since Brazil does not know anything like a Ehefähigkeitszeugnis, the best bride ever could of course get none. But to be able to get married without a Ehefähigkeitszeugnis we would have to apply to be exempt from the obligation to have it. This alone is a process that would take some weeks and nerves.

Denmark here we come

Now in order to get the excemption, we would have to prove the best brides marital status, a birth certificate and a residence certification. Since the best bride ever had been married before, we would also have to prove that she got divorced properly. And contrary to other countries, the Brazilian divorce certificate seems to be not enough in Germany – so we read and were told – we would have to hire an attorney in Brazil to go to court, let the archive be opened and have him made an official copy of the court’s ruling. So the Ehefähigkeitszeugnis (beuatiful as it sounds) made us decide that Germany may not be the right place for us to get married. We will be following a family tradition and will get married in Denmark instead, which is the Las Vegas of Europe, at least when it comes to getting married. So Denmark, here we come….