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Tying the knot across Europe

Mar 05, 2014
By Ilze Powell

Berlin - When it comes to weddings, some women move straight to Bridezilla-ville. Some of us — possibly inspired by this generation’s anti-marriage heroine Carrie Bradshaw - might begin to develop a slight rash even visualizing a big white dress, never mind cheering guests or a fountain of presents and toasts we would have received for weeks, if not months, after the actual ceremony.

Because I share the latter conviction with my newlywed husband, we opted for a quiet let’s-not-tell-anyone document signing. Seeing that we live in Germany, we decided to prepare the documents here. I should probably explain here that the main troubles arose from the fact that neither of us is, in fact, a German citizen. He comes from Romania, where a no-fuss process is absolutely out of the question and our initial preparations would have had to start with urine and blood tests, etc. And I, being a slightly nontraditional Latvian, thought it would be more exotic to get hitched abroad.

First, we contacted the local City Hall regarding paperwork. Several clerks kept informing us about all sorts of deadlines for registering documents, which in most cases turned out to be untrue since the law had been updated in 2005.

Then Latvia and Romania refused to issue our birth certificates without a proper notary. While they denied this document to my own blood-related mother, a German notary simply signed below my self-typed Latvian authorization — that way charging a fee and legitimizing this transaction. This, apparently, was the proper way to go. We were informed that nothing was legitimate unless it was stamped with a freshly obtained apostille. But nobody knew if this legalization should come on the document itself or its translated copy.

Finally, after a three-month long struggle, we arrived to schedule the date for our wedding, but instead were met with a whole new scrutiny.

Since it was apparent that we were using English to communicate with each other, the Germans refused to accept our level of German as ‘efficient’ and we were denied application without both interpreters present. And when I was openly accused for possibly ‘not knowing what process I was doing,’ while still holding a ten centimeter pile of valid marriage documents in my hands, we turned our backs and theatrically strode out.

After neurotically cursing both the system and ourselves for falling so deeply between its cracks, I made a suggestion that we get married in Riga, a city that has always provided the easiest solution to all life’s problems. Little did I know, however, that a small country can sometimes create long-lasting complications when it comes to a holy matrimony. The upside in Latvia is usually the speed and clarity of information; on the downside you might not like what you hear. In this case, I was informed stoically that the groom’s name would have to be Latvianized and, thus, forever remain different on our marriage certificate and in his passport. And since I have inherited a state-invented last name from my first marriage, I knew the trouble it can bring when migrating, applying for a new job, trying to prove that you are the same person as on your previous CV, among many other problems.

Then one day I stumbled upon a German wedding agency - a sort of get-it-done-quick service for money where a Russian secretary explained to me how fast and effortless it would all be if we chose to elope to Denmark. I thought, Bingo! After googling some more, I realized we could even manage it on our own. That was the real BINGO!
Most Danish ‘kommune’ Web sites have a category called Marriage, where it’s possible to find everything necessary to submit documents, all apostille-free and with no deadlines for registration, fill out and sign the application, pay 75 euros and wait for a week or two until they get back to you with a confirmation.

We hit the road on a Tuesday afternoon, were registered on Wednesday morning and married in a quiet and very lovely ceremony early Friday morning. Plus, and these aren’t little things when it comes to even a small wedding, we discovered that the Danish are among the warmest people in Europe and the food is beyond delicious. What they called “a simple country inn,” the New York Zagat would probably have given three stars at least. Surprisingly, it turned out to be one of the most relaxing and rewarding trips of our lives. A true honeymoon getaway.

When we left the charming hotel by the Baltic Sea, for some reason I remembered the movie Groundhog Day. I felt relieved, as if I had just survived my own yearlong February 2nd and joyously wanted to exclaim Bill Murray’s last words, “Let’s live here. We’ll rent to start.”

Ilze Powell is a Latvian English teacher, former aspiring actress, and avid lover of beauty, currently living in Berlin. After years of writing short stories and plays, her first novel The Big Set was published this year. Ilze writes comic memories from the places she’s lived. Read more at www.ilzepowell.com

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