Standesamt – The Ceremony

22 08 2012

My poor little Mac needs to go to the Apple store to get fixed, hence the delay in updating about the wedding!  (Don’t worry! I have a full back-up of my computer so no pictures or important documents were lost! Haven’t backed up your system lately? DO IT NOW! You never know when a computer crash will strike!)

Okay so I’ll start with the courthouse ceremony – the Standesamt. (All pictures in this post are by our fabulous photographer, Annette Schrader!)

In Germany, all couples who marry are required to do so at the Standesamt, or registry office. This important step can also be done at any location, provided a government worker from the registry office officiates – so some people tie the knot on a boat, or in a park, or in a forest, etc. But the majority have a simple ceremony at the courthouse, often on the same day as the church ceremony. This is the legal part of getting married, and if you wish to have a religious (or otherwise more personalized) ceremony, you are certainly allowed to do so afterwards, but not before the court has made it official. Kind of like signing the marriage documents before the ceremony: you’re legally married before you actually say your vows. But here it is done in a government building. They still try to make it nice with quotes about love or what your life together will mean, but mostly focus on the legal contract that the couple is entering into.

We decided to have our official wedding two days before the church wedding, and boy are we glad we did! Having that breather between the two wedding days was really great, especially because there was so much to do before the wedding on Saturday! So, governmentally speaking, we got married on August 2. (We count our real wedding day as August 4, though – and it’s the date engraved in our rings). We got ready at our place and Tobi’s wonderful friend Rebecca did my hair and makeup. Then Tante Hannah drove us to the courthouse so we didn’t have to walk and so we could be there early to hand in our passports (and our witnesses’ passports). Weddings take about 20 minutes, and there were several couples there before us. Our friends and family were waiting outside and Tobias and I got a chance to meet & greet a bit before our 11:20 a.m. ceremony at the Rathaus Altona.

Tobias and I, just having gotten out of the car

My sister-in-law Jaimie and my niece Abby (cute pigtails!!) looking at my bouquet

me, with my mom and brother in the background/foreground

surrounded by family and friends

Finally, our time came and we were ushered inside for the ceremony. Funny story: our Standesbeamterin (the lady who did the ceremony) was there when we were picking up my parents from the airport! I don’t remember having seen her before at the registry office, but when we were at the airport waiting for their flight to arrive, I pointed her out to Tobias, saying, “I KNOW I’ve seen that lady before!” I was so surprised when we walked into the courthouse and saw her!

Our guests filed in as we took our seats in front of a large, ornately carved desk with two equally ornate high-backed chairs. There were chairs on either side of the table for our witnesses – the equivalent of a maid of honor and best man here in Germany. Tobi’s cousin Christoph and my good friend Ariane were there to act as witnesses for us, and even though it is no longer mandatory to have witnesses, we liked the tradition and went along with it. They also had chairs for the parents to sit in.

The room was bigger than I expected!

My family didn’t understand the ceremony, but that’s how it goes….My mom looks like she’s about to cry!

So we sat in our chairs and the court was called to order! Just kidding, it wasn’t all that serious. The lady began her spiel, reading out the information we had provided them (place of birth, address, nationality, etc.) but then made the whole audience laugh when she told us she was legally obligated to ask us if our circumstances had changed since we submitted our documents and she had to make sure we hadn’t gotten married to anyone else in the meantime. I was extremely joyful but also so nervous my hands were sweating, but that comment brought some much-needed levity. She then proceeded on with the ceremony and talked on and on about the meaning of what we we were doing that day and what the path together as man and wife will look like in the years to come. I actually don’t remember much of what she said, but only that she spoke very slowly and clearly, enunciating every syllable of her prepared speech with careful precision. I remember looking down at her notes and seeing the text she read pretty much written out, in her own handwriting, on the top page of her notebook. I don’t remember her ever looking down, though, and I am sure knows that speech like the back of her hand.

my witness, the beautiful Ariane (she’s the one who did the illustrations on our wedding invitation, by the way!)

Tobias signing the document that says all of our information is correct. I then signed Sarah Gilmour for the last time. Then she gave us another document and we signed it again – this time, as Sarah Stäbler.

We exchanged rings (his ring is a bit tight, so I had a hard time getting his on his finger!) and then the Standesbeamterin pronounced us husband and wife!

We sealed the deal with a kiss!

And then we were married! Yahoo!

Tobi shows off his new bling!

Tobi hugging his brother, Achim

The ceremony was short and sweet, and we made our way outside to make room for the next couple. (I swear, courthouse weddings are a bit like an assembly line!) Before going back home, we spent some time standing outside of the courthouse and receiving lots of hugs, congratulations and well wishes from our guests. It was really lovely!

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2 responses

24 08 2012
cliff1976

Congratulations!

We’ve already addressed the question of the the Umlaut in your name — what about which hand gets the privilege of your wedding ring?

Locals here are surprised (sometimes) to see that the ring on my right ring finger is not my wedding ring (that’s on my left ring finger).

26 08 2012
sarahgilmour

Thanks Cliff!

Haha good question! The ring decision is interesting enough that it deserves its own post! But to answer your question – it’s on my right hand, German style. I’ll have to share more about the rings in more detail!

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