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!


Restoring order

12 08 2012

They say that “time flies when you’re having fun”, and whoever they are, they’re correct! These past three weeks have truly flown by. What a great feeling having had these three weeks filled with visits from family and friends who came here for the sole purpose of celebrating with us. Thank you, everyone!

Now everybody has gone and it’s just us two again. And I’m exhausted, yet content. I’m just blown away by the kindness everyone showed in helping out with making the wedding festivities go smoothly. It’s bittersweet, though, as goodbyes usually are. I’m definitely missing having my family and friends just a short walk away. Especially my sweet little red-headed niece, Abigail, who turned 10 months old yesterday (on her mother’s birthday…happy birthday, Jaimie!)

I’m also incredibly happy to be a newlywed…and I still get a twinge of excitement when I see that ring on Tobi’s finger. (See it in the picture below?) Yesterday, I saw a sign in a shop that said, “I want to marry a cowboy!” and I smiled to myself that this phrase, “I want to marry…” is now part of my past, since I’ve already married the man of my dreams! It’s an exciting new phase of life and I am looking forward to enjoying it with my new husband.

Tobias & Abby at the Baltic Sea

He’s back to work this weekend, and I go back to work tomorrow. So I’m just trying to get the house back in order so things feel more normal again. Though we still have a big pile of unopened wedding presents in the corner, which I am excited about opening over the next week. Tobias had the fantastic idea of spreading out opening the presents, instead of opening them all in one fell swoop. I wasn’t sure about the idea at first, but he’s totally right. This way, it’s not just one other wedding task to check off the list, but rather to enjoy it, to take more time reading the cards and appreciating the thoughtful presents people have given.

I have about a bazillion pictures to share and stories to tell from these past few weeks. And now that the wedding is over and it doesn’t need to be a surprise anymore, I am excited to share more about all the lovely details! So you can expect the rest of this month to be filled with a lot of wedding updates. So if that’s not your thing…see you in September! 😉

Mr. & Mrs. Stäbler!

6 08 2012

We had the most wonderful time at our wedding! Both the courthouse and church weddings were so much fun and really special! Definitely the best day of my life yet! I’m so very happy!

A lot of you have already seen them on facebook, but here is a preview from our wonderful photographer, Annette Schrader. (Love the pictures!)

August 2 – courthouse wedding

August 4 – church wedding

Can’t wait to see the rest of the photos! It was SUCH a fun evening and I feel so incredibly lucky to have had so many friends and family to celebrate with me and my new husband!

Tomorrow, we’re headed off to Berlin with the family for a day trip. We’re getting up early since our train leaves at 6:14 – so it’s bedtime for now!


Beginning to plan

4 01 2012

(It’s funny how the yellow of the flower makes my blue sapphire look green!)

Monday I went to the Ausländerbehörde (aliens’ office) to get my visa renewed. Thankfully, during that 4-hour long process, Tobias came and waited with me. And since the Standesamt (Office of Vial Records) is in the same building, and we still had a long way to go until my number was called, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and went over there to get some information on what documents are needed to get hitched!

Cultural Differences & Paperwork

Unlike in the US, where you just go to the courthouse to pick up your marriage license and don’t actually get married there, it is a necessary first step here in Germany. Everyone must get married at the Standesamt first in order for the marriage to be legal, and then if you want to later, you can have a church wedding.

It’s different depending on where you live and other factors, but the lady told me I only need three things: my birth certificate with an Apostille (like an international notary stamp), an “Ehefähigkeitszeugnis” (a Single Status Affidavit) and my last paycheck. All Tobi needs is his birth certificate and his last paycheck.

The paycheck is needed because I think how much you pay to get married at the Standesamt is on a sliding scale. The more you earn, the more you pay. The lady told us it would be approximately 180€ for us.

Then there’s this Single Status Affidavit. I am not entirely sure how this works, but basically you have to get proof that you’ve never been married before. It’s strange, because how can you prove that something hasn’t happened? I’m interested in seeing how they find this out. Hamburg unfortunately doesn’t have a consulate here which does citizen services anymore, so I’ll have to go to Berlin.

The more complicated part is that my birth certificate needs this Apostille. Which you can only pick up in your home state. Which means that when I go to the consulate next week, I’ll also be getting a document notarized that says my mom is permitted to pick up a birth certificate for me. It’ll take about a week for that to get to her via mail, although I may pay more to expedite it or make sure it’s more secure/reliable. After she picks up the birth certificate, Mom will have to go to the treasury and get this special stamp, and then send it back to me…which altogether makes a good month of just getting the official documents.

I’ve also heard that in general, documents in Germany must be no older than 6 months. And I may have to get it translated into German, as well! Sure is a lot more than we’d have to do if we just got married in the US…but our desire to do it in Hamburg where we live together is pretty strong nonetheless. Oh well.

Paperwork aside, we’ve been discussing ideas and looking at dates. We may have found one, but still have yet to ask the church, so…no news for you guys yet. 🙂 Otherwise, I’ve been doing a lot of browsing online and gleaning inspiration, and trying to enjoy these early stages of my engagement. And kissing my fiancé a lot, of course!


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