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Berlin 24/7: Why it's so hard to get married in Berlin

Gero Schließ ad
July 23, 2017

Berlin is not La La Land. Thanks to local bureaucracy, engaged couples have a tough time tying the knot in Berlin - and not due to cold feet. Columnist Gero Schliess laments the city's lack of love.

Heart on a Berlin street
Image: DW

People all over the world dream of falling in love in La La Land-style and ending up at the altar. But in Berlin, this dream may turn into a nightmare. Or at least a drama.

And I don't mean a relationship drama, but a serious problem with the Berlin city administration. In Germany, couples have to get married at a civil registry office for their marriage to be recognized as legal - but getting an appointment can be a real ordeal, particularly in the central neighborhood of Mitte. 

Brides-to-be at the Brandenburg Gate
But will all these brides get a wedding appointment? Image: picture-alliance/dpa

With boxing gloves to the registrar's office

Fiancés even go so far as to camp out at the civil registry office at four o'clock in the morning in order to secure the wedding date of their choice. 

But then there's the fight over drawing a number. "Getting married at the last minute in Berlin Mitte is only possible if you're standing in front of the door at six o'clock in the morning - armed with boxing gloves," a young woman wrote online.

If that doesn't sound appealing, you'll have to try your luck elsewhere. A friend got so desperate that he even traveled to New York where he was able to marry his girlfriend quickly. Chances are that a wedding can be accomplished faster among the Innuit in the Arctic or the Massai in the Kenyan savannah than in Berlin Mitte.

Meanwhile, the civil registry office has done away with open consultation hours altogether and only schedules wedding appointments online. At least that put an end to the ugly fights in front of its doors - or so you'd think.

Getting married - exchange of rings
You can't always get married as quickly as you'd like to in BerlinImage: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Warnecke

Now the fights are vitual. All appointments are booked up two months in advance - but that's as far ahead as the calendar goes. It's almost as if they're trying to prevent weddings.

As an emergency measure, the city's mayor has declared that he wants to reactivate 12 retired marriage registrars to ease the situation. The question is, will this measure suffice - especially as the number of people wanting to get married suddenly increased after gay marriage was finally approved by Germany's parliament? 

Getting married should be more fun - especially in Berlin.

Read: Twitter's rainbow reaction to marriage equality vote in Germany

Watch: German wedding traditions you'll want to adopt

A battle with Berlin's bureaucracy

It doesn't come as a surprise, then, that the civil registry office in Mitte hasn't even gotten one of five possible stars on Google. "This office is synonymous with Berlin: incompetent public servants that are boorish and slow," one critic wrote online. Finally, we've come across others who suffer like we do in the daily battle with Berlin's bureaucracy. 

Berlin Mayor Michael Müller
Berlin Mayor Michael Müller has promised relief Image: Reuters/H. Hanschke

Where else in the world does love face so much bureaucracy? Send me an email and tell me about the situation in your city: gero.schliess@dw.com.

My theory is that nowhere else does the administration work as slowly and inefficiently as in Berlin.

The problem continues for kids

After all, the administrative failure not only concerns young couples, but also their offspring nine months later. The struggle for marriage certificates is followed by the struggle for birth certificates.

Parents of newly born babies need to wait up to four months for birth certificates from the same civil registry offices. And the bureacrats don't seem to care much about the fact that health insurance companies cannot pay for the babies' treatment until they receive a birth certificate.

Gero Schliess
Gero Schliess' column Berlin 24/7 appears every Sunday

Berlin's kids learn quickly that life in the city can be tough. Soon after, they'll deal with a lack of day-care centers and overcrowded schools. Just recently in the district of Neukölln, a school realized it had no seats for 100 children shortly before the new term began.

It may all seem like a mean conspiracy against young people, but let's be realistic. Having any plan at all is pretty much the last thing that could possibly be expected from the Berlin administration.

Those from abroad who are thinking about following or finding love in Berlin should think twice before they come to a city with such a loveless administration.


German wedding traditions | Meet the Germans

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