We got married during the pandemic in Schliersee, Germany... and it was perfect.
Getting civilly married at the Standesamt, or registrar’s office, is a requirement in Germany, i.e. the only way to make the marriage official. Many couples still do e.g. a church wedding (kirchliche Trauung) or a non-religious ceremony (freie Trauung), but the standesamtliche Trauung is ultimately the real deal, at least in terms of tax brackets and name changes (if desired). For my American readers, you can compare it to a court house wedding, if it were a requirement. What I am getting at is, the Standesamt is your official wedding day, whether or not you are planning a large wedding, and thus most couples marrying in Germany give it some level of importance.
There are a few ways couples honor the event. Here are some examples:
selecting a special destination for the occasion (although it is the default, you don't have to do it where you live)
inviting guests to the Standesamt and then going to a restaurant all together for a nice meal after the ceremony
scheduling the Standesamt the Friday or Saturday (Saturday appointments are typically limited) to tie it to a complete wedding weekend
The possibilities are pretty endless, only noting that every Standesamt is different and thus have different capacity restrictions and ceremony options.
Planning our Standesamt Wedding
In our case we were planning a large wedding for May 1 (spoiler alert: not happening) and decided early on to go ahead with the civil wedding well before the party because the preparation for it is very bureaucratic with the document collection, certified translations, court reviews, fees, etc.
We collected the paperwork over a couple of months and sent it over the the marriage office (Heiratsbüro) in Munich, since you need to do this in the city in which you are registered. In November 2020, after about 6 weeks of processing, our application and documents were approved and we were contacted by the Heiratsbüro for a wedding date. They assumed we would like to do it in Munich, but we had already decided we would instead marry in the Bavarian town of Schliersee. We were redirected to discuss with the Standesamt in Schliersee, and the Munich office kindly forwarded our marriage file to the authorities there.
We selected Schliersee for a few reasons:
We love the area! We really enjoy hiking in the region and it would be our #1 spot to buy a home one day. It is also nearby the venue we planned to marry on May 1, so we could keep the whole marriage tied to the region.
It is the perfect wedding backdrop! Schliersee is a scenic mountain town on a beautiful lake. Since it was a winter wedding, we hoped for snow and Schliersee offered better chances than Munich.
The city hall (Rathaus) is pretty special with a a traditional wooded marriage hall. It also has a lovely restaurant attached to it, the Schliersee Ratskeller, which could serve as a lunch location following the ceremony.
Finally we had heard from various couples that the Standesämter in smaller towns are more personal than the city ones, and may be more relaxed with COVID restrictions.
We knew we wanted to get married on a Friday in February, just from a good timing perspective, so we called for such availabilities and selected February 12, not even realizing that the date was a perfect palindrome 12022021 ♾️. February 12 fit well, as it was well before the May 1 wedding date, allowing us sufficient time to travel to the US before the wedding. When we initially chose the date in December, we were also hopeful that the Coronavirus situation would have improved in Germany and things would have opened up a bit more, so that at least Markus's best man and my maid of honor (Trauzeugen) could join us for the ceremony.
Fortunately before the second lockdown began on November 1, 2020, we had already purchased our outfits and wedding bands, so we only had a few more details to prepare, such as haircuts, masks, and flowers, while we awaited the updates from the German COVID-19 summits so we could fully detail out the day.
Unfortunately at the end of January, the German authorities extended the lockdown through February 14, by default canceling our haircuts and restaurant celebration plans, as well as the ability of Markus's best man to join from Switzerland. We briefly considered postponing, but knew deep down that the lockdown was going to continue beyond the 14th of February. With no end to the lockdown in sight, and a recent health scare on Duck Creek Street, we decided that February 12was our day and we would make it special no matter what the world threw our way. We just wanted to be married, and we stayed positive in planning the day, keeping our hopes up for a perfect winter day with sunshine glistening on a snow-covered village.
We are both pretty decisive when it comes to picking out things, and our wedding was no different. We both wanted to go for a modern but classic look. A lot of Bavarian couples wear the traditional clothing Tracht, but as much as I love wearing my Dirndl, it didn't feel authentic to me as a Texan. We decided for the more courthouse vibe, which felt more about comfortable to us anyway, since we are both very corporate with our day jobs. Plus we can even rewear it!
His & Hers Details
I browsed Pinterest for some flower inspiration, and the possibilities were truly endless. I adore color, but for this occasion I wanted a bouquet with a blend lighter colors to fit the winter season. I found a bouquet (left) and brought it to our neighborhood florists, Markus & Markus, for inspiration. My Markus often picks me up flowers on his way home from them, so we could not imagine anyone else doing our wedding florals. They loved the inspiration, but explained that most of those flowers were not in season. They nevertheless did a wonderful job understanding my wishes and using seasonal flowers to come up with something gorgeous (right).
We woke up to the iPhone alarm ringing and immediately noticed the sun beaming into our bedroom through the blackout curtains - the weather gods had delivered! Thanks to the pandemic, it had been some time since we put in some effort to look good, so it felt extra fun getting dressed up for a special occasion.
Since I couldn't make it to the salon as planned, I took hair and makeup into my own hands, which is a bit scary since I typically air dry my hair and wear minimal makeup, but admittedly it was fun to learn something new in curling my hair, which thankfully turned out ok thanks to this Amazon curling wand find and a couple of practice rounds on the daily leading up to the wedding.
We just had to take a wedding day mirror selfie at home before heading out.
My maid of honor and her fiancé graciously picked us up in the morning and we hit the road to Schliersee, about a 50 minute drive from Munich. I have to say it feels a little funny as an American to be getting married and we don't even own a car, but I digress. Once we hopped off the Autobahn and onto the country road, we were absolutely giddy seeing how beautiful everything looked. The weather was exactly the day we wished for: a light snow fell that looked exactly like glitter in the shining sun and a blanket of snow adorned the surrounding mountains and trees. It was truly magical, so magical we almost forgot it was -13°C/8°F!
We walked up to the Standesamt and the two of us alone were escorted inside. The rules restricted any other attendees, so even our photographer unable to enter. We first went into an office to finalize some paperwork and testify to the fact that we were never married before, which is always funny trying to prove negative (this happens a lot living abroad). Finally it was game time and we headed up to the marriage Saal.
To supplement the lack of physical guests, we setup a video conference for some loved ones to witness the nuptials. They joined as close as waiting from their cars outside and from the train, to far as from Alex’s home in Texas, where attendees woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning to join us. No matter the temperature outside or the hour of the day, everyone was there with bells on and we could see everyone there with us on the iPad, even Markus’s parrot 🦜cousin, who stole the show.
Tech Setup with iPhone Holder for filming and iPad to view guests • our officiant
Weeks before the ceremony, we had an interview with the officiant (pictured above) so she could get to know us a bit and prepare some words before the ceremony. She was the sweetest woman, who dressed beautiful in a Dirndl for the occasion. She really took our conversation into account to personalize the ceremony, which admittedly was a pleasant surprise knowing she does this one-couple-after-another every day.
I was pretty nervous about it everything being in German (but really, when people asked if I was nervous about getting married, I said not at all, only about the German), but in the end it was easy-to-follow and in the end all I had to say was “Ja!”, literally one word. The officiant spoke about how we met at work, during Markus’s first week on the job after he had just moved back to Munich from Frankfurt. She also noted our hobbies, like cooking together and hiking in the area. We committed to each other forever, signed the marriage certificate, and exchanged rings.
The whole thing took 15-20 minutes, and out walked The Kattes!
We exited the building to petals flying through the air and champagne cooling in the snow. We had a socially distant champagne toast, before proceeding down down to the lake for photos by Vivien Fotografie (below), more champagne and a surprise cake, homemade by one of our friends.
Photos by Vivien Fotografie
February 12, 2021 was truly the most special day getting married in Schliersee. Although we would love loved for more loved ones to be there with us, we are beyond happy to be married and could really make the day about us.
As beautiful as the day was, it was really chilly and with nowhere to go inside, it was time to head home. What else would The Kattes do following such a day, but cook a feast? To be continued...