Engagement Diary: 1. How Is This Even Possible?
I have been engaged for a month now and it’s been great. Well, Jeongsu is in Korea and I’m in China so our lives continued normally. My family and friends were surprisingly supportive of this engagement which I didn’t expect. I thought there would be some serious drama but there was none (yet).
I’m still smiling and am extremely proud when I look at my beautiful rose gold ring and still need to get used to calling Jeongsu “my fiance”. Now to the bummer: For a German and a Korean to get married requires a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy is involved (as expected).
Unlike two people of same nationality, international couples can’t just set the date and get married. Both our “governments” need to accept the marriage and certain documents need to be provided to get the “approval” to make the marriage legal in both countries. Jeongsu needs to get 3 different documents:
- 가족관계증명서 (Family Relations Document),
- 기본증명서 (Identification Certificate) and
- 혼인관계증명서 (Marriage Relation Certificate).
These documents need to be officialized with a so called “apostille”, an international seal. Then, the documents need to be translated into German. Next, I have to go to my German local authority and request a document as well where I need to show the 3 translated Korean documents.
Then, we need to go to the embassy in
At that point, we already need to decide what registry office (Gu office) in Korea we want to get married at. After we got “married” there, we need to come back with another certificate to make our marriage valid in both countries.
I was aware that it’s quite complicated to get married with a person of different citizenship but the process mentioned above basically means that we cannot simply say: “Ok, we will get married next year June 7.”
First, we need to get the documents and then we can decide when to hold the ceremony because we actually have to get married at a Gu office already in order for the marriage to be recognized in both countries. Seems pretty unromantic to me.
- How long will it take to get all the documents?
- How many times do we have to make an appointment at the embassy in
- Do I have to get my German document in person and fly back to Germany?
Questions over questions…
Planning the Ceremony
After all the documents are finished and done, we need to start thinking about the ceremony. That’s going to give me another headache because how can we plan a wedding ceremony with family from Korea, Germany and the US? This will probably involve a year of planning to make sure as much family friends are able to participate and fly in. Or should we have two ceremonies in Korea and Germany? But that’s going to be double the cost. So…?
How Is That Possible?
At the moment I feel like I have to conquer Mount Everest. It seems to be an incredibly large amount of work and effort and planning to get this wedding done and the marriage recognized in both countries. However, I was quite certain this is how it would be but now that I see everything in front of me, I’m just overwhelmed. I really ask myself: How is that possible and how are other couples able to do it?
The Bright Side
I’m just looking forward to the wedding and marriage itself. Spending the rest of my life with Jeongsu is the best reward possible and I’m willing to put all my effort into this.
Wish me luck!
Advice Highly Appreciated!
I know many of my fellow blogger friends have gone through the same process and I am looking forward to hearing your advice and opinions!
In moments like this I love Hong Kong for literally not caring about any papers as long as you pay. I was so worried, I asked him 50 times if Sing is sure that we don’t need any documents since Poland needs this and that and more but in Hong Kong you just pay, wait two weeks to check if there will be someone popping out with ‘they can’t get married because…’ and you just take your ID and get married. Maybe in the end you two should go there for your marriage and then just register it back in Korea and Europe? 😀
And don’t worry – I’m still not used to call you and J as ‘engaged’, I met a Korean girl and I wanted to mention you and I was like ‘my friend and her Korean boyfriend… actually fiance…’ 😀
hehe, that would be something! but i bet to get it legalized in Germany and Korea we need these documents anyway.. not sure. anyhow, i’m sure we can manage it somehow.
hehe, yeah Jeongsu, my fiance… so not used to it 😀 but i’m getting there 🙂
My goodness, that does sound complicated, definitely much more so than the registration of marriage between me (British) and my Chinese husband, so I don’t have any good advice for you 🙁
But take it a step at a time, you will get there – keep your eyes on the prize! Good luck!
thanks Sarah!! xo
We had two ceremonies – in Poland and China (plus one more marriage registration year earlier in Australia), so we had really A LOT of to do. Sending documents back and forward from one country to another. Not to mention that we also get married in church which is more complicated if your partner is atheist. But we did it. It took us less than one year to prepare those two ceremonies, but with help of our families we managed it pretty well and it turned up that our both weddings were stunning. Our families and friends were telling us that it was most beautiful and memorable wedding ever! So it was worth to go through that long process of preparation 😉
Good luck Linda!
Sounds great Aldona! Thanks for the kind words… I hope we can make it as well..
I am glad that everything went rather smooth and easy for us. MIL got all needed papers from China (birth certificate, hukou etc and the translations into English) and sent them to Finland. I on the other hand didn’t need anything besides my birth certificate (I think). All in all it was done within a month in which 3 weeks were only waiting time for the documents to arrive. Furthermore it made it so much easier to get everything in English rather than in German or Finnish as this would have complicated things.
However we got married in Finland, in Germany it would have been much more complicated as German bureaucracy is just messed up especially as they force you to provide everything in German language (we no speak English, only Deutsch, you live in this free country of Deutschland you better speak our language!) … Hate that attitude here!!
hehehe. Yeah, all documents are needed in German… but that’s no problem if you find certified translators. The most complicated part is shipping the documents around and getting them 🙁
Uuhhh… that’s going to be a lot of work. I am not going to down play it. An international marriage is so much more complicated. But, on a positive note, it is manageable. My best advice is, make a list of everything you need, set dates when you need what, write down meticulously what you have to get in what format, in what order and what it costs. I know it sounds simple, but this helped me a lot.
When I got married to my Chinese husband it was equally complicated. You are lucky that at least it’s Seoul and you won’t be the first foreigner who is marring a Korean national they have dealt with.
My husbands town is so small, they have never seen a foreigner, nor heard that you can marry one. So when he had to get documents like birth certificate or a simple Identification Certificate it took months! And even after finally getting those documents it was a huge hussle to find a certified translator. In the end it took us alone three months to finally make those people in his town understand what we want and need, and they forwarded the documents to a translator, then to a lawyer to get it notarized, and than to the German embassy to get it legalised (all documents which you want to use in Germany have to go through this process, so I assume it’s the same for the Korean ones?). Sending those documents out of rural China to Germany took another two months! However, things in Germany are way faster, if you are there in person and have the chance to do everything on your own. Otherwise you will have, again, to hire an agency to do the work for you, which means more time and additional cost. I was lucky to be living close to Cologne at that time. When I got the documents from China, I could go to my local Standesamt and get the Ehefaehigkeitszeugnis, which than I just needed to get notarised, and legalised in different places somewhere around Cologne (I kinda forgot, but I could check for you if you need to go there). So, I just needed the Ehefaehigkeitszeugnis, which was cheap compared to what we had to spend for the Chinese documents (maybe 50EUR). I also did the Chinese translation in China, not in Germany. I would recommend to do the same. No matter what language, translations are always cheaper in China.
With that translated Ehefaehigkeitszeugnis, we then went to the capital of the province he was born. As a foreigner that’s the only place you can get married (if it’s not a big city like Shanghai or whatever). It was absolutely unromantic. Sign here, wait there, here you go. Married.
The marriage is automatically legal in both countries. However, we will have to register the marriage in Germany first, in order to get a German marriage certificate. We just have the Chinese one, but at the moment we cannot be bothered to go through the process again (translation, notarization, legalisation…) and it is too expensive.
Well, not sure if that was any help. But just make sure you plan well ahead and leave yourself a lot of time. Bureaucracy is slow no matter in what country, and it gets worse if two countries are involved!
Good luck to you guys! 🙂 And keep us updated!
It’s the same if you’re Austrian and marry a Chinese citizen. We had both mums help out, so we kind of made it through the paper jungle with a lot of confusion on all sides and a very annoyed person at the end of the phone line of the Austrian embassy in Beijing. Some of the documents we had to get in Austria were only valid for 6 months, so that’s something to keep in mind. That’s one of the reasons my husband and I married really fast. We had already started with the whole process and realised we only had half a year until the documents would be invalid.
The good thing though is that once you do have all the documents translated, notarised and what not, you’ll never need to go through the whole process again if you need the same documents for getting a spousal visa or similar stuff. Also, the wedding really prepared us for what was still to come after the birth of our son. The whole process is really confusing, so writing all the steps down (including where to get the documents, what other documents you need for them, how long it will take) will really help. I did this before applying for our son’s Chinese travel permit and it really helped me get all the documents in time.
So far, we only had a wedding ceremony in Austria. Planning the wedding without physically being there was very stressful. Once we got to Austria, another challenge was organising everything without the help of my husband. He’s not local, doesn’t speak the language and wasn’t familiar with our wedding customs, so mostly it was me organising everything alone. It will be the other way around if we have a wedding in China (which we still plan to do), but then it will probably also be easier, because our MIL will organise most of it (which I’m fine with since planning the wedding in Austria was way too stressful and I wouldn’t want to go through the whole process again).
I won’t lie, I was just really glad when the wedding was finally over. I hope you’ll enjoy all the planning more than I did. And you’re right, it will be totally worth it if it means you can be with the person you love. You’ll figure out things on the way – and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need to!
Thank you Ruth! Yeah, that’s what I feared that all the documents will only be valid for a certain period of time… that really sucks.
I’m sure we can make it. We’re not in a rush right now, thank god, so that’s good.
For me, it’s the thought and the worry that comes with the bureaucracy that is so often worse than the bureaucracy itself (though it is a pain in the butt). If either of you decide to immigrate, you’ll have to deal with similar hassles paperwork-wise. The good news is, you’ll already have a lot of the paperwork done or at least know the procedure to get it.
My Chinese husband and I (American) got married in the US and it wasn’t a total nightmare. We did have to plan a wedding super fast, but I was never the type who dreamt of a big wedding anyways. Things will come together in the end. I think it’s important to be flexible and try your best not to worry!
Good luck! All the work will be worth it at the end. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your next journey with us. It will be stressful, but I’m sure everything will come together as it goes along.
Linda, I know there is going to be a lot of work and paperwork involved and this one will say this and that one will say that, but remember to enjoy the process. Having been through the same myself, I know the headaches that are involved but in all honesty, I never ever got frustrated. I took it all in stride and just figured it out. My husband and I ended up getting married 3 times that year and it was one of the most amazing years of my life.
You can always start with the fun thing: wedding planning! 😀 You know, for me it took like six months after getting married in China before our marriage was legal in Finland as well, some misunderstanding and lots of paperwork in between.
yeah! haha sounds fun!