Getting married in Denmark … it's nothing like Vegas
July 2, 2012
I got married in Denmark last month. We weighed the option of a German wedding, but the monthslong bureaucratic process involving interviews and translators appeared too complex for a civil ceremony. So, we turned our sights north toward Denmark's streamlined, practical, and therefore appealing, quick-marriage process. Our uncomplicated nuptials in Jutland also turned out to be memorable, romantic and unexpectedly lovely.
Scheduled for a preliminary marriage appointment on a Wednesday, we left Bavaria on Tuesday to drive the nine hours up to Haderslev.
Though marriage-wise, this is the Las Vegas of Europe, atmospherically it's a far-cry from Sin City. Southern Jutland is verdant, rainy and rural. A smattering of houses and barns sport thatched roofs and the cracks between the cobblestones, which pave many streets, are filled with snail shells and coarse sand from the nearby beach. There's a vague nautical feel.
Nightlife is subdued to the point of near nonexistence. Restaurants in Haderslev close at 8 p.m. and though Europe's foodie capital, Copenhagen, is a mere 2.5 hours away, the eateries here serve mostly pizza or fried fare.
What Jutland lacks in razzle dazzle, it makes up for in quaintness and Scandinavian hospitality. One of the first things we noticed about Denmark is that the people are nice. Really nice. And have a flair for understated elegance.
We stayed in Christiansfeld, Denmark's take on a one-horse town, 12 kilometers north of Haderslev. Nestled between other grey stone buildings, our hotel, the Brodremenighedens, was strewn with fresh flowers and portraits of Danish monarchs. It boasted spacious, white-paneled rooms, an engaging staff and a surprisingly good restaurant.
Two days later, we arrived at the Radhaus early and sat nervously in a reception area, waiting to pledge our troth. For company we had a middle-aged Danish couple who out-dressed us in every way.
The bride in a brocaded burgundy velvet dress, tiara, silk gloves and costume jewelry looked like a throwback to Renaissance aristocracy. The groom, in a white suit, long hair and beard, called to mind George Harrison.
After a short while, a beaming woman ushered us into the conference room, introduced herself as one of our witnesses and offered to take pictures. During the entire ceremony, she dutifully skirted throughout the room, snapping shots of the vows, our ring exchange and our happily wedded kiss.
Our Justice of the Peace, grinning and draped in dramatic robes, entered the room, and after confirming we were ready, launched into our vows. Less than two minutes later, we'd said our "I dos."
To keep us from feeling rushed, Justice Ellen Nojsen engaged us in small talk about our backgrounds, our jobs and the American presidential election. The witnesses excitedly shook our hands, bubbling with "congratulations," and as we left the dapper Danish couple entered the room.
Just 50 kilometers over the German border, Haderslev Kommune is an accessible choice for wedding-bound visitors from Bavaria, though many kommunes -- like counties in America -- offer similar services throughout Denmark. We found the Haderslev process to be breezy, obliging us to submit a few easily obtained documents and to arrive two days before the wedding date. Haderslev schedules weddings exclusively on Thursdays or Fridays, requiring travelers to arrive early in the week.
The required papers included: birth certificate, passport (or military ID for service members) and proof of marital status. The Haderslev website states that a tax return is sufficient, but we were also asked to provide a legal affidavit affirming our single status. Obtaining these affidavits necessitates a quick stop to the legal office, where a paralegal needs only a Social Security Card to verify marital status.
Military members also need an approved leave form and commander's memorandum for permission to travel and marry in Denmark.
Once we transferred the 70-euro marriage fee into the kommune bank account and booked a hotel, our wedding was planned.