Dreaming of a wedding in the Alps? Then you’re absolutely in the right place because this detailed guide will tell you everything you need to know about getting married in Switzerland!
If you are seriously considering getting married in Switzerland, you will be disappointed to learn that it likely won’t be possible unless you are (marrying) a Swiss citizen. Keep reading to see why that is, and get all the information you need about what it takes to get married in Switzerland!
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Types of Marriage in Switzerland
Swiss law recognizes civil marriage and same-sex marriage. Religious ceremonies are common, but they’re by no means obligatory or anything. You can get married in a church if you want to, but you can’t get married only in a church. A civil ceremony must be performed before, and many couples will choose to do either a religious ceremony afterward or a classic wedding reception.
It’s worth noting that same-sex couples can legally get married since July 2022. The law previously recognized the union of gay couples as a civil partnership, but after much deliberation and even a nationwide referendum, Switzerland decided to finally legalize same-sex marriages.
This means that gay couples who already got married abroad can now apply to have their marriage entered into the civil status register. The new law means that their marriage will now be recognized in Switzerland even if it was previously registered as just a civil partnership.
Criteria for Getting Married in Switzerland
Switzerland doesn’t have too many restrictions on who can get married in the country, so it’s relatively easy for couples to tie the knot. The restrictions that are in place are pretty common in other countries as well, and they’re mostly in place to ensure that neither party is being forced into marriage.
The bride and groom must both be at least 18 years old to be able to get married in Switzerland. They must also prove that they are not currently married or in a registered partnership. If you are not a Swiss citizen, you must provide proof from your home country that you are not already married.
Those are the main things you need to prove to be able to get married in Switzerland, but they’re not the only things that can prevent you from taking the leap in the Alpine country. If it’s determined that you are closely related to your fiance or that you’re trying to get married just the streamline the process of getting Swiss citizenship, you will not be eligible to get married in Switzerland.
Required Paperwork and Documents
You need a good amount of paperwork in order to get married in Switzerland. You must fulfill a marriage application form, which you can get from the civil register office of your canton of residence. Additional paperwork is necessary along with the application – some cantons ask for more paperwork than others, but certain documents are commonly requested throughout Switzerland.
First, you need proof of either Swiss nationality, or Swiss residence, in case neither of you is a Swiss national.
Second, both a passport and birth certificate are necessary to obtain a marriage license in Switzerland. Both parties must also present proof of their civil status – that they are currently not married or in a civil partnership.
If one of the parties is a foreign national, they will need a signed affidavit (or similar documentation) from their home country, which states that they are allowed to get married.
Swiss Marriage Ceremony
As soon as the civil registrar accepts your marriage application, you have three months to set the date and get married. If you fail to get married within three months, you’ll have to collect all the paperwork again.
Two witnesses must be present during the marriage ceremony and when you sign the marriage certificate. Aside from that, there aren’t really any requirements for the wedding ceremony, aside from getting married and signing the paperwork.
The typical Swiss marriage ceremony looks something like this:
- You should arrive at the registry office at least 10 minutes before the start of the ceremony
- Once you arrive, you will be seated in the foyer until the registrar calls for you
- The registrar begins the ceremony by greeting everyone present and they might recite a poem or a story
- The bride and groom are instructed to exchange any prepared wows or commitments
- The co-signing of the marriage certificate takes place
- The registrar gives you the official family record document, and after this you are free to exchange rings, attend a religious/spiritual ceremony, or whatever else you had in mind
That’s what marriage ceremonies are usually like in Switzerland, but keep in mind that the procedure is slightly different everywhere.
Swiss Wedding Costs
The average cost of a Switzerland marriage is around 300-400 CHF. This is for the necessary paperwork and the civil marriage ceremony – it does by no means include any costs related to the wedding preparations and celebrations.
When it comes to religious ceremonies, the price differs depending on the religious community. Location is also a factor in the price, so it’s not really possible to quote any numbers without knowing what your specific religion is and where in Switzerland you’re getting married. In any case, it’s best to ask around for prices, until you find an offer that you feel comfortable with.
The cost of a Swiss wedding ceremony can vary greatly depending on the type of ceremony you want. Depending on your budget, you could spend a few thousand Francs on a small wedding reception with close friends, or up to half a million for a large luxury wedding.
On average, couples in Switzerland spend 30,000-40,000 CHF on the wedding ceremony and reception, but this doesn’t include the cost of the dress, suit, honeymoon, and rings. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so odd why so many Swiss couples never get married.
Surname After Marriage Rules
Surname rules in Switzerland are a bit weird, and they got even more complex when they changed in 2013.
Before the change in the law in 2013, women could keep their surname or add their husbands to create a double surname. Since 2013, double names are no longer allowed – although in everyday life you can use a hyphenated version, it is not considered official.
The current option for married couples is for the woman to keep her surname, or to either use the man’s or the women’s surname for both of them. That is it!
Marriage in Switzerland – FAQ
Can I apply for Swiss citizenship after getting married?
You can, but not immediately after getting married. Let’s say that Anne and Jakob are getting married – Jakob is a Swiss citizen and Anne is not. After they marry, Anne can apply for Swiss citizenship after she fulfills these conditions:
- The non-Swiss spouse must reside in Switzerland for at least five years
- The non-Swiss spouse must spend the year prior to submitting the application in Switzerland
- The non-Swiss spouse must live with their Swiss spouse for at least three years.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If Anne were to marry a Swiss citizen living abroad, she could only apply for citizenship after their sixth year of marriage, provided that both of them have strong connections to Switzerland.
That’s just what it takes to apply for Swiss citizenship – keep in mind that you could always be denied. You will be denied citizenship if the Swiss spouse passes away before the application gets submitted or if both spouses were foreign citizens but one of them manages to get citizenship through naturalization.
Such complicated laws discourage people from getting married for the sole purpose of obtaining citizenship, which makes sense considering that the Swiss passport is one of the strongest in the world.
How long does it take to get a marriage visa in Switzerland?
It usually takes between eight and twelve weeks to get a marriage visa in Switzerland. Keep in mind that doesn’t include any amount of time that might take you to put together all the paperwork necessary to apply for the visa.
The 8-12 weeks timeframe is just for the decision process whether to grant you the visa, while gathering all the necessary paperwork can easily take a few months, depending on how quickly you can get all the different documents that are needed along with the marriage visa application.
Can tourists marry in Switzerland?
Foreigners can get married in Switzerland if they can prove that they are in the country legally, but tourists cannot. You can’t get married in Switzerland on a tourist visa – in order to get permission to get married, you must provide proof of residence in Switzerland.
It’s a bit different for couples in which one person is a Swiss resident and the other is not. The foreigner can apply for a Swiss marriage visa, so they can get married in Switzerland, even if one person isn’t officially a citizen.