Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Getting married in Zürich

On April 6th, 2010 at 11:43 AM, Fabian and I signed our marriage certificate. The year plus three months leading up to this moment was full of challenges and delays. Since I agreed to move to Zürich, we decided to legally marry in Switzerland. We did exchange emotional vows in NYC on June 20th, 2009, surrounded by most of my closest friends. It was a wonderful night whose memory gives me strength and peace.

Once we began the legal process for my move overseas, we made the mistake of not consulting an immigration lawyer and instead dealt directly with the Swiss consulate in NYC and the Zürich registry office. The Swiss were polite, responsive, answered phone calls in person, but they did not go out of their way to be helpful. Unless you know exactly what question to ask, you will not get the information you need. Since we were dealing with two different offices, we would sometimes hear two different answers. The poor communication translated into a six month delay while I waited for my fiancé (L) visa to be processed. On my 38th birthday, my paperwork came through.

After some research, we chose to exchange our Swiss vows in the Werd Pavilion, a small modern glass cube. We asked for an English and Swiss German ceremony and had only ten guests, all from Fabian's side. If you marry in Zürich you currently have four site options: the Werd Pavilion (it has a lot of natural light and is free), the Weinschenke (this 17th century wine cellar costs 250 CHF to reserve), the Zunfthaus zur Waag (this 1287 house costs between 150 - 350 CHF), or the Zürich Zoo (this bizarre and depressing venue for a wedding costs 635+ CHF).

When we arrived at the Pavilion I felt I was on a "new wife" assembly line. I must have seen three other brides during a one hour period. The party before us was very late and we were asked if we'd mind having our ceremony 3 minutes early. No problem. Once we went inside the main room, Fabian and I sat down at a large triangle shaped wooden table. Our two witnesses were on one side, with our guests facing us in chairs lined up along the wall. The officiant sat in front of us. She seemed young, nervous, and spoke English with a heavy Swiss accent.

Agnes severely mispronounced my first and last name and then took the liberty to read two poems that neither one of us had heard before. The English poem could work as lyrics to a Mariah Carey song. The writer is anonymous. Maybe Agnes composed this ditty for her high school English club. The German poem by Herman Hesse is much better, but I would not have chosen it for us. It focuses on how different we are (like the sun and moon) and while this has a lot of truth to it, I find it too negative a fact to focus on during a wedding. I remember saying "Yes" but I don't remember what I said "Yes" to. After we signed the marriage certificate, our officiant proudly smiled and told us we could keep the pen we used, as a gift from the city of Zürich.

Fabian and I did tear up once we were pronounced married. I actually had to hold back a flood of tears, or else I would have started bawling and I don't know what our officiant would have done. Ok, big confession... the horrendous English poem made me want to cry and this embarrasses and infuriates me. I held it in but still feel I was emotionally manipulated by mediocre drivel surrounded by dreadful clip art.

Maybe the other wedding sites are packaged with better ceremonies. Maybe we didn't ask the right questions before our wedding day. Maybe I should focus on the fact that I am finally married and overlook the details. Plus I will always remember the beautiful ceremony we had in NYC. (Thank you Reverend Adam and everyone who witnessed our union.)

I do wonder about other justice of the peace weddings. Did you get legally married or witness a wedding at City Hall or an equivalent place, and if so, what was it like?


  1. Congrats!!! My husband and I also got married by a justice of the peace. It was short and sweet - no sappy poetry. Like you, I remember saying yes, but I don't really remember the vows! The JOP asked if we wanted to recite traditional vows, and since that's what we agreed to, I can be sure it had all that good stuff like "for better or for worse..."

    The best part, by far, was that we had ours outdoors along the San Diego harbor, surrounded by our closest friends.

  2. This is great!
    Congratulations to you both!
    ....Now I feel like: "wanna get married..."
    Hope to get that experience once...

  3. Muky - Congrats again! Your NY ceremony looked amazing. This one is short and sweet. After having kids, I do understand why my mom would have wanted a great big wedding celebration. Our ceremony at the UN was exactly what I wanted. But if I had to do it over again, I guess I would have a great big party with all my family, friends and my mom's friends too. It is such a special moment to see your kids get married. Now I understand, and I didn't before.

  4. I have to add, Agnes, the lying little wench, told us after the ceremony, in front of 10 witnesses, that she would send us 2 extra marriage certificates. 2 weeks later we call the Zivilstandsamt to find out we have to pay 25 CHF per form. Since I changed my name, I have to get new passports. I wasted 2 weeks waiting for the damn forms she promised us. It seems that dealing with government workers in this country is far worse than in the US, which is mind boggling.


    Amanda, your wedding sounds lovely.

    Sven, you may be next (:

    Pebbles, I loved your ceremony. The speech your officiant made was the best one I've heard, except for the one Adam made at our NYC ceremony. The circle we made around you as you got married was very special to me. Have you thought of renewing your vows, especially now that your boys could be a part of it? You could still have a huge party.