Every couple knows: to be officially married, you have to go to the town hall. But what exactly do you need to know about your civil wedding - both beforehand and on the big day itself? In this article you'll find out how getting married at the town hall works.
Photo (top): Photographer: Speaking Through Silence Photography
Step 1: Report the fact that you want to get married. This moment is also called the wedding declaration. This declaration is made to the Officer of the Civil Registry in the municipality where you and/or your partner officially live and where the ceremony will also take place. This declaration can be made a maximum of six months and a minimum of two weeks in advance, depending on how your municipality organises it.
Do you think six months in advance is too short? No need to worry! Even before this period, you can often contact your town hall to reserve your date.
To register your intended marriage, bring the birth certificates of both of you as well as your identity cards. If only one partner is going to make the declaration, you will also need to present a legalised power of attorney showing that the other partner agrees.
Let's talk money
If you are only marrying for the local authority, you can keep the event low budget. For example, in many municipalities you can get married for free during the week, but there is a small charge for a Saturday wedding. The only cost that has to be paid in any case is the price of the marriage certificate. This varies between 10 and 25 euros, again depending on the municipality where you get married.
For example, are you getting married in Ghent or another large city? Then you can also opt for a splendid wedding. Then all the bells and whistles will be pulled out for you. This can be done at the town hall itself or at the Castle of the Counts. This is obviously at an additional cost.
The big day
Getting married at the town hall takes about 10 to 20 minutes. The mayor or the civil registrar responsible for your declaration of marriage will perform the marriage ceremony. Traditionally, the civil wedding starts with the reading of the legal texts, after which you say 'I do' to each other. This is followed by the exchange of rings. Finally, the marriage register is signed. The ceremony can be further personalised with music, texts and images.
When you sign the marriage register, you may or may not choose to have your witnesses sign it as well. In Belgium, you can nominate up to four witnesses! Perfect for those who find it difficult to appoint just one person. These witnesses do not have to be blood relatives, but they do have to be of age.
One day or several days?
Finally, it is also up to you to decide whether you want to have your civil marriage, your wedding party and your eventual church wedding on the same day or split up. This can depend on several factors, such as the availability of your wedding venue or what you would like to do yourself. For example, you can choose to have a real wedding weekend with your civil wedding on one day and your wedding party on the other.