Getting married in Switzerland is a simple procedure that involves signing the relevant documents at a Swiss civil registry office. Marriage in Switzerland is tied to legal and residency requirements, so it is important to know the criteria and steps that need to be taken to get married or enter a civil partnership. It is essential that you follow the steps below before booking a religious or spiritual event.
Criteria for getting married or forming a civil partnership in Switzerland
In order to be officially registered and become newlyweds in Switzerland, you must fulfill some set criteria. In order to marry someone, they must be:
- Of the opposite sex to you (for marriage) / of the same sex to you (for a civil partnership).
- Over the age of 18 and have the capacity to consent.
- Be lawfully resident in Switzerland as proven by a residence permit.
You are unable to get married or form a partnership in Switzerland under the following circumstances:
- If the person you wish to marry is already married or in civil registered partnership.
- You are deemed to be a close relation of your fiancée, defined by your county (canton) of residence.
- You are getting married or becoming partners in order to streamline the path to Swiss citizenship or residency.
Application for marriage in Switzerland
To become a married couple in Switzerland, you must complete a marriage application form from your canton’s civil register office (Zivilstandsamt). You must attend this office in order to receive the application form and will have to provide supporting documents with your application. Each register office asks for different documents, but some more common items are:
- Residence permit
- Passports or proof of ID
- Proof of residency in the locality
Finally, you must declare in front of the registrar that you fulfil the requirements for getting married. Once this is complete, the registrar will check your application and request any further documents. You are then informed in writing by the registrar as to whether the wedding can take place. Expect a response by post in one to three weeks.
To find your nearest civil register office, you can use the official government website.
Booking your Swiss marriage ceremony
Once the registrar has accepted your application, you have three months to book a ceremony with any registrar office in your canton. It is at this point that you are encouraged to book any other religious or spiritual ceremony. If you wish to do so, make sure that it is around or after the confirmed date at the registry office. You must also arrange for two witnesses to attend the civil ceremony to confirm the marriage.
What to expect on your wedding day in Switzerland
The process of marriage at the registrar’s office is different depending on the character of the registrar and your wishes on the day. A general schedule for a marriage ceremony in Switzerland goes as follows:
- Arrival at the registrar office at least 10 minutes before your allotted time.
- You will be invited in to sit and wait in the foyer of the office before being invited in by the registrar.
- The registrar will welcome all the attendees and typically recite a story or poem.
- You will then be invited to say any prepared words such as vows or commitments that you choose.
- The registrar will then invite you to co-sign the marriage certificate, which is notified by the two witnesses.
- You will then be given an official family record document and will be free to exchange rings, attend religious or spiritual services or retire to a party or event.
Civil partnerships in Switzerland
The process for registering a civil partnership in Switzerland is exactly the same process as for marriages. The only difference between a marriage and civil partnership is that no witnesses need to be present at the event and the registrar will give you a deed of partnership instead of a marriage certificate.
Choosing a family name after a Swiss wedding
After entering a marriage or civil partnership in Switzerland, you are free to choose a family name. As of 2013, both spouses will retain their own surnames by default after they marry. However, the law states that you are allowed to both adopt either your surname or your spouse’s surname. If you would like to register a unique name, it is advised to contact your nation of citizenship for more information.
Double-barrelled names in Switzerland
In addition to adopting your spouse’s surname, you are also able to combine your last name with your spouse’s to create a double-barrelled surname. In order to do this, you must register the new name at the wedding and partnership ceremony. It is mandatory to hyphenate the surname if you choose to combine them. For example, Taylor Smith would have to be hyphenated to Taylor-Smith in order to be deemed legal.
Who to inform after changing your name in Switzerland
Once you have decided upon a new name for you and your family, it is necessary to inform authorities of the change as soon as possible to avoid any confusion. It is recommended to get in touch with the relevant authorities to have your name changed on your:
- Any social security services
- AHV social security number
- Health insurance
- Credits cards and other banking in Switzerland
- Any residence permits or visas
It is also recommended to put both your original name and new name on your letterbox while you are informing all of these authorities, otherwise you may not receive vital correspondence. Please also bear in mind that once you are married or in a civil partnership, you are treated as a single entity while filing your tax return and may receive benefits for being married in the Swiss tax system.
How much do Swiss weddings and civil partnerships cost?
On average, the costs of a wedding or civil partnership depends on where you first registered and the amount of information you had to provide. Average costs for wedding ceremonies and civil partnership signings range from 200 to 500 Swiss francs.
Does my wedding mean I can apply for Swiss citizenship?
If you have married or formed a civil partnership with someone who is a Swiss citizen, you will be entitled to become a citizen through simplified admission. This removes all naturalisation tests and residency criteria for applying. This streamlines the process and removes some of the obstacles in your way. Check out the guide to becoming a citizen in Switzerland for more information.