Everything you need to know about weddings in Switzerland
Getting married in your home country can be daunting enough, but when you have to figure everything out in a new country as an expat, it can turn a truly happy event into quite a stressful one. If you are heading down the aisle soon or are just dreaming of your perfect day, here’s everything you need to know about getting married in Switzerland.
Weddings in Switzerland
For hundreds of years, people in Switzerland have been committing themselves to a partner through the act of marriage. Most marriages consist of an official ceremony and some sort of celebration after. Of course, some people also choose to just have a civil marriage signed into law, with minimal fuss and expense and no large ceremony, since it can be more convenient and affordable.
Ultimately, weddings come down to personal choice. In Switzerland, there are plenty of wedding planners, venues and caterers that can accommodate people in all stages of life, from all sorts of different backgrounds, with various needs and preferences.
Swiss weddings have their own traditions
As you probably already know, Switzerland is a country that has many great traditions. Weddings are no exception to this! Swiss weddings mostly take place between June and September, when the warm summer months bring great weather to the country.
Wedding rings in Switzerland
As is the case in many countries, wedding rings are still an extremely popular tradition in Switzerland. The round shape of the ring is said to symbolise never-ending love and eternity, and many couples engrave the inside of their ring with words of affection or the names of friends and family.
Wedding rings are worn on the left hand in Switzerland and many still believe that the ring finger of the left hand allows the ring to access the heart, keeping the marriage strong. A lot of times, the engagement ring is also made from gold, symbolising the financial sacrifice that the groom or bride has made.
Swiss wedding ceremonies
Wedding ceremonies in Switzerland often take place in the early afternoon, followed by an apéritif served somewhere nearby. For many, the day starts out with around 100 to 200 guests in a traditional church or other religious venue, followed by a meal at a restaurant nearby. However, given the country’s stunning natural landscape of mountains, lakes, rivers and castles, it is unsurprising that many couples choose to wed elsewhere.
Wedding ceremonies in forests, castles and at lakeside locations have become increasingly popular in recent years, with couples choosing to hire a freelance marriage registrar to conduct their ceremony anywhere. However, regardless of location, couples must always go to the registry office first to get their paperwork in order before getting married.
Traditional Swiss wedding games
There are a number of Swiss wedding traditions, such as "kidnapping" the bride so that the groom has to find her, or making the groom chop wood while the bride knits a scarf. According to some in the wedding industry, these traditions are becoming less well-observed since many people in Switzerland are choosing to get married at a later age, but there is one tradition that is still alive and kicking: Spalierstehen, or faire la Haie.
Spalierstehen or faire la Haie essentially involves the couple walking through a line of colleagues, teammates or members of other groups to which they belong, with their friends wearing matching uniforms. This can be quite a sight to behold with all of the groom’s football teammates jeering outside in their full kit, or the bride’s work colleagues standing in uniform, saluting the happy couple!
Bachelor and Bachelorette parties in Switzerland
Much like in other countries, parties and events for the bachelor and bachelorette are common in Switzerland. In many cases, the respective parties head away for a weekend to party intensely in other cities or even other countries.
For some, a smaller, more low-key event is preferred. Many women enjoy a quiet spa weekend with their friends while the groom and his friends can enjoy activities such as paintballing or an extravagant meal for a less alcohol-fueled weekend of fun.
Getting married in a church is popular in Switzerland
Despite some Swiss traditions fading over the years, many couples still choose to get married in churches, even if they are not particularly religious or regular church attendees. Some couples also choose to have religious ceremonies at different venues, but often it is difficult to find clergymen who are willing to marry couples outside their own parish.
Even when getting married in a church, couples still have to visit the registry office first to get a marriage confirmed. Other religious ceremonies in Switzerland are less common than church weddings, but they are available, especially for couples from major religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism.
Legal marriage in Switzerland
In Switzerland, the legal age of marriage is 18 and you cannot already be married, making polygamy illegal in the country. For people without Swiss citizenship, you must have proper documentation to prove that you are not already married in another country, or to prove that you are legally divorced.
Most of these documentation checks can take place at your local registry office, and proof of unmarried status can be sought at the embassy of your country of origin in Switzerland. Many countries also offer such services at consulates in Swiss cities outside of the de facto capital Bern, so it can be made easier for foreigners to get married in Switzerland.
Same-sex wedding ceremonies
As of July 1, 2022, same-sex marriages are legal in Switzerland. Same-sex couples are able to register for a civil marriage and hold a wedding in largely the same way that heterosexual couples have enjoyed for many years.
However, some churches in other countries have not been accepting of same-sex marriages, even after they are made legal. As the practice becomes more embedded, and as same-sex equality continues to progress in Switzerland, the status of same-sex Christian couples in the church will hopefully become more clear in the coming years.