Getting married in Switzerland

A step-by-step guide

Switzerland is a unique country to get married in, not only because of its beautiful landscapes, but also in legal terms. When it comes to marriage, foreigners in the country don't face too many legal restrictions. Both residents and non-residents in Switzerland can get married with relative ease.

Getting married in Switzerland

In Switzerland, a large portion (49.7%) of all marriages involve a Swiss marrying a foreigner. In comparison, only 6.5% of all marriages in the country involved two foreigners.

While religious ceremonies are common in Switzerland, only the civil marriage is legally recognised.

Swiss marriage law

There are three main conditions that must be met for both parties, before a couple is allowed to get married. They are:

  • The two parties must be aged 18 and over
  • Neither must be married
  • Those with a legal guardian must have their consent prior to getting married

The marriage certificate must be obtained at the Registry Office in the canton where either one of the parties is resident. If the couple doesn't live in Switzerland, the application can be made at the Registry Office in the canton where the marriage will take place.

The following documents need to be provided for both parties:

  • A photo ID that follows the official Swiss requirements. http://www.schweizerpass.admin.ch/content/dam/data/passkampagne/definitivefotomustertafel220906.pdf 
  • A notarised affidavit which includes the person's current address and marital status.
  • A birth certificate that shows the name of the parents. This needs to be issued less than six months before the date of the marriage.
  • If previously married: a copy of the final divorce decree or death certificate.
  • A completed marriage request form, which can be obtained at the Registry Office.

All documents that are not in one of the official Swiss languages (German, French or Italian) must be provided with a certified translation.

The approval of the marriage application can take up to five weeks. In the meanwhile, bans (the public announcement of a couple's intention to marry), will be published so there is enough time for anyone with an objection to state their claim. Once the marriage application is approved, the couple is notified in writing.

The couple can get married anywhere between 10 days and 3 months after the approval.

The civil ceremony

The ceremony must take place in the registry office, with two adult witnesses. Ceremonies can only take place from Monday to Saturday. There are no marriage ceremonies during public holidays.

After the ceremony takes place, the couple may request a marriage deed, which includes when and where the ceremony happened, as well as the name of the spouses before and after the ceremony took place.

If the couple wishes to hold a religious ceremony, this must be done only after the civil marriage has taken place, and the marriage deed must be presented as proof.

Name change following marriage

According to Swiss law, the woman takes her husband's surname after the marriage. Should she wish to keep her own family name, she can only do so if hyphenated, followed by her husband's surname.

In some cases, the married couple may wish to take the woman's maiden name. If this is the case, an approval must be obtained from the registry office before the civil ceremony takes place. Following the name change, some documents need to be changed. These include:

  • ID card
  • Passport
  • Driver's licence

In addition, institutions such as banks must also be notified of the name change.

Citizenship through marriage

According to Swiss law, foreigners marrying Swiss nationals have access to an easier path to citizenship. In fact, a foreigner married to a Swiss national can become a citizen after six years of marriage if the couple lives abroad, or after only five years if living in Switzerland (from the date of marriage). Alternatively, citizenship can be obtained by those who have been married for three years to a Swiss national and have lived in Switzerland for one year.

In Switzerland, a large portion (49.7%) of all marriages involve a Swiss marrying a foreigner. In comparison, only 6.5% of all marriages in the country involved two foreigners.

While religious ceremonies are common in Switzerland, only the civil marriage is legally recognised.

Swiss marriage law

There are three main conditions that must be met for both parties, before a couple is allowed to get married. They are:

  • The two parties must be aged 18 and over
  • Neither must be married
  • Those with a legal guardian must have their consent prior to getting married

The marriage certificate must be obtained at the Registry Office in the canton where either one of the parties is resident. If the couple doesn't live in Switzerland, the application can be made at the Registry Office in the canton where the marriage will take place.

The following documents need to be provided for both parties:

  • A photo ID that follows the official Swiss requirements. http://www.schweizerpass.admin.ch/content/dam/data/passkampagne/definitivefotomustertafel220906.pdf 
  • A notarised affidavit which includes the person's current address and marital status.
  • A birth certificate that shows the name of the parents. This needs to be issued less than six months before the date of the marriage.
  • If previously married: a copy of the final divorce decree or death certificate.
  • A completed marriage request form, which can be obtained at the Registry Office.

All documents that are not in one of the official Swiss languages (German, French or Italian) must be provided with a certified translation.

The approval of the marriage application can take up to five weeks. In the meanwhile, bans (the public announcement of a couple's intention to marry), will be published so there is enough time for anyone with an objection to state their claim. Once the marriage application is approved, the couple is notified in writing.

The couple can get married anywhere between 10 days and 3 months after the approval.

The civil ceremony

The ceremony must take place in the registry office, with two adult witnesses. Ceremonies can only take place from Monday to Saturday. There are no marriage ceremonies during public holidays.

After the ceremony takes place, the couple may request a marriage deed, which includes when and where the ceremony happened, as well as the name of the spouses before and after the ceremony took place.

If the couple wishes to hold a religious ceremony, this must be done only after the civil marriage has taken place, and the marriage deed must be presented as proof.

Name change following marriage

According to Swiss law, the woman takes her husband's surname after the marriage. Should she wish to keep her own family name, she can only do so if hyphenated, followed by her husband's surname.

In some cases, the married couple may wish to take the woman's maiden name. If this is the case, an approval must be obtained from the registry office before the civil ceremony takes place. Following the name change, some documents need to be changed. These include:

  • ID card
  • Passport
  • Driver's licence

In addition, institutions such as banks must also be notified of the name change.

Citizenship through marriage

According to Swiss law, foreigners marrying Swiss nationals have access to an easier path to citizenship. In fact, a foreigner married to a Swiss national can become a citizen after six years of marriage if the couple lives abroad, or after only five years if living in Switzerland (from the date of marriage). Alternatively, citizenship can be obtained by those who have been married for three years to a Swiss national and have lived in Switzerland for one year.

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