In Switzerland in 2019, a large portion (36%) of all marriages involved a Swiss marrying a foreigner. In comparison, as much as 16% of all marriages in the country involved two foreigners.
While religious ceremonies are common in Switzerland, only civil marriage is legally recognised.
Swiss marriage law
There are three main conditions that must be met for both parties to get married. These are:
- Both of them have to be eighteen years old and over.
- Neither is married or in a civil partnership (a legally-recognized union of same-sex couples).
- 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.
- A notarised statement that 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 notarised translation.
The approval of the marriage application can take up to five weeks.
In the meantime, 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 that can be chosen by the couple. 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
Since 2013 spouses are allowed to keep their surnames or to choose either the wife’s or the husband’s surname as the family name. Furthermore, double names are not allowed, that is the first surnames of both the husband and the wife. However, the hyphenated version of this is allowed in everyday life but not considered as an official registered name.
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 may apply for citizenship after a minimum of three years of marriage. This time period increases up to six years if the foreigners do not reside in Switzerland.