It is originally published in the Christmas special issue of The Filipino Expat Magazine.
Like any other couples, we also experienced the highs and lows of getting married. Especially that, not only we are born of different race (a Belgian and a Filipina), but also we live in another country as expats.
Pinning down the wedding place
Getting the country where you want to get wed is the most important step to do first. It all boils down to the legal requirements and bureaucratic process that go with it vis-à-vis the time, cost and effort you are willing to spend. It takes some time for research or simply, asking the right people around.
Switzerland could have been the most convenient choice for us. The moment we started asking however, we felt it wouldn’t come easily. Just from securing all the required documents, translating all these in three official Swiss languages, waiting for our application to get approved, to getting a wedding date and place, neither we had the luxury of time nor the patience and diligence to follow all these. So we started looking for other options. Our penchant for traveling might also be the reason why we decided to do it some place else.
We checked on France. The waiting time is just a couple of days shorter than Switzerland, but we need to reside there for a minimum of a month before we apply for marriage. We then considered Belgium and the Philippines as other options.
I heard stories about the tedious process for a Filipino and a foreigner getting married in the Philippines. Being married no longer automatically entitles the foreign partner to a residence permit in most countries, which may mean if we do the wedding in the Philippines, I have to go through formal visa and residence permit applications in my home country. It would take some time, which also means that we’ll be living far away from each other, too. We wouldn’t want that.
Since my husband still has a residence at his home country, we can get married without the need for me or both of us, to stay for certain days in Belgium before the wedding. In Belgium the marriage can take place 10 days after posting of the banns (of marriage), which is a public announcement of an impending marriage between two specified individuals. However, with our families and friends in two different sides of the world, we also felt that it wouldn’t sound fair for either of us to choose one over the other. Then again, given the needs and the plans we have ahead, we wanted to stick to what we want – nothing complicated.
“How about we elope? Nobody knows, except our families most likely, until we made it…” That nonchalant joke we both shared one night was already a sign. We headed north and found these Scandinavian countries – Finland, Sweden, Denmark. Ah indeed, we got the smell of Nordic romance, uncomplicated and free.
A few more hops on possible places until a Danish “fairytale town” called Aeroskobing caught our attention. It’s promised that our wedding will not only be fast and manageable, but also romantic and memorable. We’re swooned. No actually, I was.
Applying for a Danish wedding
Freedom to make life’s choices is amongst the reasons why Denmark is considered the world’s happiest country. For foreign couples like us who want to avoid the tedious legal and bureaucratic maze to get married, the Danes do share this value well. Depending on the chosen municipality where the wedding takes place, the requirements and the process are simple and straightforward. All we needed to provide are: our passports and visa, birth certificates, documentation of marital status, and notice of marriage and booking form. Generally, the processing would only take around a week or two, and the couple might be required to stay 3 days. In Aeroskobing though, we’re just required to stay for a day, but we still decided to stay more. Why not?
One copy of marriage certificate, which comes in already translated into English, German, Spanish and French, is provided straight away, while the second copy is sent after a week or two after it gets an “apostille.” An apostille is a validation from the Danish Foreign Ministry in accordance with the 1961 Hague Apostille Convention, which gives our marriage in particular, an extra level of international acceptability.
For formalities after the wedding, my partner who is an EU national and works in another European country (Switzerland, that is), can apply for my residence permit as his non-EU spouse upon returning to our country of residence.
We could have breezed it through in no time at all, except for some hiccups along the way. First was my husband’s request for a certificate of no marriage. Perhaps it’s the summer holidays, it took some time for the consulate in Geneva to respond, and then later on, he was asked to proceed his request to the consulate in Copenhagen. On the other hand, the folks from Aeroskobing advised us to get the documents translated in either German, English or Danish language. Luckily, the Belgian consulate was able to provide us a German version. On my part, days before we left for Denmark, we were anxiously waiting for the renewal of my work visa, as it took on the last day before we departed from Geneva for it to arrive.
Keeping it light and easy
Although the way to getting married in Denmark is as simple as it sounds, we still chose to get our own marriage coordinator to guide us through. We’re hundreds of kilometers away and we’re such busy creatures, so most of our correspondences were done by email. Our coordinator assisted us well with the paperwork, and in finding the place to stay and a photographer to capture our special day.
Since we are going by plane and boat to and from Aeroskobing, we had to keep our luggages as light as possible. It then prompted me to choose a wedding dress that will suit with that need, and yet will remain to the style I want, simple and classy. Hardly I imagined that this can be a tedious task, it really took me awhile to find my wedding dress. I bought the dress from an online shop and it was shipped two weeks after.
The wedding ceremony took only around 15 minutes. Yet truth be told, I felt it was the slowest moment in my life. My tummy was churning, my hands were cold, and my throat’s dry. And my eyes started to swell up with tears. I was mincing every word the marriage official said. When it was my turn to say the magic word, I ended up whispering it instead, and repeatedly asked everyone if I really did say it so. They assured me I did. Apparently, the rumors are true and mom is right. Whether it is big or small, simple or grand, a wedding will always remain special.
We eloped in a nordic fairytale town called Aeroskobing. That sounds interestingly special nonetheless.
P.S. Many thanks to the couple, Louise and John of Danish Island Weddings for helping us with our wedding, Camilla Jorvad for capturing our special moment, and Susanna for taking good care of us during our stay at Pension Vestergade 44.