Anhalt Civil Registration

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Marriages Now and Then

All Germans were able to marry before civil authorities (Standesamt) beginning in 1876 when civil registers became mandatory. A marriage had to be registered at the Standesamt that was within the jurisdiction of the couple's residence.The engaged couple would have their intentions (Aufgebot) to getting married made public. The couple's names were displayed in a show case for everyone to see. If there was no objection to getting married, the couple would then proceed with a ceremony at their church. Today the relevance of getting married in a church has no longer legal bearing. If a couple were to marry first in a church, the civil authorities would not recognize that marriage. The churches in Germany also would not proceed without a previous civil ceremony.

Today a marriage before civil authorities has to be performed within six months from the time the registrar approves the marriage. The marriage ceremony itself does not have to be performed at the Standesamt where the couple had to register. Any Standesamt in Germany will perform a couple's marriage with one exception. There will not be performed a spontaneous marriage except there should be a life threatening illness. Then a marriage ceremony will take place even in a hospital.

A marriage ceremony always had to have witnesses. The presence of witnesses is no longer mandatory. Couples can however ask for up to two witnesses. After the couple agrees to want to marry each other, the registrar pronounces them man and wife. The marriage is then entered into the marriage book.


A marriage, birth or death certificate can be ordered at the appropriate Standesamt. Here is a link to searching civil registration offices in Germany. A Standesamt is typically connected to the city administration offices.