Getting Married in Prague - Introduction

A step-by-step guide to the bureaucracy involved in tying the knot in the Czech Republic

"Uh, dude... Are you serious?" said my best friend Aaron, who was visiting from LA. This was his second time here in Prague. He said this after I told him I was getting married in five days to a girl he had just met. Mouth agape, eyes narrowed, with a beer in one hand and a shot of Becherovka in the other, he exclaimed, "Well, then, we need shots!" And indeed we did.

Three days later, I'd just finished what was likely to be the most stressful series of trips to notaries, embassies, ministries, translation agencies, and municipal offices that I'd ever seen, heard of, or dreamed possible. Last June, I got married to a Czech woman that I'd only known for five months, in a crazy feverish elopement. And, no, in case you were wondering, she wasn't pregnant.

In America, it's quite easy to get married at the drop of a dime. Fifty bucks, a bouquet of carnations, two rings, and an Elvis impersonator are all that it takes in Las Vegas. I understood that it would be quite different here, but I wasn't at all prepared for the extensive bureaucracy, harassment, fishwifery, and whatever else you can think of that would ensue after making this decision. Had I been in the know, or at least equipped with a set of strong aardvark tranquilizers, I would have been more able to accept the ridiculous parade that typifies a foreign marriage in Prague.

This article was written with the intention of helping other foreigners, particularly Americans, understand what's necessary to complete this process. (The requirements for other nationalities may differ depending on their government's relationship with the Czech Republic.)

Nowhere, it seems, can you find a comprehensive list of requirements. The American Embassy website omits at least three steps, and actually adds a false step - it is not true that in order to get married here an official certified translator must be present at the wedding.

Adding more steps to the process - especially fake ones - is probably the worst thing they could do, and makes me take out the bottle.

Czech websites are no better and many words don't connect with their English counterparts due to a loss in translation (i.e. notarization = apostille, a word which, even now, my computer has put a red, squiggly line under).

There is one positive here, however. If you and your fiancé(e) go through this circus successfully, without calling it off, you've already shared a miserable hardship together! I must admit that gentle hyperbole will be used here, just to make sure that readers don't underestimate this cruel joke of a process. To be honest, it went decently for me, only because my wonderful wife was there with me - as she legally had to be - enduring it all. I had heard stories from other expats that had given me a pessimistic attitude, which was in fact good because, at times, I was pleasantly surprised.

The following steps will include what I experienced, which, sadly, may very well be different for each person who tries to get married here.

Disclaimer: It is absolutely necessary to have a Czech speaker, preferably your fiancé(e), everywhere you go, to either speak on your behalf or else sign something or identify themselves. The order in which I took the following steps is only my recommendation, but I so wish that someone had suggested this order to me. I always brought my passport to each office, in addition to every document that I had already procured. Get a folder, for Pete's sake. All of my translations were made at Interlingua Servis near Národní Třída (see below), although there are plenty of others. I used a notary (notař or notařka) down the street from Interlingua, towards Karlovo Náměstí, but they're all over the place. If you're not sure, check the Zlaté stránky (Yellow Pages).

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