Why Brexit is leading to a boom in Danish weddings
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Denmark has become an increasingly attractive option for Britons looking to marry their European partners to secure residency rights before the Brexit transition period ends. JANE WHYATT explains why.
Copenhagen may not rank among Europe's most romantic destinations - although it certainly has its charms. Yet the Danish capital - along with other locations in the country - has become increasingly attractive as a marriage venue for Britons and their European partners. The reason is simple: Brexit, and the Danes' relaxed attitude to bureaucracy when it comes to weddings.
Brits with European partners who want to secure residency rights to stay in the EU once the UK's transition period ends on December 31 can do so by marrying in any of the union's 27 countries.
The attraction of Denmark is that here it can be done so far quicker, and easier, than elsewhere. And with the clock ticking towards the end of the year, time is certainly of the essence. Marriage to an EU citizen secures jobs, health insurance, school and university places, housing rights and pensions. For these reasons, a lot of paperwork is required in some member states.
Danish law, however, offers quickie town hall marriages. No witnesses are needed (venues provide their own), and all documents (such as birth certificates and so on) can be presented in English. There is no requirement to have them translated into Danish.
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The requirements are far more onerous elsewhere, as Jo Fiddy has found. She is planning to marry her German fiancé in Munich, where they live. However, because she had been previously married in the UK, the German authorities insist on an international divorce certificate. The couple have been told this would take up to three months. Jo admits the hold-up has created pressure and that the couple now plan to marry in Denmark instead.
"Originally, when we got engaged we were not thinking of Brexit. It was from a place of love. But with all the talks about Brexit, we are in a rush to get married for fear of what may happen.
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"It costs a couple of hundred euros to translate my birth, marriage and divorce certificates into German so I'm looking into the Denmark option."
In France, both bride and groom must live in the same municipality for at least 40 days before the marriage can be arranged. And that can be just the start of a long-winded process, as Serafina Zdankowicz discovered.
She and childhood sweetheart Ollie Jones - who are both British citizens - planned a quick town hall ceremony in France, where she has lived for most of her life. However, they soon ran into delays and complications.
"The town hall requested several documents which needed translation and some of which we did not even know existed. Even then we wouldn't be able to get an appointment for the next three to six months.
"Friends suggested getting legally married in Denmark. All we needed was our passports and within just a few weeks we were off to Ærø for our small legal ceremony."
Ærø is a small island in southern Denmark, with a population of only 6,000. But the locals are used to seeing international couples who turn up for a few hours and then are never seen again.
"Walking around with my flowers and Ollie in his suit, all the people living on the island knew that we had just been married and were offering their congratulations as we walked around the town which was really sweet," Serafina says.
Frenchman Marc Kushin and his British bride Arylone chose Denmark for similar reasons: to avoid French bureaucracy and costs.
"It was cheaper than Vegas. The crux of the answer [of why we chose Denmark] is bureaucracy and the lack of it in Denmark. What was amazing that 30-40 of our friends descended on Hamburg from all over the world and celebrated the day with us. This involved transporting them all over the border to Sonderberg in Denmark and then back again for the celebrations. It was a fantastic weekend."
Both Serafina and Ollie and Marc and Arylone were married before Britain left the EU, earlier this year.
Husband and wife Rasmus and Arezoo Clarsk Sørensen run a company called Getting Married in Denmark and say they have noticed a Brexit-related trend of Brits interested in marrying their European partners in the country and are expecting a number of couples to do so before the end of the transition period.
According to the GMD website, it is possible to arrange and complete a wedding in as little as 48 hours.
However, the country's relaxed laws have attracted the attentions of people smugglers looking to arrange sham marriages in the country. In 2018 an international sting operation involving 300 police officers unmasked a criminal network which was using marriage ceremonies in Denmark to sell EU citizenship to illegal immigrants from India and Pakistan.
A new law passed last year allows the Danish authorities to interview couples if they are suspected of being strangers just getting married to obtain a visa and to stop the ceremonies going ahead. The crackdown seems to have had an impact. From January to November 2019, some 13,532 international couples applied to get married in Denmark. Of these, 10,858 applications were approved, with the rest declined or still being assessed.
It may be that the coronavirus means that the numbers of international weddings in the country will be lower in 2020, but at least Brexit will have contributed a few.