On April 6th, 2010 at 11:43 AM, Fabian and I signed our marriage certificate. The year plus three months leading up to this moment was full of challenges and delays. Since I agreed to move to Zürich, we decided to legally marry in Switzerland. We did exchange emotional vows in NYC on June 20th, 2009, surrounded by most of my closest friends. It was a wonderful night whose memory gives me strength and peace.
Once we began the legal process for my move overseas, we made the mistake of not consulting an immigration lawyer and instead dealt directly with the Swiss consulate in NYC and the Zürich registry office. The Swiss were polite, responsive, answered phone calls in person, but they did not go out of their way to be helpful. Unless you know exactly what question to ask, you will not get the information you need. Since we were dealing with two different offices, we would sometimes hear two different answers. The poor communication translated into a six month delay while I waited for my fiancé (L) visa to be processed. On my 38th birthday, my paperwork came through.
After some research, we chose to exchange our Swiss vows in the Werd Pavilion, a small modern glass cube. We asked for an English and Swiss German ceremony and had only ten guests, all from Fabian's side. If you marry in Zürich you currently have four site options: the Werd Pavilion (it has a lot of natural light and is free), the Weinschenke (this 17th century wine cellar costs 250 CHF to reserve), the Zunfthaus zur Waag (this 1287 house costs between 150 - 350 CHF), or the Zürich Zoo (this bizarre and depressing venue for a wedding costs 635+ CHF).
When we arrived at the Pavilion I felt I was on a "new wife" assembly line. I must have seen three other brides during a one hour period. The party before us was very late and we were asked if we'd mind having our ceremony 3 minutes early. No problem. Once we went inside the main room, Fabian and I sat down at a large triangle shaped wooden table. Our two witnesses were on one side, with our guests facing us in chairs lined up along the wall. The officiant sat in front of us. She seemed young, nervous, and spoke English with a heavy Swiss accent.
Agnes severely mispronounced my first and last name and then took the liberty to read two poems that neither one of us had heard before. The English poem could work as lyrics to a Mariah Carey song. The writer is anonymous. Maybe Agnes composed this ditty for her high school English club. The German poem by Herman Hesse is much better, but I would not have chosen it for us. It focuses on how different we are (like the sun and moon) and while this has a lot of truth to it, I find it too negative a fact to focus on during a wedding. I remember saying "Yes" but I don't remember what I said "Yes" to. After we signed the marriage certificate, our officiant proudly smiled and told us we could keep the pen we used, as a gift from the city of Zürich.
Fabian and I did tear up once we were pronounced married. I actually had to hold back a flood of tears, or else I would have started bawling and I don't know what our officiant would have done. Ok, big confession... the horrendous English poem made me want to cry and this embarrasses and infuriates me. I held it in but still feel I was emotionally manipulated by mediocre drivel surrounded by dreadful clip art.
Maybe the other wedding sites are packaged with better ceremonies. Maybe we didn't ask the right questions before our wedding day. Maybe I should focus on the fact that I am finally married and overlook the details. Plus I will always remember the beautiful ceremony we had in NYC. (Thank you Reverend Adam and everyone who witnessed our union.)
I do wonder about other justice of the peace weddings. Did you get legally married or witness a wedding at City Hall or an equivalent place, and if so, what was it like?