Binational wedding in Poland? Three dilemmas to prepare yourself for

As an immigrant, bureaucracy is a huge part of my life. I have to have permission for basically everything and marriage is no exception. I mentioned in a previous post something about doing my wedding vows in Polish. Now I’ll describe a little more about what we went through to get here, now 2 weeks before our little, modest wedding.

We decided earlier this year to get married (what when we want to buy real estate together? Gotta be married. What if a war breaks out? These are legit questions!) and we’re not the kind of people to sit around and wait 2 years to do it. As a binational couple, it’s a lot more complicated than for normal couples. For us the process was… sza.lo.ny. insane! As always, there have been a few dilemmas along the way.

Here’s how it works:

First dilemma: the Polish government requires proof that you’re not married in your home country. If you call the American Embassy, you’ll find that this proof doesn’t exist. Why? Still not sure on that one. What can you do? Breathe and accept. The Embassy will send you a letter in English and Polish which states that the proof you need will not be issued. What do you do with that?

Second dilemma: Go to court, of course. You’ll have to set up a court date in your betrothed’s place of residence. Hopefully for your sake that’s nearby. What does the court case look like? Well you’ll have to answer whatever questions the judge asks of you. The first and most important will be, „Do you speak Polish?”. If not, they have to bring in an official translator (which you have to pay for), so make sure you figure that out before you go. Not sure if you can manage? If you can understand and answer these questions in Polish, you’ll be fine:

Where are you from?

How old are you?

Are you single?

How long have you lived in Poland?

Why do you live in Poland? (You need a drink for this one)

Do you have any family members in Poland?

Is your family happy that you’re getting married in Poland? (How do you say “of course they’re delighted I live a million miles away, and now I’m getting married they know I’m definitely not going back” in Polish?)

Where do you plan on living in the future?

Do you and your fiancé have any family members in common? (huh???)

Fortunately, I had a nice judge who took pity on me and talked very slowly, repeated questions, and overall was very understanding. Więc, dałam radę. I managed and it was one of my biggest accomplishments.

Third dilemma: Deciding whether to change your last name. Seems simple, but you’re in Poland, come on. Nothing is easy. Nic jest łatwe! Assuming your partner’s last name isn’t Grzegorzek, Trzetrzelewska or Chorążykiewicz (or something adorable like Gołąb – pigeon – or Pająk – spider, or Kapusta – cabbage), it’s not a huge issue. Luckily, Morawiec is a pretty easy name. No Polish letters and no z’s. However, if you decide to change, you’re dooming yourself to wasting more time in the Urzędy (city hall and such), which are not exactly foreigner friendly. Plus, you’ve got to change everything in Poland and in the States. If you decide on the double-surname hyphenate, you can keep more of your American identity, but then you’ll have more problems when people ask for your name and when you have to fill out documents. If you’re planning to stay in Poland, it’s probably just easier.

Lastly, you could consider waiting and changing your name in the future. Why make life hard now when you can put it off? Well, that’d be ok, but as a foreigner, you don’t have the right to change your name in Poland unless you’re getting married. Only citizens have that right. That means you’ll have to do it when you’re in the States, so you have to consider which is more difficult. Here or there? That’s not so easy to answer.

All this sounds hard, but you know, it could always be worse. Try not to get discouraged because it’s all part of the Polonization process. At least you’ll always have an interesting story to tell. Oh, and of course, you’ll be married so happily ever after and all that junk.

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  • Reply Simi 18 October 2015 at 00:53

    You know, it is not easy to marry in States too when you are binational couple 🙂

    • Reply Leah Southers 18 October 2015 at 08:36

      In fact, I think it’s much harder. That’s why we did it in Poland 🙂

  • Reply Kasia 19 March 2016 at 15:06

    OMG! It was so amazing to read this post, because me and my husband went through exactly same thing while planning a wedding in Poland! He’s Canadian and there’s also no proof of marriage eligibility. And same deal – court date, weird questions about our mental health, but as you already mentioned, the best of the best was when they asked us if we are related in any way – me, 100% Polish blonde girl and him, 100% Asian dude. I don’t know if we could be any further from each other genetically 😛 Anyways, it’s always nice to know someone when through the same ” adventures” as you, so thank you for this post! You definitely missed out on the church wedding planning though, that is even more fun! Especially when one of the parties is not Catholic and does not speak Polish:) PS: Kudos to you for living and working in Poland. Having lived in the U.S. for 1.5 years now, I can see how difficult it must have been to adjust from American living to European/ Polish reality.

    • Reply Leah Southers 19 March 2016 at 17:51

      Kasia – hah it sounds like you guys had an even harder time than we did. Totally insane with the questions. Did you husband have a translator? I did it without so it was a little hard but I managed 🙂 Where do you live in the States?

  • Reply Kasia 20 March 2016 at 18:54

    Yes, we had the translator, but we didn’t actually pay him – we just requested one on the court date application and he just showed up 🙂 Apparently courts have translators hired for such occasions.
    For your other question – right now we live in Philly 🙂

    Keep up the good work – I love reading your blog! I feel your observations about Poland, Poles and comparisons to the Americans are so spot on!

  • Reply Lili 20 March 2017 at 07:59

    Wowsa, I had a totally different experience. I’m Australian, and luckily my embassy supplies a Certificate of No Impediment which is super easy to get. The whole process was so easy that we were able to do it from our home in Vietnam, and then just come to Poland more than 30 days before the wedding. Unfortunately we messed up and arrived exactly 30 days before the wedding, but that’s another story.

    Thanks for the advice about name changes! I am going to change my name because my current surname is Roby, pronounced like ‘robi’, which is going to be a nightmare when we move to Poland in a few months. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    Great blog!

  • Reply jagoda 23 July 2018 at 20:55

    Did you guys have a ‘church-wedding’ or just civil?

    • Reply jagoda 23 July 2018 at 20:56

      do you* 😉

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 30 July 2018 at 14:41

      We just had a civil wedding! Much easier than a church one plus I’m not religious so that would have made it hard and also we’d have had to take that class beforehand… so no 🙂

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