You can almost guarantee when a couple planning their elopement first thinks to themselves… “hhhhmm, I wonder… What is the easiest country in the EU for foreigners to get married?”… the next thing they will do is type that thought into their internet browser!
And voila, that list of EU countries where it’s easy for foreign couples to get married will pop up and I can assure you that Denmark will be high, if not top, of that list!
Why over this last decade has wedding tourism for this tiny country boomed?
When did Denmark become popular as a wedding destination for international couples?
What were the reasons couples from abroad were traveling to Denmark for their wedding?
In this article, we’re going to look into the story of the Danish international wedding industry and what made this otherwise seemingly unassuming country, the main player in the huge world of weddings!
You might be surprised to learn that international couples were coming to Denmark for their wedding waaaay before the age of the World Wide Web!
But before we look at travelling couples, we first need to go right back to 1936 to look at an element of historical legislation between Denmark and Germany, when a bilateral agreement was reached between the 2 countries which meant that official documents, such as the Danish marriage certificate for example, would be recognised in Germany without any additional legalisation and vice versa.
This might not seem like much but this agreement, made all those years ago, meant that in later years those coming to Denmark from Germany to get married would know 2 very important things:
Therefore making a marriage application to Danish authorities SO much simpler for German citizens & residents.
So what next? When did travelling to Denmark for a wedding really start to become popular for foreign couples?
Well again, we need to take another look at Germany.
In the 1980s hundreds of thousands of American military members were stationed in Germany. These postings would come in cycles, lasting up to several years before they would be sent back to the US.
During their time spent in Germany these young American GIs would meet young German women & men who they would eventually want to get married to.
But getting married in Germany is hard. The bureaucratic process is long, difficult and can be incredibly frustrating and was probably even more so back then.
So, awareness began to grow among these American soldiers about the possibility of getting married in Denmark instead. And so that’s exactly what they did!
Then in the late 80s, came the fall of the Berlin wall while simultaneously the world was facing the lead up to the start of the first Gulf War.
This meant that a lot of the military members stationed in Germany would eventually either be sent back to the US permanently or sent on to fight in the Gulf War and these GIs wanted to marry their partners before having to leave Germany for good. Once again, getting married in Denmark was the solution.
Nowadays if you hear a rumour or have a thought or question about anything at all that sparks your curiosity, you just ask the internet right?!
But this was the 80s and back then asking the internet wasn’t a possibility. So how did these soldiers learn that getting married in Denmark was even possible?
We chatted to a wonderful man named Chuck, owner of How To Germany, about getting married in Denmark in the 1980s.
You see, during that time he worked for a US military magazine and so we asked him:
“How did these GIs learn about Denmark – especially as this was before the days of the internet?”
He told us….
“I worked for a leisure magazine for the US Armed Forces in Europe and a couple of Danish marriage agencies advertised with us…[so] It was primarily through print advertising. Some by word of mouth.”
“The magazine I worked for ran a lot of travel articles and had a monthly circulation of over 125,000.. And, the number of US troops in Germany was very high – over 350,000. If you include family members and civilian workers, the overall total of Americans associated with the Department of Defence and State Department was well over one million”
This was a staggering number of US military workers and their families based in Germany! It will only have taken a tiny fraction of this huge number to read the adverts made by the wedding agencies, convincing them to make the journey to Denmark to marry their loved ones.
We truly believe this kick-started the wonderful tradition that we continue to see today of US military members stationed in Germany travelling to Denmark for their wedding.
So we also now know after speaking with Chuck that wedding agencies existed even back in the 1980s and these agencies advertised in Army magazines, targeting the US soldiers stationed in Germany.
These Danish wedding agencies helped couples, some even offering full packages including consulting, hotels, dinners, etc. It was the 80s after all and the charter tours were new and sparkling. 🙂
But not all these wedding packages were equally great according to our interview with Chuck, who himself got married in Esbjerg back in 1986….
“The hotel that the marriage agency booked for us was not really what we expected, so we took rooms in a different hotel.”
Today there are many wedding agencies helping couples get married in Denmark, with a real boom in the last decade of agencies that specifically offer help to couples wanting simple, stress-free, quick, and easy elopements.
It goes without saying that the increase in elopement wedding agencies has certainly helped drive the increase in foreign couples getting married in Denmark, because for a lot of international couples, choosing to marry abroad simply can feel like a daunting task and so this is where agencies like Getting Married in Denmark come in to take a lot of this stress and worry out of the couples hands, making the whole process far more enjoyable!
Well, the most obvious answer here is quite simply: Globalization!
Commercial air travel began in the 1920s, however it wasn’t a mode of transport that, for want of a better expression, ‘took off’ quickly!! The first commercial flight across the Atlantic didn’t happen until the late 1930s and then with the start of the Second World War, any further exploration into commercial flying became non existent, as focus shifted to the war effort.
However, this changed by the end of the 1940s and the world began to enter what was affectionately known as ‘The Golden Age of Travel’.
Flying was becoming increasingly popular but it wasn’t really until the 1980s & 1990s where the world saw the introduction of ‘budget’ airlines.
It was with the prevalence of these airlines that flying was no longer seen as a luxury and flying globally became truly accessible to the mainstream masses.
This meant that the popularity of elopements of course began to rise as couples began to search for that ‘something a little bit different’ and so this will naturally have played a part in couples coming from all over the world to get married in Denmark.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Denmark isn’t always the obvious choice for an elopement. There are a lot of other fabulous and totally dreamy countries out there where an elopement might seem like a more fitting choice.
But Denmark has a lot of things going for it, which is why currently around 15,000 international couples travel to Denmark EVERY YEAR for their wedding. Isn’t that a staggering number for such a relatively small country?!!
So why choose Denmark for your elopement? What is Denmark’s secret?
Well, one of the main things that attracts a lot of couples to Denmark is the bureaucracy, or more to the point, the lack of it.
The process of getting married in Denmark is simple, straightforward and hassle free and when you’re an international couple looking for somewhere to get married abroad, I can guarantee this reason is going to be pretty high up on your list of requirements.
You want your wedding to be an enjoyable experience from start to finish and that includes the paperwork part!
Multinational couples who are trying to get married in one of their resident countries will often discover that ‘marrying a foreigner’ instantly makes the process 10 times harder. More paperwork, more offices, more appointments, more bureaucracy, more waiting for decisions and sadly more tears.
This is one of the main reasons why couples make that all important internet search “which is the easiest country to get married for foreigners?”
Couples soon discover Denmark’s marriage process for international couples is, for the most part, simple whoever and wherever you are.
The requirements here are strict but accessible and there is just one government department to go through, set up specifically to process international marriage applications.
This relatively straightforward process is one of the main reasons why Denmark is so popular for international couples.
See the required documents to get married in Denmark here.
Another reason Denmark is so popular with international couples, is its forward thinking attitude to LGBTQ+ rights. Denmark was the first country in the world to legalise same sex marriage in 2012.
Prior to this Denmark was the first country in the world to recognise same sex partnerships, when in 1989 the world’s first same sex registered partnership took place in Copenhagen in an event that saw 11 same sex couples make history.
Because of this, Denmark has, since the late 80s, also been seen as a huge beacon of hope for same sex couples around the world who might be facing persecution or discrimination in their own countries for simply being in love.
As global travel became more and more popular, Denmark saw more and more same sex couples coming here so they too could formalise their love in a country that just wants people to feel at home in being themselves.
While it’s difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint the beginning of the upward trend of international couples coming to Denmark to one particular instance or situation, we can conclude that getting married in Denmark appears to start to become increasingly popular from the 1980s onwards, in a timeline that, in short, looks a little like this:
Regardless of when Denmark became popular, what we do know is it is popular for all the right reasons.
It is a beautiful place full of kindness, acceptance and love. So much so, even the government wants international couples to feel that, no matter their background or circumstances, this is a place where they feel truly welcome. A place where they just have to get married.
The Danish International Wedding Industry is an industry that is full of pride!
Bursting to the brim with incredible professionals, artists, experts and all round lovely people, who will make your wedding here as an international couple getting married in Denmark, one that is simply perfect from that first internet search to you saying your “I Do!”
*We do always recommend you check directly with the German authorities whether you will need an Apostille legalisation on your Danish marriage certificate as there may be certain circumstances in which this will be required.
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