Having what feels like decades of experience dealing with European bureaucracy, the boy and I decided that we should go to the commune as soon as possible after deciding to get married. And indeed based on this vast knowledge of the potential administrative difficulties of a European-non-European marriage, we in fact went to the commune three months before he officially proposed.
In the Belgian system, the office that determines your eligibility to marry as well as your actual marriage location depends on your post code. You have absolutely no choice in the matter, unless you feel like moving to a new place just to be married in their city hall. It’s an odd arrangement as I’m used to the American system where you marry wherever you want, in a church, on the beach, in your parents’ home— but we are in Belgium, so we do as the Roman so they say. Fortunately for us, after moving apartments twice in Ixelles (1050) we are now located smack in the middle of the shard that is Bruxelles-Ville (1000). And as our postcode is mille Bruxelles, we are one of the lucky few to be married at the historic Grand Place!
Contrary to our future wedding location, our marriage office is so inconspicuous that I originally thought we were at the wrong place. Rue Grétry is a dingy street near De Brouckere, and the office itself— in true Bruxelloise fashion— had no distinguishing features on the outside. I’m guessing it means you need to purposefully be looking for it to find it.
When we entered, it was empty. Barren. Deserted. Apparently no one was getting married. We were called in very shortly and a kind man named Mohamed took my identity card and the boy’s temporary papers to check our eligibility.
Apparently, even though I have been a resident in Brussels for a full year (versus the boy’s four months), even though I’m on a full-time contract (versus the boy’s jobseeker status), I was ineligible to open the marriage file as my residency is renewed yearly but he was eligible, even though he didn’t even have his residency card (his document was being renewed every six months due to his status). Plus the fact that on their record I was still living in Ixelles. Ah, the unfairness of the nationality lottery and domiciliation bureaucracy!
We were given a list of requirements, which are the following:
- A copy each of our passports and identity cards
- A copy each of our birth certificates
- A Certificate of Celibacy each (which is valid for three months from the date of issue)
- A Certificate of Nationality each
- And in my case, a certificate from the Ixelles commune (but I needed to register in the Brussels one anyway so scratch that)
The boy, as a citizen of a country signatory to the Hague Convention, could have all his documents from his country of origin or the Norwegian consulate here in Brussels. Myself, as a citizen of a country not signatory to the convention, needed all my documents apostilled by the Belgian consulate in the Philippines. That wouldn’t be too much of a problem, as my documents needed to come from the Philippines anyway.
All documents had to be translated into French or Dutch, by a traducteur juré. What exactly is a traducteur juré?
We were told that unfortunately we could not reserve our date, despite the fact that on the website it’s stated that a date can be reserved up to a year in advance. No, that only applies to European-European marriages, or conversely to non-European marriages. Unions like ours are a special case.
Not only that, but we would have to undergo individual interviews prior to being allowed to be married. The interview would be scheduled as soon as we got them all the required documents. The boy, as a non-French speaker, would need the mysterious traducteur juré present.
It was June and we wanted to be married on the 17th of May 2016, so there was time. We just need to figure out how exactly to order our documents from Belgium, how to get them to Belgium, and how to time them precisely so that they arrive in such a way that they are all valid at the same time relative to each other, and to our ideal wedding date. Let the strategizing commence!
An interesting note: prominently displayed on the upper right hand corner of our document was “Venir à deux: OUI.” (Translated, “Came as a couple: YES”) Prospective husbands and wives beware, come together for your commune requirements or forever have official proof otherwise!