Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An April wedding?

It's not what you think.

I'm not planning to walk down the aisle until summer, but we'll be applying for a marriage license as soon as we can gather the necessary documents.

Today we tried to start the process and had a bit of a wild goose chase, but we got some information we needed.

First we went to a records office to try to get an initial consultation. As we found the building and wandered up a narrow staircase, I tripped over the top step, which was, according to Russian tradition, a different height than the rest of them. I cursed the steps aloud as a smartly dressed young man opened a door to reveal an elaborately decorated reception area. But we were told it was "lunchtime" and turned away.

Back downstairs, we tried again to decipher the schedule on the door. It seriously reminded me of one of those problems in a puzzle magazine. read further/-


1st and 3rd Tuesdays: 10am-1pm
2nd and 4th Tuesdays: 3pm-5pm

Vice Chairman:

1st and 3rd Thursdays: 10am-1pm
2nd and 4th Thursdays: 3pm-5pm

Apostille Services:

Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm (Lunch: 2-3pm)

After some discussion and checking of watches and calendars we determined that we were there on a 2nd Tuesday. It was now about 2:20 pm, so after 3 we would have a chance to see a chairman, if that was even what we needed.

Plan B was to visit some friends who lived around the corner and are a Russian/American couple themselves. That sounded a lot more appealing, so we took down the phone number for the records office and off we went to enjoy some fellowship.

One of the questions that came up over lunch with our friends was how I am going to get my name changed in all my documentation. From the Russian side of things, my residency permit is a stamp affixed to my passport. I will have to go and file some papers to redo it, or something.

Before leaving, we called Records and inquired about getting married and they said "That's not our department." O-kay.

Next try: call one of the wedding palaces. We could have done that first, but...oh well, we had to keep moving forward.

We called the nearest wedding palace (there are 4 where marriages to foreigners are allowed), and they were already BOOKED for the whole summer. We are more flexible with the date since we just want a stamp; the church ceremony will be our main event and we consider this just a formality even though we are required to go through the wedding palace anyway.

We went over to the wedding palace anyway to see if there were spots left for April or May. If they were full, we could try another wedding palace.

The wedding palace had a spacious waiting room with a video consisting of images of elaborately furnished rooms and classical music playing on a loop. I guess it was supposed to advertise their services? The soundtrack had me clawing at my ears after awhile.

When it was our turn, the woman sized up our situation and gave us a List for the scavenger hunt application process. It's pretty much the same information as on several sites, which is presented as "The 5 Steps to Marrying a Russian." The problem I was having was with the 4th point: the letter which proves there is no impediment to my getting married. I keep reading everywhere that this can only be done in Moscow, and I'm going to try the Consulate again here to see if they'll help me. But I think I'll be finding myself on a train to Moscow very soon...


  1. Oh! Following you through this process will be another VERY fun adventure!

    You brought back memories of the Wedding Palace in Ivanovo, whish is the same building where we had to go to record our adoptions. Because we had a first-rate facilitator, we always walked swiftly past all the people who had been waiting so long they appeared to be turned to stone, and right into the records room. With my American conscience, this always made me feel truly awful. I would have gladly waited to assuage my guilty feelings! And, anyway - it would surely have been interesting.

    As it happened, on one of our visits there, we hit the lunch hour (or hours?) and I was able to slip away and look upstairs at the Wedding Chapel. It was SOOOO pretty, and haunting really. This building had been the mansion of a lumber baron. To be all by myself in the foyer of this once stately home was - well, transporting! I was suddenly in a Tolstoy novel - or able to fill in all the details that were cloaked in mystery, when I was reading about such places. It was WONDERFUL!

    Now, have you and Andrei put a lock on a bridge? I wish you would! I think that is just the most tremendous custom! An engagement custom is just what the world has been needing, I think - and that s such a beautifully symbolic one.

  2. That stinks that you have so much red tape! What dramatic stories you'll have to tell to your children though. =)

  3. No, we haven't put a lock on a bridge, but I was at a wedding recently where they did that. The wedding palaces are pretty, but they've still got nothing on the holiness of a church wedding, I feel.

  4. That's why Mike and I got married in the US, it's so much easier from paperwork point of view. Everything I needed was a blood test that we are not relatives which we got at the local hospital. Good luck with Russian red tape!

  5. Olya, we want to have the church ceremony here, so we wanted to be legally married first. I suppose we could flown over the U.S. first and had a civil ceremony and then done the church ceremony here, but going to Moscow seems easier!

    Anyway, I've heard from people that it's easier to get married in the States, but we'll be living here, so we'll run into the red tape sooner or later.


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