Marriage migration makes Denmark ‘Europe’s Las Vegas’

Lenient laws for marrying bi-national couples makes Denmark a haven for Germans and their foreign fiancees

There’s a booming business on the island of Ærø, bringing in nearly seven million kroner a year: marrying Germans and their born-elsewhere beaus.

The business, also highly profitable in other towns and cities throughout Jutland and southern Denmark, has earned the area the title of 'Europe’s Las Vegas'.

According to Agence France-Press (AFP), some 6,000 couples come to Denmark to take advantage of its less bureaucratic wedding laws each year.

All of the weddings that take place on Ærø comply with EU regulations, according to registrar Joan Lykke Ammersbøll, who told AFP that it’s a difference in the two nation’s mentalities toward weddings.

“In Germany, there’s a distance between the people working at the courts and those who are going there to marry. They feel like they are sitting in court,” she said. “Here, they are more welcome.”

But that’s not quite the German take. According to a German Interior Ministry spokesperson, many consider Denmark’s marriage regulations “unbureaucratic” because they only take into account Danish law when marrying bi-national couples.

The EU requires that couples provide proof of identification, proof they entered the country legally and, when applicable, finalised divorce papers from any previous marriages.

Germany also requires a court-reviewed document stating the foreigner is not married in their home country. Denmark does not, and Germans looking to bypass this often-debilitating obstacle are capitalising on Denmark’s leniency – and adding to the country’s capital.

“There’s income for the hotels, the ferry, the florist. Many of these people will come back and visit us, so it’s really good for the future, too,” Jørgen Otto Jøgensen, an employee at the tourist office, told AFP.

Hairdresser Margit Nørby can testify to that. She charges roughly 100 euros for a wedding-do.

“Some [of the brides] really want big hair and they come with big dresses and make a big deal out of it,” Nørby told AFP.

Thirty-seven year-old Benjamin Krause came to Ærø to marry his Japanese girlfriend Natsuko Kubota.

Kraus expressed disappointment at not being able to marry in his hometown, but not enough to overshadow his successful marriage.

“There is some disappointment, but I’m happy for the European community to be able to just hop over the border, do it here and be home again tomorrow,” he told AFP. “I think the [German] government just needs to get used to it, that everything is more international these days, and you have to make it easier for people who want to marry.”

Kubota praised Denmark’s openness.

“It’s just two people who want to be together, to get married,” she said. “Why make it so complicated?”

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