70: Swiss couples marry twice – who knew?

One undocumented Swiss wedding tradition no one warns you about: Brides and their friends take to the streets dressed in colourful costumes, 'selling' trinkets and candies, and allowing their customers to give them a peck on the cheek, with their entourage taking photos that will later be tallied. Apparently, the more kisses, the luckier the bride. It is a little like watching a travelling party; the joy and hilarity is infectious. There is no fixed price on the trinkets - people can give as much or as little as they like.

Only married couples can hold a wedding in Switzerland.

No, I am not having a stroke. On doing a thing, the Swiss like to make sure it is done right, so sometimes this means doing it twice, as is the case with weddings.

Swiss bureaucracy demands it: All couples are required to marry at a government registry office before holding a wedding ceremony.

This adds a unique air of terror to North Americans living in Switzerland for three reasons:

1. In North America, a marriage permit is not a marriage certificate. It is a non-binding document that expires without any effect should the couple opt to go their separate ways.

2. In Switzerland, a marriage permit is a marriage certificate.

3. The Swiss do not print any official documents in English. They are not concerned with multiculturalism here. If you’re going to live in Switzerland, buck up and learn one of the four official languages. If you find yourself accidentally married as a result of a 10-minute visit to a registrar’s office where you thought you were applying for a bicycle license and could not read the marriage application in German/French/Italian/Romansch, then that is your problem, not Switzerland’s.

Imagine the interesting scenarios these ingredients could cook up, not to mention the goldmine it could create for Swiss lawyers.

A Swiss couple can just marry the one time at the registry office and call the job done. Some couples might want to do that to avoid some other wedding day traditions such as kidnapping the bride and making her knit a scarf while her groom searches for her.

Sometimes, instead of the search, the groom is sent to cut firewood, which shows the Swiss prize work so highly that they will seize any opportunity to get some done.

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