What is a civil wedding?

A civil wedding refers to a marriage performed before an official in the Registry Office and recorded on files (a registry office wedding). After the ceremony, the Head of the Registry Office draws up a marriage certificate, a copy of which is issued for the bride and groom.

How long does a registry office wedding take?

A typical civil wedding ceremony held in the Registry Office usually lasts approximately 15-20 minutes. In case of a wedding ceremony with the assistance of a sworn interpreter, this time can vary depending on a type of interpreting selected by the bride and groom (liaison, a vista or consecutive interpreting, all of which are explained in more detail in the remaining part of the article).

What is a sworn translation (interpreting)?

A sworn (certified) translation (or interpreting) is a type of translation the content of which is confirmed by a signature and seal of a sworn translator (Polish to English). In order to become a sworn translator (interpreter) in Poland, a candidate must pass an official state examination. Afterwards, a translator (interpreter) is entered on the List of Sworn Translators and Interpreters kept by the Ministry of Justice.

Presence of a sworn interpreter in the Registry Office

In case of civil marriage in Poland, due to importance of statements made by a foreigner who does not speak Polish fluently in the Registry Office, the presence of a sworn interpreter of the English language is indispensable. Interestingly, the English language does not need to be native language of a person using the services of a sworn interpreter; however, the ability of such person to communicate fluently in English is a prerequisite. Participation of an English‑Polish sworn translator (interpreter) in procedures performed in the Registry Office guarantees securing legal interests of a foreigner who must be aware both of the contents of signed documents as well as legal consequences arising from statements made before an official at the Registry Office. Professional language support of an interpreter having suitable qualifications (that is qualifications of sworn interpreter of the English language) and skills also prevents misleading of a foreigner. During a visit in the Register Office, an interpreter presents his or her identity card and certificate confirming entry into the List of Sworn Translators issued by the Ministry of Justice. Additionally, during presence in the Registry Office, a sworn translator provides translation of all documents, certificates of civil status and other certificates issued by Polish and foreign offices.

How to book a Registry Office wedding?

Entering into marriage is certainly one of the most important events in any person’s life. In order for a ceremony to proceeded successfully and without unplanned surprises, it is good to find out how to book a wedding at a Registry Office in advance. If one of the parties is a foreigner who does not speak Polish fluently, a support of an English-Polish sworn translator (interpreter) will be necessary not only during the wedding ceremony, but already at the stage of submitting relevant documents to the Registry Office. When visiting the Registry Office, the bride and groom make relevant statements  confirmed with their handwritten signatures in the presence of an official of the Registry Office. The statements include:

  • declaration on absence of circumstances preventing conclusion of marriage;
  • statement on selection of a surname to be assumed upon conclusion of marriage by the spouses and their children;
  • statement regarding the children of persons who intend to enter into marriage.

Prior to visiting the Registry Office, it is worth finding out what documents will be required in case of specific bride and groom (a kind of ‘getting married abroad checklist’) and translating them from English beforehand. Thanks to this, a visit in the Registry Office will be conducted efficiently and smoothly. Such documents include:

  • valid identity document (identity card or passport);
  • document confirming that there are no obstacles to conclude marriage issued pursuant to the law of a foreigner’s country of origin. Usually, it is a certificate of marital status*; however, sometimes a copy of birth certificate is required and in case of persons who have been previously married, also a copy of a marriage certificate and a a document confirming annulment or dissolution of previous marriage or a copy of death certificate of a spouse;

* Sometimes citizens of countries where certificates on marital status are not issued (e.g. the United States, Philippines) must apply to a court for a consent to conclude marriage with a citizen of the Republic of Poland. Such consent is issued in non-contentious proceedings which also take place with participation of a sworn interpreter (since explanations and statements made by a foreigner require interpreting from English into Polish, and questions asked by the court require interpreting from Polish into English). Once a consent from the court is obtained, it must be submitted to the Registry Office as it is the required document confirming capacity to enter into marriage.

  • stamp duty payment confirmation (on the ground floor in the Registry Office in Wrocław, there is a cash deposit machine in which payments can be made with a payment card).

All documents drawn up in English require translation into Polish made by a sworn translator of the English language. The Registry Office keeps the submitted originals of documents and translations from English on file. Producing certified translation may last several days which you should allow for in your calendar.

Statements and documents must be submitted not later than a month before the planned wedding day. Only in extraordinary situations justified by exceptional circumstances the bride and groom can apply for a consent of the Registrar for shortening of the obligatory 30-day period which must lapse between submitting the documents to the Registry Office and making the statements on conclusion of marriage. That is why it is advisable to book a Registry Office wedding in advance.

While submitting documents, a sworn interpreter interprets both the content of signed documents prepared in the Polish language (a vista interpreting, also known as sight interpreting) as well as answers and explanations made orally by a foreigner in the English language. Once relevant statements are signed by a foreigner, a sworn interpreter also affixes his or her signature on the document with appropriate date and annotation “Interpreted into the English language”. Some registry offices require also leaving an imprint of the sworn interpreter’s seal (although such requirement does not find justification in the Act on the Profession of the Sworn Translator).

Presence of a sworn interpreter during civil marriage in Poland

As a general rule, if presence of a sworn interpreter of the English language is necessary while submitting documents and making statements in the Registry Office, a sworn interpreter is also an indispensable participant during wedding ceremony. The location of the interpreter depends on a number of people participating in a ceremony (or preferences of the bride and groom). Usually, a sworn interpreter stands next to the Registrar conducting the ceremony and faces persons gathered in the room (the bride and groom, witnesses and guests). However, sometimes during modest wedding ceremonies (or if the bride and groom wish to do so) a sworn interpreter takes a seat behind a person who needs having the ceremony interpreted into English. An interpreter interprets the content of a speech given by the Superintendent Registrar, the content of answers given by a foreigner in the English language and, needless to say, the content of the vows. Liaison interpreting (that is, interpreting made “sentence after sentence”) is the most convenient method of interpreting. Less frequently consecutive interpreting (which covers longer fragments of speech) is chosen. Contrary to vows (the content of which is determined in advance and does not cause problems during interpreting), speeches prepared by officials can vary greatly in contents. They can be brief and to the point, specifying rights and duties of the future spouses, but they can also take a form of ornate orations, filled with elocutionary recitals, embellished with numerous comparisons, quotes, and even jokes and, consequently, constitute a serious challenge even for experiences interpreters. And how long is a registry office wedding? As mentioned, it usually doesn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes. Recitation of marriage vows by the bride and groom is confirmed with their signatures (and signatures of witnesses) affixed on their marriage certificate. In order to be valid, a marriage certificate also requires a signature of a sworn interpreter of the English language who interpreted the ceremony.

In case of religious ceremony (concordat wedding), presence of a sworn interpreter is of quite different nature. An interpreter does not interpret the entire ceremony (the Mass) and interprets only the contents of marriage vows. If a foreigner is willing to make a vow in the Polish language, a sworn interpreter interprets the content of the vow into English in a way allowing the invited guests to understand it. Before determining the date of a wedding ceremony, it is worth contacting a selected parish and asking whether it is required to translate documents drawn up in English which will be submitted to a relevant parish-priest (e.g. certificate of baptism, certificate of confirmation).

The cost of having a sworn interpreter at your wedding

The cost of presence of a sworn interpreter during wedding ceremony includes costs and time of travel of an interpreter to the Registry Office or church (which in case of registry offices located outside Wrocław can significantly affect the cost of interpreting), performing interpreting service and also availability of an interpreter during the entire ceremony. The date of your wedding can also be a significant factor. Availability of a sworn interpreter during standard working hours (working days) is estimated differently from his/her availability on bank holidays. Also, a short period of time between confirming a need for interpreting service in the Registry Office and the date of presence of an interpreter in the Registry Office (for instance ordering a sworn interpreter overnight) can entail additional cost arising from so-called express service. Therefore, it is worth ordering services of a sworn interpreter and translator of the English language as soon as possible to ensure that a visit in the Registry Office as well as the interpreting and translation are conducted efficiently.

How much does it cost to translate a marriage certificate?

If you need to have a marriage certificate translated, contact the Office of the Sworn Translator of the English Language Jacek Kasprzyk. Price can vary depending on what mode of translation you select (standard or express). Estimation of the price is available within 60 minutes free of charge.

Do I need to translate my marriage certificate?

If the bride and groom plan to travel abroad and intend to register their marriage e.g. in a home country of a foreigner, it is worth having one’s marriage certificate translated into English by a sworn translator (possibly translation of an abridged copy of marriage certificate) which will allow to handle the paperwork abroad efficiently.

Certificate of acknowledgment of paternity

Presence of a sworn interpreter in the Registry Office is also required in case of acknowledgment of paternity (of a born child as well as an unborn child) by a foreigner who does not speak Polish fluently. A foreigner speaking English should confirm his identity with an identity card or passport and submit his birth certificate together with a certified (sworn) translation from the English language. These documents constitute a basis for entering relevant data into child’s birth certificate. An interpreter interprets questions asked by an official to determine whether a foreigner is a biological father of a child. Answers and explanations of a foreigner are also interpreted. Interpreting is produced as liaison or consecutive interpreting. What is more, an official explains differences between adoption and acknowledgement of paternity and provides instructions on rights and obligations connected with acknowledgement of paternity. The contents of instruction on rights and obligations can also be interpreted a vista (interpreting based on a written text) which facilitates the entire procedure and guarantees full fidelity of interpreting. Statement made by a father requires confirmation by the child’s mother within three months from its date. After taking the statement, a protocol is drawn up on which father, mother and sworn interpreter of the English language affix their signatures with date and annotation “Interpreted into the English language”.

Practical advice:

– originals of documents submitted by a translator together with their certified translations remain in the Registry Office on files. For this reason, it is worth having copies of such documents notarially certified beforehand as obtaining additional copies in the future may be hindered or may require longer delivery date. Additional copies of a sworn translation from the English language can always be collected against appropriate price from the translator who produced such translation.

Addresses and contact data of the nearest registry offices:

– Registry Office in Wrocław, ul. Pawła Włodkowica 20, 50-072 Wrocław, Phone: 71 777 91 50

– Registry Office in Trzebnica, plac Piłsudskiego 1, 55-100 Trzebnica, Phone: 71 388 81 16

– Registry Office in Oława, Rynek 25, 55-200 Oława, Phone: 71 313 38 58

– Registry Office in Oleśnica, Rynek Ratusz, 56-400 Oleśnica, Phone: 71 798 21 71

– Registry Office in Kobierzyce, al. Pałacowa 1, 55-040 Kobierzyce, Phone: 71 369 81 00

– Registry Office in Środa Śląska, pl. Wolności 5, 55-300 Środa Śląska, Phone: 71 317 34 30

– Registry Office in Katy Wrocławskie, Rynek 1, 55-080 Kąty Wrocławskie, Phone: 71 390 72 18

– Registry Office in Brzeg Dolny, ul. Kolejowa 29, 56-120 Brzeg Dolny, Phone: 71 319 51 17

– Registry Office in Jelcz-Laskowice, ul. Wincentego Witosa 24, 55-230 Jelcz-Laskowice, Phone: 71 381 71 00

– Registry Office in Wołów, Rynek 1, 56-100 Wołów, Phone: 71 319 13 01

– Registry Office in Sobótka, Rynek 1, 55-050 Sobótka, Phone: 71 31 62 043

– Registry Office in Milicz, ul. Trzebnicka 2, 56-300 Milicz, Phone: 71 384 04 68

– Registry Office in Żmigród, pl. Wojska Polskiego 2, 55-140 Żmigród, Phone: 71 385 30 57

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