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Our wedding theme is now Blue Hydrangea and Red Tape

April 20, 2010

As feared, this is shaping up to be another good story.

So let’s start at the beginning.

November, 2009

After meetings with several different Belgian wedding planners, BF and I were thrilled when we finally found a person who was organized, professional and understood what we were going for with this whole ordeal. Low-key yet classy? check. Fun and intimate? check. Realistic budget? check. Most importantly, experience with unraveling the Belgian red tape? HIRED.

So, with a professional planner in our employ to do all of our stressing for us, we spent the rest of November traveling and relaxing.

Melissa and I relaxing in the Tulleries instead of dealing with wedding stuff. Paris. November 2009.

December 2009

Met with Planner and drafted a To-Do list. One of the main points on that list was registering our civil ceremony (quick fun fact: there are two wedding ceremonies in Belgium – a civil one and a religious one. Have to have the civil one before you can have a religious one) with the Leuven commune. Planner gave us a list of documents to procure while we were home for the holidays and said she’d take care of all the registering in February.

And what were those docs that we had to pick up? Our birth certificates. Easy stuff. Made a quick trip to my dad’s closet, opened up his box-o-important-stuff and found my original right away. Even BF got his without issue.

So, we commenced with enjoying the festivities.

We hung out in limos and attended important weddings. Pittsburgh. December, 2009.
Instead of enjoying Christmas we should have been making calls to the PA and OH departments of Vital Statistics.

January/February 2010

Back in Belgium we researched how to get that pesky “proof of non-marriage” form and were thrilled when our planner informed us that it was as simple as stopping by the U.S. embassy in Brussels, paying $20 a person and having an embassy official sign a one-page document. It may have taken a few weeks for both BF and I to have a free afternoon to get to the embassy during their opening hours but, eventually, we got PROOF of the one thing we were trying to change – we were both single.

March 2010

In the first week of March we met with the Planner and gave her all of the documents on the commune’s “Papers We Randomly Decided are Necessary for Marriage in Our Town” list.

Planner called a few days later and gave us an update – she stopped by the commune and everything looked great, we just needed to stop ourselves and show them my original birth certificate (she had taken a copy of mine, figuring the real thing wasn’t needed). She was happy to get the original from me and go herself but I said I’d go since I was going to be there renewing my residency card anyway.

No worries.

April 2010

I go to the commune to renew my residency permit. Just to be mean, the Red Tape Gods lulled me into a false sense of security and made the whole process quick and painless. It was so easy, the residence permit lady even directed me to the correct desk for marriage  stuff and helped me skip to the front of the line. Zero wait time. I should have known something was wrong.

I sit down at the desk and a lady (who was clearly channeling the Belgian version of a disgruntled postal worker) glares at me and my folder of documents, insulted that I am asking her to do her job. Ignoring all of the signs that pointed to “leave now, this is not going to go well” I introduced myself and explained my situation. At which point…

Office Drone: (glancing briefly at my birth certificate) This will not do.

Me: What do you mean? It’s my original birth certificate. From the day I was born. See the pretty yellow seal?

Office Drone: Yes. But it’s too old.

Me: What? It’s 26 years old. Because I am 26 years old.

Office Drone: Exactly. Too old.

Me: What?? It’s the official one. It’s the stamped, sealed, signed, original birth certificate for a 26 year old. How old would you prefer me to be?

…. this went back and forth for awhile, turns out I needed to be between 6 months and 3 years old…

Me: (trembling with irritation) Ok. Fine. But my wedding planner stopped in and whoever she spoke with said my certificate was okay, you just needed to see the original. This is the original. What has changed since then?

Office Drone: What? That is impossible.We do not speak to 3rd parties. You and your fiance are the only people we can talk to regarding marriage forms.

Me: Ummmm… so you are saying she’s lying? [i know she’s not lying. she showed me forms from the Leuven commune.]

Office Drone: Yes.

Me: Awesome. Thanks. So…. ultimately you are saying that I need a more original birth certificate and then I’m good?

Office Drone: No.

Me: (purple faced) ??????????

Office Drone: You need the new original to be certified by apostille.

Me: (purple faced) I need an apostle? Pretty sure they are long gone.

… this went back and forth until I learned that an apostille is like a government official who makes documents super official for other governments…

Me: Fine. I get a new original certificate. Have it signed by apostille. Bring it to you. Then you let me set the date at the Stadhuis?

Office Drone: No. You need to have all of these things as well.

And then she handed me a checklist in Dutch and gave me a look that said “If you don’t leave now I will eat you.”

Considering how badly I wanted to slap her, I decided to just cut my losses and leave. And cry. And freak out.

Fortunately, a few phone calls with the wedding planner and my mom, some translating and some web searching revealed that getting a new birth certificate + an apostille + the other items on the checklist isn’t tooooooo difficult.

Just time consuming and irritating.

But I’ll leave the details of my “TO-DO-SOON-So-I-Can-Set-A-Date-At-The-Commune” list for a later post… just thinking about all of this is raising my blood pressure.

I think I’ll go enjoy this gorgeous, warm-ish day in Belgium. Remind myself that aside from one grumpy person and a mound of red tape, Leuven is about the loveliest place around.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Melissa permalink
    April 20, 2010 11:05 pm

    Wow, that is all that I have to say! I am excited to have made a guest appearance in your blog. Clearly, relaxing involves wearing a scarf in Paris 😉

  2. April 21, 2010 6:05 am

    how frustrating. What a burocratic mess…we registered for our wedding in Leuven in about 5 minutes. We put 2 signatures on a document and paid some money and we got a tiny little paper home to fill in and bring back with the names of the witnesses we had chosen. Quite easy if you are both Belgian citizens…clearly that’s not the case for foreigners

  3. Mom permalink
    April 21, 2010 6:06 pm

    We had a lovely trip to Harrisburg today and now are in possession of an Apostille certified certification of your birth. I still think I should have flown over and, as your Mother, certified that I did indeed give birth to you. That would have been an even BETTER story!

  4. May 4, 2010 12:57 am

    I’d stumpled upon your blog. My sister had to go through the same thing with her wedding. They wanted a new birth certificate and apostille (a-po-steel). She need it in a rush, so basically she had Apostille Pros retrieved her birth certificate from Los Angeles, CA and had it apostille then sent it overseas. That saved a lot of time and headaches.

    Hopefully, your wedding turned out fabulous. Weddings can be stressful, you should have your maid of honor handle everything. Put the stress on her. 😛

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