Road To Wedlock Part II: Barely Legal

Gawd, the amount of misplaced search engine traffic I’m going to get from that…

So, it’s done. I’m – in the eyes of the People’s Republic of China – married. And here’s the kicker: how many people do you know showed up for their marriage unshowered, unshaved and not having brushed their teeth? Well, to be fair, how many people propose over shredded cow tongue… apparently, conventions are not my strong point when it comes to marriage.

Anyway, just to be clear, this whole “marriage” thing is only a legality. Though it’s been a bit of a trip calling Maggie 老婆 for the last couple days, we’re both committed to preserving the idea that our “marriage” is the ceremony in February. The reason we did this now was because when we do actually get married, we wanted it to be official, and as planning the ceremony is an exercise in patience like I’ve never experienced before… we just wanted one less thing we had to worry about.

Turns out we chose a great day for it – as Monday was a collision of good luck days between the Western and Chinese calendars. It being the 18th of December and the 28th day of the 10th month respectively. Both 18 and 28 (or indeed any number with in it) are considered lucky because 八 sounds similar (in a rather abstract way) to . This led to people all over China using Monday as their wedding day (a photo from the Nanjing marriage office). And here Maggie and I just showed up, oblivious to what other couples likely spent months preparing for.

We were also saved the hardship of any long lines. We arrived to an empty office, and were later joined by just two other couples. I was amazed at the coincidence that both couples were also foreign/Chinese pairings. Amazed until Maggie later explained that we were at a special office just for foreigners marrying Chinese. Yeah, not the sharpest toothpick of the bunch, me.

The rest of the time in Dalian was also excellent, despite being short. It was great to see my buddies Gabriel and Rick again. Them being two of the few remaining friends I have left in the city. Transient friends kinda suck that way.

In case it is useful to anyone:

How To Get Legally Married In China (or at least in Dalian)

  1. Get a Certificate of Non-Impediment (or an ‘affidavit in lieu of’ if your government doesn’t produce the first, as is the case with Canada). I got this from the Canadian Consulate in Shanghai for 345 RMB. Despite various web sites saying I needed to get this from the office that handles the area I was getting married in (that would be Beijing for Dalian), it was just fine.
  2. Get the certificate or affidavit translated. We were told various things here, such as needing to get this translation done by a notary. Perhaps this is only the case if you get the forms online and not direct from the consulate in China (as they notarize it themselves). We did, however, need to get the form translated by an official translation company (the guys with the “we translate officially” red stamp).
  3. Get a bunch (we needed four, but I’d get a few extra) of official marriage photos done with you and your wife/husband to be. These are a lot like the passport/ID photos continually needed by the bureaucracy of China and can be got at any photo shop. The photo needs to be on a red background, and you both need to be in it together. Smiling is frowned upon.
  4. Go to Dalian (or indeed where ever your loved one’s hùkǒu is) and go to the marriage office for foreigners (in Dalian it is on the 6th floor of 150 WanSui Rd.).
  5. Give the kindly woman with broken English the original certificate of non-impediment, the translation, the photos, your passport, and your Chinese-half’s ID card and Permanent Residence Booklet.
  6. You will then need to fill out three forms. One I believe is a general application form, and the other two are identical sworn statements from each of you. One is filled out in Chinese by your soon-to-be spouse and the other is filled out in English by you. It contains things like “do you swear you’re single?”, “do you REALLY swear you’re single?” and “are you ill?” Plus the standard personal info (DoB, etc.).
  7. You give these to the woman and then swear that it is all true (after confirming she’s got the right spelling of your long Irish name). You also swear that you are aware of the health of the person you are marrying. This is a big hangup that Chinese seem to have. We didn’t need a health check but we had to be really clear that we KNEW, REALLY KNEW, our spouse wasn’t going to kack tomorrow.
  8. After staining your thumb red and putting your fingerprint on various spots of the recently filled-out documents, you are presented with two booklets and asked for 15 RMB.
  9. Leave the office wondering what the fuss was all about and why you have an ulcer for worrying that you were going to be turned away for not completing one of the steps properly. You’re married. Go celebrate.

In summary, I travelled 2,100km over about 10 hours (with busses, shuttles and planes), and paid a total of about 3000 RMB ($425 CAN) to get a 15 RMB ($2 CAN) booklet. But I did get one helluva wife outta the deal.

25 Responses

  1. Congratulations to you and Maggie! I enjoy reading your Road to Wedlock series, even if it’s only 2 episodes up ’till now. I’m sure there’s lots more to come.

  2. Congratulations! Now comes the fun (heavy on the sarcasm) part of planning a wedding. It’s likely to be just as painful in China as it is in the states or Canada. All that work for one day of activity. Good luck and do your best to enjoy it all.

  3. Hah… what ever happened to common law marriages? Do they even exist here? Or do you have to do paperwork for those too?

    But seriously, that’s cool about your marriage. I hope you have an awesome wedding with too many firecrackers and those pop-whizzle things that get stuck in the bride’s hair.

  4. Cheers guys.

    @Hek: you never cease to confuse me 🙂
    @Peter: Definitely expect more.
    @Martin: Dood… check out the latest post – I got your gift today!!
    @Shaun: Yeah, I’m trying to take it in stride, also because it’ll be the first time my family’s come to visit me here, I don’t want to be stressed out and miss that.
    @Ben: Never doubt that if there’s paperwork that CAN be done for something in China, there is paperwork TO be done for something in China. China loves its paper – hell, I swear the Chinese invented the stuff just to fill the massive void in their bureaucracy.

  5. @Ben: Never doubt that if there’s paperwork that CAN be done for something in China, there is paperwork TO be done for something in China. China loves its paper – hell, I swear the Chinese invented the stuff just to fill the massive void in their bureaucracy.

    I happen to have a government job (not in China) and it’s still all about paper. Not much happens electronically. I’ve learned on thing about it though. It’s also all about CYA. You cover your ass by having paperwork signed or at least viewed by other people. It’s ammunition for when things go wrong.

  6. Congratulations for getting this far, and good luck with the hopefully more fun steps ahead. China sure does know how to suck the romance out of this getting married stuff, don’t it?

  7. Congratulations!

    Funny, last Monday didn’t figure in our calculations for registry office day. We chose Christmas Day instead. Easy anniversary to remember I guess. Now here’s hoping we have all our i’s dotted and t’s crossed…..

  8. There are four regular commenters here that are dubbed with the Christian of all Christian names, “Chris”… odd that 3/4 of them would comment in a row… 🙂

    And best of luck Chris_bj… I definitely agree that picking a Western day to remember it is much easier… these cross-culture calendar mixes just mess me up. I still have trouble remembering when Maggie’s birthday is. Give me one day for 10 people and I’ll remember them all, give me two days for one person and I forget it in an instant.

  9. Congratulations Ryan.

    I share in the recollection of the nervous times of trying to line up all of the required documentation when one’s partner’s hukou is 1000 miles away from where one lives. Good to see that your process was subtly different to that in Lanzhou (didn’t need the official translations) as I’m sure that all marriage bureaux use randomly different procedures. Given the sterility of the office in which we did this it was mostly relief rather than joy that we’d “passed the test” and had been awarded our certificates.

    We also did it the other way round (‘ceremony’ first and then legal marriage after). Made for a slight complication during my wife’s UK Visa interview that we’d had a marriage ceremony but were only engaged…

    My wife was thrilled that our daughter was born on November 28th (十月初八) so had the same 8’s in both calendars and, of course, managed to avoid any fours. I couldn’t help but wonder if the hospitals are full of elective caesarian sections at the end of March…

  10. Man, hadn’t even thought about that “4” thing in relation to birthdays… here’s to hoping!

    I’m not at all looking forward doing the visa interview stuff… this wedding stuff is going to seem like a breeze by comparison… bah, one ulcer at a time.

  11. Humannaught – Congratulations and Best Wishes. Keep us posted on the party plans and above all: Keep copies of all your paperwork!

  12. RRRRRRyan ! Mate, you got off easily. A Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage in the Australian Consulate in Shanghai costs 660 Kuai, add the taxis, train fares, McDonalds etc.and we are gazing at not much change out of a grand . We got it last week. Was supposed to be married in the “special office just for foreigners marrying Chinese” in Nanjing, but suddenly there is a bird strike and a dead pelican down the turbine. Flame out.

    Seems I’ll be facing a review panel coming down from Anhui in the Spring Festival. Ma, Pa and Granny. Pa almost had chest pain when he heard that we had been living together for the last 3 years. I asked her if he might pour Hydrochloric acid on us when we were in bed. Gasoline and a lit match ? Attack me (or her) with an axe ? Shots fired in the study where we will be sleeping ? A hand-picked bunch of hired goons to adjust the Laowai’s attitude as it leaves to go to work ?

    Get a muffled “NO” to all these questions – she is under the quilt. Pa is astonished, he is just 2 years younger than me ! (he expostulates – I love that word). He is 20 years older than you, for Chr**ts sake !

    It is all in the Suzhou blog. The jamiesons_luck site is an oldie but a goodie, charts us from nearly the start of our relationship. http://www.20six.co.uk/jamiesons-luck-new is the extended version.

    Really great blog mate. I like your sense of humour !

    Jamieson.

  13. Ya lost me with the dead pelican.

    I tried to get on your blog, but the 20six.co.uk doesn’t seem to be a URL the Commies are currently accepting as ‘safe to play with’.

    I have been fortunate in that Maggie’s family has been great about me. I’ve heard all sorts of mixed reports from how other people have been welcomed into their new Chinese families and largely I’ve no complaints. Maggie meets my family next month… I can’t wait.

  14. Funny, http://www.20six.co.uk/jamiesons-luck-new and http://www.20six.co.uk/jamiesons_luck works just fine here in the ‘Zhou.. It’s not .com, just .co . Poms are strange sometimes 🙂

    You LUCKY b. A great family on Maggie’s side !

    I’m doing a kindergarten gig in SIP, about 1500 metres from home – it’s a cool gig, 17 hours teaching time a week, better money compared to Suzhou University on Dong Huan Lu, 18 months ago.

    I have had a couple of friends here in Suzhou – Canucks. Very similar to Australians in their outlook and behaviour. Really laid back, almost horizontal !

    Hey, I’ve heard REAL stories about “Why is that door different from all the other doors in this apartment block ?” “Oh, a foreigner was sleeping with a Chinese lady in his apartment – the father found out and he went there and chopped the door down with an axe. The guards just loitered in the stairwell and smoked while he chopped. Grabbed his daughter and dragged her away, it wasn’t a pretty sight.”

    Hmmmmm.

    J. Drop me an email if you have time !

  15. Pingback: Life In Suzhou China Blog | Adventures of the Humanaught » Blog Archive » Returning To Dalian

  16. Mate, Mrs Jamieson and I went through about 19% of the crap you two did. Got the certificate of No Impediment from the Oz Consulate in Shanghai, a letter from the local cops saying Madam Jamieson was indeed resident in Suzhou, my passport with a legit residence visa, a handful of pics of each of us separately, quick trip on the bullet train to Nanjing from Suzhou, about 700 kuai, some photos of us all lovey dovey and there you go.
    No finger painting, no health check.

    Signed, sealed, chopped and handed over.

    Gone from from stares,pointing and whispers for nearly 4 years to locked in. June 2007. Now I can tell all and sundry to f*ck off, allthough this has never happened.

    Now her Mum and Dad are living with us. They have to accept the reality that the double bed in the master bedroom is not just for me heh heh.

    Jamieson 🙂

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