How to Get Married in Shanghai

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Foreign boy meets Chinese girl. Foreign boy falls for Chinese girl. They decide to get married. Is it really that easy? Thankfully for most people, getting legally married in China is not hard. “I’ve had to deal Chinese bureaucracy and procedures many times, and it’s usually a lot of mafan. But getting married was incredibly easy,” says Blake Stone-Banks, who married his Chinese wife a few years ago. This is what you need to do to make it legal.

Step 1: Know your country’s rules

Go to your country’s embassy or consulate website to learn about your specific country’s requirements, as most of these websites list guidelines for getting married in China. Most countries require you to provide proof that you’re single and eligible to marry, which usually comes in the form of a signed affidavit.

Step 2: Go to your embassy

Set up an appointment with your embassy or consulate to acquire your certificate or “affidavit of marriageability,” as the U.S. Embassy calls it. During your appointment, you must take the following documents with you: your passport or ID, notarized proof that any previous marriages were terminated (divorce papers or death certificate), your Chinese partner’s national ID card (身份证), and your partner’s hukou (户口). Once you’ve obtained this affidavit, make sure the document is in both English and Chinese, otherwise you’ll need to have the affidavit translated into Chinese and notarized.

Step 3: Take an official photo

Since you need three formal pictures as a couple to apply for your marriage license, we recommend checking out the China Photo Studio in Wangfujing. This old shop takes traditional, Chinese style pictures that come out looking authentic rather than cheesy. Their pictures are perfect to use for your formal photos and give you and your spouse some unique wedding photos to commemorate the occasion.

Step 4: Go to the marriage office

Head to the Marriage Registration Office and apply for your marriage license. It’s important to note that a Chinese national must get married wherever his or her hukou was issued, so you’ll need to find out where the appropriate marriage office is based on your partner’s hukou—you may end up having to leave town for this part.

Locally, there is a Marriage Registration Office at No. 15, Lane 123 Yanping Lu (延平路123弄15号, Tel: 6267-2863), but check out this full list of locations. Take your certificate of marriageability, three formal pictures of you and your loved one together, your IDs, and your Chinese partner’s hukou, and all that’s left is to answer a few questions and fill out a few forms at the marriage office. Marriage licenses are typically issued on the same day, so you should have your marriage license in hand when you leave the office.

4 COMMENTS

  1. You forgot the step before step 1: buy an apartment otherwise her parents are just going to say no. Then the step after that is agreeing to hold the second most lavish wedding China has ever seen with all her friends, family, family friends, friend’s family, friends of friends’ family, family friends of friends and the gate guard at their compound. Then you need to agree that even though Chinese tradition dictates that the bride’s parents furnish the house, that because you are a diurty stinking foreign devil, logically you must CRAP GOLD COINS and therefore the parents don’t need to pay for a dang thing. … The step after that is to fully surrender your manhood to your potential mother in law, preferrably on a silver platter that she can keep as well and agree that any squalling babes will be raised PRECISELY according to their specifications and none of this -international-schools-and-no-brainwashing malarky. Following this, you need to sign an edict agreeing that Christmas no longer exists and that Chinese New Year is the ONLY festival worth celebrating and it will be spent at THEIR house for three days with ALL of their aunts and uncles ESPECIALLY the one who hasn’t taken a bath since Deng Xiaoping died. Finally, you need to hand over all your bank cards to your prospectivce spouse, as well as a long list of the reasons why you can NO LONGER BE TRUSTED with money and that you surrender your financial responsibilities to Auntie LiLi who keeps all her money in a sock. … After you have gone through all these steps, you can consider following the steps as laid out above, or you can just find a decent-sized tree and hang yourself.

  2. @Nigel come on… I have no home and I’m relatively poor compared to the blokes my wife could be married to. Nevertheless I got married: I don’t have a house (here in China at least) but I know how to make her feel good and special, and that’s my villa for her. You just gotta find somebody who loves you and not the money. Gold-digging women are not China’s prerogative – welcome to the modern era. I’m not being sexist because this is stuff you find in any anthropology textbook: women usually choose a partner based on a perception of security which changes with cultural values and social norms. Perhaps my wife and in-laws are not the stereotypical shanghainese, but let me tell you that my situation is very different from the one you depicted. With only one exception though – the Chinese wedding ceremony… I kinda abhor the idea of it, but ultimately I gladly want to do it for the woman I love. And hey, we are in China! So we’re never playing a home game. My idea is that you can always have you celebration of choice (pagan, catholic, muslim, mormon, whatever) when you’re in your own country dominated by a different set of social rules and liberal values. If my wife was the foreigner living in my homeland then I would surely expect her to align with the rules and values of me and my people, not the opposite. Ultimately it’s all about tolerance and reciprocity.

  3. I’m glad you had a good experience, Tom. As for cultural values – I came into it knowin what was expected of me. However, I also came into it knowing what was exoected of her, only to see all my responsibilities materialise without fail, but when it came to hers… well, for one reason or another, they just didn’t apply. I’ve no objection to a society play by a different set of rules – just as long as I’m allowed to play too.

  4. well I’m offended to be honest, you make it sound like my wife likes my passport over my personality and other things – which is very far from the truth. The security in the equation is the fact I provide her with the emotional stability and projectuality a woman like her can appreciate. As for the passport thing, she’s pretty well off and doesn’t even want to give up her benefits + pension funds for a lousy Schengen passport (for what benefit?). She can travel pretty much wherever she wants, and she did, without me. Not the average “Lili” from the forsaken mountainous countryside looking for a ticket to ride to the free world (with all due respect for the Lilis out there).

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