At the end of last year, Estonia became even more digital and hassle-free – getting married online by submitting a marriage application online via the e-population register takes just a few clicks. The ceremony will stay physical (at least, for now), but the electronic application will save valuable time for people.
Welcome to the extensive digital state where 99% of all public services are online, except three! No, wait, scratch that – during the pandemic, the government quickly enabled all e-notary services, turning the remaining physical real estate transaction digital.
So that leaves us with only marriage and divorce being non-digital services. False again! Getting married online was enabled on December 30th 2022, followed by e-divorce coming up in the next couple of years.
But even though you might assume it would be the anti-social Estonians saying “I do” via Zoom or Teams, that’s not quite the reality. As off-putting as it might seem at first glance to go against a sacred tradition of matrimony by turning it into a series of clicks, this is not the essence of the service.
Estonia’s public governance is citizen-centric, so the intention is not only to provide online services but to offer them proactively and connect events taking place in people’s lives. E-marriage is the first life event service in force in Estonia, and many more are to be following suit soon, such as childbirth.
The newly introduced life event service was implemented as a digital marriage application, enabling data submission remotely in the e-population register environment. You would still have to (and most likely want to) be present for the wedding ceremony itself; solely the administrative process leading up to “I do”-s is now more convenient.
E-population register will guide you through a series of steps, asking for the data of the future spouse, keeping or changing the surname of one spouse, deciding the forms of proprietary, and finally paying the 30€ state fee. It sounds simple, and it is, but not an immediate process. This is not due to technological incapabilities but rather because such a decision with long-term consequences needs proper thinking time. Therefore, there is a one-month evaluation time in place before the bill for the state fee and approved decision will pop to your mailbox.
However, this is not your typical ticking the “I have read the Terms & Conditions” box but submitting requires your full attention and fulfilment of marrying conditions. Such as being of legal age, not being a direct relative of the ascendant and descendent, and of course, currently not married.
E-marriage seems to have been welcomed – in just a couple of days, over 30 applications have been submitted, and users seem to have only good words to share about the experience. And it’s not hard to see why. More than half of Estonia is covered with natural landscape, so why wouldn’t I want my wedding location to have idyllic views? But to get married in a more remote municipality, I would have needed to take several on-site visits to submit the pre-marriage paperwork, spending more valuable time and money.
Now, however, I could submit the application from my living room sofa and walk down the aisle in a picturesque bog. Doesn’t this sound sublime to turn the statistics for marriage for the increase curve again in Estonia? I most definitely will be waiting for my Prince Charming to give the e-marriage a try!