Minorities living in the Czech Republic can only have a civil wedding conducted in Czech. However, that practice might soon change. The lower house of Parliament is due to debate an amendment to the law on birth registers that would allow Slovaks, Poles, Vietnamese and other minorities living in the country to say ‘I do’ in their native language.
Until 2015, minorities living in the Czech Republic were allowed to have a civil wedding conducted in their native language. That year, however, the Ministry of Interior issued a legal analysis that deemed the practice unlawful. The current law on birth registers, names and surnames thus stipulates that civil weddings can only be conducted in Czech.
Christian Democratic Party deputy Pavla Golasowská, who herself comes from Třinec, a town on the Czech-Polish border, has put forward an amendment to the current legislation, which would allow weddings in other languages to take place again.
“I made use of the opportunity that the law on birth registers is currently in its second reading in the lower house to put forward my proposal, which seeks to renew the possibility to conduct weddings in a minority language.
“The amendment has two conditions. One is a ten percent threshold for the given minority. The other is that both the wedding officer and the registrar have to speak the language of that minority.”
Mariusz Walach, chairman of the Congress of Poles in the Czech Republic, which represents the Polish minority in negotiations with the Czech government, says they would definitely welcome this change.
“Not only would we welcome this change. It is an absolute matter of course for us. Since the Poles were established as a minority in this country after the First World War, we have always had this right.
“When I got married myself, I couldn’t imagine that the wedding would take place in a different language than my native Polish.
“The fact that it was suddenly made impossible took us by surprise. So if the amendment is approved, we will of course be very happy.”
At the same time, Mr Walach points out that many Poles prefer to have weddings in churches, which allow the ceremony to be conducted in their native language.
Marcel Winter, head of the Czech-Vietnamese community, says that while some members of the Vietnamese community would welcome this change, most of them have already found their own solution to the problem.
“The Vietnamese have already found their way to have a marriage in their own language. They have two marriages, in fact. The official wedding takes place in the Czech Republic and then they fly to Vietnam to have another wedding ceremony with all their Vietnamese relatives.”
Among the minorities that would also fulfil the ten percent threshold for civil weddings to take place in their own language are Slovaks, the biggest minority in the Czech Republic, and the Roma.
The amendment to the law on birth registers, names and surnames is likely to be debated by the lower house in September, when deputies meet again after the summer break.