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Before Heading for Bosnia, Soldiers Get Married in Denmark

December 22, 1995

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) _ U.S. Army Lt. Deryck Julien had an important mission to accomplish before he set out for his potentially dangerous assignment in Bosnia: He got married.

Julien, a Boston native based in central Germany, and fiancee Anja Orbanz of Dresden headed north to Denmark, where weddings are quick, paperwork is light and registrars are multilingual.

``Getting married now gives me something to look forward to when I’m down there,″ Julien said after the couple’s brief marriage ceremony Friday. ``I’m very, very happy.″

Since the United States decided to send 20,000 troops into Bosnia as part of a NATO peace mission, the tiny border town of Bov has seen a rush of Germany-based U.S. soldiers intent on matrimony.

Bov for years has advertised its express weddings by sending out brochures in German and English to Danish embassies and consulates in other European countries.

Its reputation has spread by word of mouth across the 22 U.S. military bases in Germany. Julien knew several soldiers who got married in Bov.

Now the town is cashing in on Bosnia.

``The word is going around that you can come to Denmark and get married in a very, very short time,″ said Julien, 31, of the 22nd Signal Brigade in Darmstadt. He said the marriage gives his bride military benefits such as housing and base privileges, as well as giving him someone to come home to.

So far this month 33 couples, of which one or both are U.S. soldiers, have been united in wedlock by Bov registrar Connie Hansen _ more than four times the normal rate of eight military couples.

Normally Hansen performs weddings only on Tuesdays, but she kept her town hall office open this Thursday and Friday to accommodate the rush into Bosnia.

``There goes my Christmas holidays. But that’s fine with me,″ she said, laughing.

Julien arrived in Bov with Orbanz, 21, on Thursday, and was married in a 15-minute ceremony Friday _ proof of Denmark’s reputation for no-fuss nuptials.

Many other European nations impose waiting periods, sometimes weeks long, between the date a marriage license is requested and the wedding. Some also require at least one spouse to be a legal resident. Paperwork and document translation also present obstacles.

It takes a soldier an average of 2 1/2 months to get married in Germany, Julien said.

``German authorities demand that all American documents are translated into German,″ Hansen said. No such language requirements slow the procedure in Denmark. ``We don’t translate them into Danish. We speak and read English.″

Danish law requires just 24 hours to check foreign documents. Registrars only need a birth certificate, a passport and a valid divorce document if either was married before.

The cost of a civil ceremony for foreign couples is just $91.

In Toender, the largest Danish border town, registrars performed 456 weddings in 1988. Six years later, there were 1,249 ceremonies, said Toender registrar Erik Bang Toft.

Eighty of the couples who wed there in 1994 were Danes. The remainder came from 103 other countries, primarily the United States, followed by Germany, Turkey, Poland, Spain and Bosnia, Toft said.

In Bov, nuptial ceremonies have more than tripled since 1991, when 254 couples were married. There were about 800 couples joined in matrimony last year and 873 so far this year, only a fraction of whom were Danish, Hansen said.

After their marriage ceremony, the new Mr. and Mrs. Julien left Bov for a shopping trip before celebrating Christmas together. After the Bosnian mission ends, they plan to settle in Boston.

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