This is part of my ongoing series on surviving in Germany based on my own experiences. Just like every other country, Germany has its own wedding traditions. Here are 6 peculiarities of German weddings.
In the past, people would go to the bride’s house the night before the wedding to break dishes and other ceramics out front. They believed this would scare away bad spirits and bring good luck to the marriage. Today, the couple organizes a party a few weeks before the wedding for the whole neighborhood. Some couples use the occasion to invite people who, due to budgetary reasons, they won’t invite to the wedding.
Guests bring old dishes or any other ceramics (vases, tiles, old sinks and toilets, etc.) and break them in a designated area. Glass is not allowed since glass represents good luck and shouldn’t be broken. The same goes for mirrors since breaking a mirror causes 7 years of bad luck. At the end of the night, the couple cleans up the broken pieces and disposes of them. This symbolizes their future life working together as husband and wife.
Civil Ceremony Required
In order for a marriage to be legal in Germany, couples must have a civil ceremony in the Standesamt or registry office. Couples who also wish to have a religious ceremony do it the following day. In that way, they can invite only close friends and family to the civil ceremony, and offer them lunch at a restaurant afterward. Then they save the big reception for after the religious ceremony.
Traditions after the Ceremony
It’s common to have a motorcade follow the wedding couple to the location of the reception. For this, each guest receives a ribbon to place on their car’s antenna, and as they drive behind the couple, they honk their horns to bring attention to them.
Another common practice is to have the couple cut out a heart shape drawn on a bed sheet before they enter the reception hall. After the heart is cut, a heart-shaped holed is left on the sheet. Two people hold out the sheet, and the groom carries the bride through the heart.
Creative Money Gifts
Wedding registries are not common, and guests usually give money as a gift. But instead of just placing the money in a card and calling it a day, Germans come up with all sorts of creative ways to give money gifts. They fold bills into different shapes and integrate them into a display based on the couple’s hobbies, honeymoon plans, where they met, etc. They can also integrate coins by placing them inside a small “treasure chest” or gluing them to the gift. These type of gifts are also used for adult birthdays.
Receptions are open-ended. They consist of a cocktail or coffee-cake hour, followed by a formal dinner, then dancing and drinking until dawn.
The cutting of the cake can happen either during the cocktail hour or after dinner. Whoever’s hand is on top has the reigns of the marriage. Many couples make sure to place their hands next to each other as a symbol of equal partnership.
Because there’s no end time to the reception, there’s a lot of flexibility with the schedule. Friends and family use the time to organize games and activities for the bride and groom. Some of these include:
Reise nach Jerusalem (musical chairs; literal translation “trip to Jerusalem”)
For weddings, the organizer places a pot with monthly activities for each person who’s eliminated. These can be writing a letter to the couple in April, cleaning their windows in June, or baking them a cake in August. The winner receives something from the couple, like a home-made dinner or a night at the movies.
Ehetauglichkeitstest (“marriage aptitude test”)
The bride and groom are blindfolded and sit with their backs to each other. Guests ask questions, and the bride and groom must raise their hand (or any other object like their shoe or a doll) when it applies to them. Example: Who has a harder time saying no? If only one raises their hand, that means they both agree, and they collect points. Total points are given a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the best match.
Letting balloons fly
Guests receive a card and write a message to the bride and groom. They then gather outside and tie their card to the string of a helium-filled balloon (usually in the shape of a heart). All guests let their balloons fly at the same time, sending their good-luck wishes to the heavens. The cards usually include the name and address of the married couple, so that if someone finds them, they can send the cards back. Sometimes, a good gesture from the finder is to include good luck wishes of their own.
Kidnapping the bride
The groom’s friends kidnap the bride and leave clues for the groom (and guests) to find her. Once he does, the groom must perform a specific task (like sing a song, dance, etc.) to get the bride back.
Featured photo on VisualHunt