This weekend, I’m going to my first German Hochzeit, or wedding. My partner-in-crime Jenny is getting married in a wedding which is actually spread over two days.
A multi-day wedding is not uncommon in Germany, because you have to do a legal portion of the marriage in an official place and those are often not open on weekends. In this case, there’s a small ceremony in the morning on Friday at the Altes Rathaus and a nice formal lunch at the city’s Ratskeller. Then on Saturday, there’s a much longer, slightly more casual, definitely bigger party at Jenny and Robert’s home.
This is the first time I’ll experience a German wedding, and Jenny’s shindig doesn’t hit all the “traditional” marks because Jenny and Robert are fairly untraditional people, in the best possible way.
There are dozens of different wedding traditions in Germany, and no two weddings are exactly alike. Here’s some of what I’ve learned about German weddings so far:
Bachelor and Hen Parties Are A Big Deal. Whenever I’m in a city- any city, anywhere in Europe- I’ve been able to spot the pre-Wedding parties. Bachelorette parties are often referred to here as Hen parties, which amuses me greatly. For Bachelor parties, the groom-to-be often has to wear a ridiculous outfit. For Hen parties, the bride-to-be often has little trinkets or baked goods or small items that she has to sell to passers-by, ostensibly for money for beer. Group costumes and themes are common. I’ve seen parties where every member is dressed in a nurse outfit or in a hot-cop outfit. I’ve seen pirates and bunny ears, ballerina dresses and traditional tracht (Dirndls and lederhosen.)
Matching shirts are a popular choice. And you can always spot them. The look like this. Or this. Or this.
In some cities, the party moves around on a BierBike. This isn’t traditional, but it’s often hilarious.
Engagement rings aren’t a big deal. Germans don’t do diamond engagement rings. The concept of an engagement ring is fairly new to Germany, and some couples do it but it’s not expected here like it is in the US. The bride and groom have matching wedding bands which are worn on their right hands. Single guys take note: Married women in Germany wear their wedding rings on the right hand, not the left hand!
Lots of couples do a traditional Polterabend. A Polterabend is a party where everyone brings old dishes to break in order to wish the couple well, drive away bad spirits, and so forth.
A car procession after the ceremony is traditional. You can always spot the days that there’s a wedding in town because there are cars with bows or bridal bouquets fixed to the hood sitting in front of the Rathaus. After the wedding, a car procession drives through town honking their horns, and others honk back to wish the couple good luck.
After tomorrow, I can’t really call Jenny my partner-in-crime anymore. She has a new partner-in-crime for the rest of her life. I can’t wait to hear about Jenny’s continuing adventures with Robert!
Have you ever been to a German wedding?