A Nifty Little Guide to German Wedding Traditions
Are you attending a German wedding? Or maybe you're just interested in learning about how cultural events are experienced in Germany? Either way, Germans surely do know how to have fun when it comes to getting married!
So, step inside the colourful world that is German wedding traditions, and find out what makes Germany one of the most interesting places to tie the knot.
German Pre-Wedding Traditions
In Germany, pre-wedding celebrations don't merely consist of men dressing up in silly costumes while on a night out, and groups of women painting the town red!
No! There are more way more interesting and eventful ways in which to honour two people on a journey of lifelong partnership in this European country.
From fun and playful acts between friends to adorable and heartfelt touches, German wedding traditions before the big day really are delightful.
Party Time: Polterabend
Do you love having fun? Enjoy a good party? And does the idea of break stuffing excite you? If you've answered, "yes" to all of the above, then the German wedding tradition, known as polterabend, will be right up your alley.
This tradition literally translates to "eve of making a racket," and it usually takes place the night before the big day.
It's an opportunity for the couple's nearest and dearest to come together, have a massive party, and smash porcelain (which is a way to ward off evil spirits and a sign that, although the plates may break, the marriage never will).
What's great about the tradition of polterabend, is that it's an informal chance to sit back and enjoy time with loved ones without any stress or rigid planning. In fact, official invites to this event aren't made or sent out.
The occasion is more of a word-of-mouth celebration, and even those who aren't invited to the wedding are encouraged to come and enjoy.
Another interesting fact about polterabend, is that at the end of the celebration, the bride and groom-to-be will clean up the smashed porcelain together - which is a symbol of their love and ability to do everything together in unity.
Never a dull moment when it comes to German wedding traditions!
Bachelor/Bachelorette Party: Junggesellenabschied
Think about the way in which you celebrate with your friends of the same sex before a big wedding. What do you usually do?
In the U.K., it's common for men to go out together and get up to all sorts of shenanigans, while women dress up in matching tops or outfits, and enjoy a girl's night out. Both parties use this event as a means to bask in the bride or groom-to-be's last night of freedom.
In Germany however, this tradition isn't as common. Instead, near newlyweds engage in something called, junggesellenabschied, which is when the bride and groom, respectively, wander the streets carrying a little tray of items for sale to the general public.
Most likely, you'll find things such as shots or condoms on these trays. And this is anything but boring for those who have a creative streak. Picture jello shot condoms, a bouquet of condom arrangements, or a condom corsage as a means to celebrate those getting married in the near future. You could also buy a kiss on the cheek from the future bride!
Then, with the money they've raised, they'll go out and get a few drinks to celebrate.
Wedding Shoes: Starting on the Right Foot
Another German wedding tradition is for a woman to start collecting pennies well before she even gets engaged. The money that's saved up is then used to buy her wedding shoes (hochzeitschuhe) when the big question has been popped.
Then, on the big day, one of these cents are saved and put in her left shoe. Why? It's a means in which to start the marriage "on the right foot," of course, and to bring the newlyweds great wealth.
A beautiful omen or a some seriously early planning?
Invitations: Personalised Door-to-Door Delivery
A neat old Bavarian custom that is sometimes still done today, and is even more appreciated due to online culture, is how wedding invitations are given out.
Now this tradition doesn't apply to all parts of Germany, but there are a few select regions that don't merely send out e-invites, or make use of the post office in order to send out their wedding cards! They actually delivery them - in-person! That is, each invitee is personally handed an invitation with a smile.
What's also cute about this tradition, is that the invitee receiving the wedding card, gifts the soon-to-be-married with scrambled eggs (an easy gift to give on short notice) - that is, unless the bride and groom have requested a Hochzeitslader to be their personal postman or woman!
What is a Hochzeitslader? It's a close friend of the couple who will dress up in fancy clothing that's decorated with ribbon and flowers. He or she will then go door-to-door, delivering invitations along with a catchy rhyme.
Should an invitee accept the invitation, they'll be given a colourful ribbon from the Hochzeitslader's robe, and together they will enjoy a drink!
But the fun doesn't quite stop there…
German Wedding Traditions
There are several other German wedding traditions that take place on the actual day of one's wedding.
So, not only can you expect a few laughs and a bit of banter the days leading up to a wedding, but you can also witness two people using different cultural traditions to mark the joining of souls.
Some are playful and some are heartfelt - but all are equally as beautiful!
Wedding Party (Best Man and Maid of Honour)
When it comes to saying, "I do", many cultures involve as many of their favourite humans as possible. From a maid of honour to bridesmaids, and a best man to groomsmen, sometimes a wedding party consists of ten or more people.
And while this is fairly popular in the UK, in Germany, things are a little more low-key.
For those about to get married, there is usually just one trusted person, of either gender, for each partner.
This person, called the trauzeuge or trauzeugin, is then responsible for planning the pre-wedding games and events, and being of assistance during the big day.
The twist however? The bride and groom will have no idea what the trauzeuge or trauzeugin are up to - what they're planning or when. So all the fun and games are a big secret!
Sawing Tree Trunks: Baumstamm sägen
For many, couples in love undergo acts such as buying their partner jewellery or giving them a passionate smooch in order to represent their love and commitment. In German wedding traditions however, things are a little bit different.
After a wedding ceremony in Germany, some couples partake in something called baumstamm sägen, that is - the sawing of a tree trunk. Why on earth? For the newlyweds to embark on their very first challenge as husband and wife!
It's a way for the couple to use their individual strength together as a team to conquer something collectively. Interesting, indeed.
Kidnapping of the Bride: Brautentführung
In rom com's and other comical TV scenes, we often see a man on the brink of marriage being hustled into a car in the style of a kidnapping. Shortly after, it becomes evident that they're being taken for the sole purpose of having a party before their big day.
So what's the difference between this scene and brautentführung? Well, in the latter - it's the bride-to-be that's tactically taken, and this event occurs after the ceremony! Sounds a bit crazy, no? How does this work exactly?
Well, after the ceremony, the bride is then "captured' by a group of her close friends who then take her to various bars, aka bar hopping. The groom then goes on an almost hide-and-seek mission to find her, sometimes using clues that they've left behind (such as a bill for him to pay).
In all honesty, those about to tie the knot aren't big fans of this tradition, and so it's rarely "a thing" these days.
Cutting the Cake
In many cultures, the cutting of the wedding cake is all about togetherness, sharing the responsibility, and having a great time while doing so. And Germans are no different.
So when it comes to cutting of the cake, first off, it's usually done at midnight. Then, the bride and groom play a little game of whose hand will be at the top of the knife. The one who succeeds will be dubbed the one who calls the shots in the marriage!
Interestingly, different people use different methods to determine this well-sought-after title!
For some, the "winner" is the one whose hand is on top when the priest joins their hands during the wedding ceremony.
And for others, the groom will step on the bride's dress in "authority" as she kneels, and as she stands back up, she will stomp gently on her groom's foot to show assertion.
And then there's the tradition of the bride and groom doing a shared toast at their wedding reception by holding a bridal cup, called a brautbecher.
This cup is usually made of special crystal and is placed on a hinge, which allows it to swivel. The design is decorated with a maiden holding a cup over her head, and her dress holds a place for an addition drink - such as a glass of wine or champagne.
The newlyweds then enjoy a friendly game called, Who Rules the Nest, which is when both should drink from the cup simultaneously. The first one to finish their drink, is the ruler of the nest!
Spoiler alert: it's usually the woman, as her cup is smaller.
Wedding Soup: Hochzeitssuppe
In Northern and Southern Germany, guests and the wedding party tend to enjoy a starter of Bridal Soup after a wedding ceremony, known as Hochzeitssuppe.
This tradition also takes places in other regions of Germany, as it used to be an element of every wedding way back when. But, in those regions, the soup is more commonly known as, Brautsuppe (Bridal Soup).
This soup has a chicken broth flavour, and is packed with chicken, small meatballs, asparagus heads, noodles, savoury egg custard garnish, and sometimes, raisins.
Honking of the Horns
In most cases, when someone smashes their hand on the hooter, it means that either someone has caused some sort of road incident, there's a build-up of road rage, and/or they're trying to grab the attention of one or more people. And in Germany, tooting a horn is done due to the latter!
It is a way in which to let every single person know that a wedding has just taken place. But there's actually more to it than just honking the horn! Car antennas are decorated with colourful ribbon or tinsel to mark the special celebration.
It's an adorable German wedding tradition practiced by all of the invitees as they make their way from the wedding reception to the wedding party venue.
Sometimes, even those who aren't part of the wedding party, but are just in an especially good mood, may just give a little honk of encouragement as they drive by.
What a fun event for everyone involved!
A Winning Bid
Interestingly, the bride's shoes are not just a German wedding tradition well before the ceremony, but also - during!
While enjoying wedding festivities, one of the bride's shoes will be symbolically auctioned off. The groom will then always place the winning bid, and thus returns the shoe to the love of his life. What a gentleman!
Alternatively, the bride's garter could be used as opposed to her shoe.
It's all about assisting a damsel in distress, is it not?
Warding Evil Spirits
As with many newlyweds in the U.K., the tradition of a husband carrying his new wife into their home or hotel suite after their wedding ceremony is too a German wedding tradition.
This rather endearing act dates back to the heathen times, actually. It's done because it was believed that evil spirits would hover in the doorframe of newlyweds' marriage chambers.
So, hubby comes to the rescue and together, the couple in love are safe and sound, ready to enjoy an intimate evening together as man and wife.
It appears that, when it comes to German wedding traditions, the fun doesn't end once the music stops!
This is because friends of the couple usually like to play a few pranks on the new couple that're experienced when they enter their (hotel) room or suite.
Two of the most popular pranks include:
- Filling their room with way too many balloons
- Hiding several alarm clocks throughout the room, all set to go off at different times
A way to kill the mood, or only a bit of fun?
In Germany, it is completely normal for a couple to have two weddings. This is because a civil ceremony is required by German law, and a church wedding isn't recognized by the state.
That means that every couple should first get married at a civil registry office (standesamt) before they enjoy the full effects of a fun wedding day. It's here that a date for a church wedding can be set, and the choosing of the last names.
It's usually a very simple ceremony attended by only a few close relatives and or friends, and is nowhere near as lavish and enjoyable as what they'll experience a few weeks or months later with all of their nearest and dearest.
So, do you think you're ready to participate and enjoy some of these interesting pre-wedding German traditions? And what about taking part in all the shenanigans that a wedding ceremony holds?
It's clear that a German wedding is for fun-loving and playful individuals. Those who love to see two people joining souls by undergoing fun tasks that symbolize deep endearment, tenderness, and adoration.
If this sounds like you, then a German wedding is definitely something you should add to your bucket list!