German Wedding Traditions
German Wedding Traditions and how to celebrate in three steps. It starts with the Polterabend followed by the legal ceremony at the city hall, Standesamt. The church wedding is the final celebration and highlight. The sequence of the festivities are flexible and the traditions vary depending on regions.
German Traditions – The Polterabend
The Polterabend is the evening before the City Hall Wedding, to give friends, colleagues from work, and acquaintances a chance to celebrate with the bride and groom and their families. Usually, there is no invitation and the size of the party depends on how well the couple is known or involved in the community life. The guests arrive with porcelain dishes, plates and sometimes with even larger parts like porcelain sinks and smash them to bring luck. The Bride and groom have to clean up the broken pieces, to demonstrate, that they can work together.
The evening of the Polterabend is filled of entertainment such as; speeches, songs, and sketches performed by friends, while eating simple food and mostly drinking beer.
German Wedding Traditions – City Hall – Standesamt
The City Hall Wedding makes the marriage legal, whereas the church wedding is optional. Registering at the office was done already weeks ahead and includes picking the date and the choice of the last name. Only the witnesses to the wedding, closest family members, and sometimes close friends are present during this official part.
German Wedding Traditions – Church Ceremony
The Church Wedding is open to everyone. At the Church Wedding, the bride wears a white dress and either a veil or some hair decoration. I used to have a wreath of myrtle since this was a tradition over generations in my family. I bought my shoes with pennies, which I collected over years in an oversized cognac bottle, another wedding tradition. The groom wears a suit or tuxedo. The wedding bands are simple identical rings without diamonds. They are worn on the left hand after the engagement and changed to the right hand during the church ceremony. The groom has to pay for the bride’s flowers and the flowers that decorate the hood of the car. It is an honor to drive the bride and groom. I picked the husband of my godmother whom I always wanted to marry as a child.
How the church service will take place is discussed ahead with the priest. The bride and groom pick the songs, music and a quotation (Trauspruch) from the Bible they want to have as their motto for their marriage. The bride and groom enter the church together after family, friends and guests are seated.
After the vows and the exchanging of the rings, the newlyweds follow the priest leaving the church. Sometimes spectators are waiting outside to welcome the new husband and wife, while throwing rice at them. The couple needs to pass an honor guard that might have been formed, before they can receive the best wishes and congratulations by the guests who attended the church service.
The cars of the wedding party are decorated with a white ribbon on the side or front and will drive in a procession to the reception, while honking the horn. The wedding car usually has empty cans bound together with a cord attached to the back of the car.
Reception of a German Wedding
The reception starts with an opening speech and is followed by the first waltz danced by the bride and groom.
After cutting the wedding cake, entertainment with music, games and tricks will continue. At one point the bride will be kidnapped by friends of the groom and hidden in one of the many restaurants in the town. The groom has to search for the bride and only then can he get her back after paying for the drinks everybody in the restaurant consumed. Sometimes he also needs to pay for a box of beer or wine to buy his wife free. Back at the wedding celebration more challenges are waiting for them.
One of the traditions could be drinking from one cup (wedding or bridal cup) at the same time without spilling the drink.
Tricks on the newlyweds
The bride and groom can expect some more surprises at their home after the party. There might be plastic cups filled with water on stairs or the entrance area. The bedroom could be filled with balloons, or the bed could have been taken apart. Finding their car could be difficult, because friends might have lifted it and carried it away to a different place and wrapped it in toilet paper.
Those and many more ideas are part of the German Wedding Traditions. Setups of situations during the celebration to force bride and groom to solve their problems together while working hand in hand.