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German Wedding Traditions
Most of the citizens of the United States are aware of the traditions related to marriage in the United States. June is the favorite month for marriage. “Something borrowed, something blue”, “the groom’s party” for the parents and the wedding party, “a dowry (maybe)”, it is “unlucky to see the bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony” , the father of the bride made that long trip down the aisle with his daughter, and men, let’s not forget the “stag party”!
But in Germany the preferred month for marriage is May. The traditions surrounding marriage in Germany are numerous and vary by region. Also, some of the younger generations may no longer practice the following wedding traditions.
Eheringe (wedding rings)
During the engagement period the bride and groom wear a ring on their left hand. After the wedding they wear the wedding ring on their right hand. The rings are usually gold without any diamonds.
Brautkleid (bride’s dress)
In Germany, as in the United States, the bride wears “white”. But in Germany brides wear very short trains or usually none at all attached to their wedding dress. If veils are worn they are fingertip length and will usually never be worn over the face as in the US Often instead of veils a floral headband with ribbons is worn. Other accessories may include a Diadem (Tiara), a little drawstring purse and gloves. The custom is for the bride to dress at her home or her parent’s home and then drive to the ceremony.
Brautigams Kleidung (groom’s dress)
The groom usually wears a black suit or smoking jacket (dinner jacket)
Die Standesamtliche Trauung (The Wedding)
Before a church wedding the bride and groom will have been married in the Standesamt (Registration Office) by a registrar who is usually in the Rathaus (town hall). A witness is required for the bride and also for the groom.
Die Kirche-Hochzeit (The Church Wedding)
Together, the bride and groom will enter the church and walk down the aisle. Because it is not legal to have a church ceremony only, the couple will already be legally married by Standesbeamte. Unlike in the United States it is not customary for bridesmaids, grooms or flower girls.
Andere Deutsche Traditionen (Other German Traditions)
Brides often carry salt and bread as a sign for good harvests and the groom carries grain for wealth and good fortune.
Before the wedding the bride’s belongings are taken to her new home. These may include linens she has collected, a cradle in which a doll has been secretly placed, and for a farmer’s daughter’s wedding, her parents’ second best cow.
This Bavarian tradition has an official invitee dressed in fancy clothes decorated with ribbons and flowers going from door to door extending a personalized rhyming invitation to the invited guests. Guests are accepted by pinning one of the ribbons to the Hochzeitslader hat and by offering a drink or two at each stop. If the guests were numerous and the Hochzeitslader was of a nature to accept the drinks offered he might need a day or two to fulfill his duties!
Junggesellenabschied (Bachelor Party)
A few weeks before the wedding the groom and his male friends go to the Kneipe (pub) to drink and have fun for his last time as a single man.
Polterabend (Wedding Eve)
At a party on the night before the wedding plates and dishes were smashed to scare away evil spirits. Only crockery can be used. Anything else would bring bad luck. The bride and groom must clean everything. This is to show that they can work together.
Hochzeit-Schuhe (wedding shoes)
Another tradition is for the bride to collect pennies for years to pay for her wedding shoes to ensure that the wedding “gets off” on the right foot. The bride’s mother would place some dill and salt in her daughter’s right shoe.
Baumstamm Sagen (Log sawing)
Another old Bavarian tradition takes place right after the church ceremony. When the couple leave the Church there is a log on a sawhorse and the couple have to cut the log in half! This is to symbolize the first difficult tasks of their future that they can accomplish together.
Fichtenzweige (fir branches)
As the couple walk to the wedding car, fir branches are placed along the path to prepare their first new steps with fresh greenery to symbolize hope, luck and fertility.
Werfen Rice (rich toss)
In this tradition it is said that the amount of rice that remains in the bride’s hair is the number of children the couple will have.
Hochzeitsuppe (wedding soup)
The Hochzeitssuppe is made of beef, dumplings and vegetables and the guests eat from a large bowl.
Eine Weisse Band (white ribbon)
As the guests leave the church the bride gives each car driver in the procession a white ribbon to tie to the car’s radio antenna. Then this procession drives through the town honoring their horns. Other drivers on the route honk their horns in return to wish the newlyweds good luck in their wedding.
Hochzeitstanz (wedding dance)
The first dance is danced by the bride and groom and is traditionally a waltz. The next dance is only for the bride with her father and the groom with his mother, while the bride’s mother dances with the groom’s father.
Brautbecher (wedding cup)
A typical toast at the reception in the southern part of Germany is made with a special brautbecher (wedding cup). The pewter or crystal cup is in the form of a maiden holding a small cup above her head. Both ends of the cup (the bride’s skirt and the top cup) are filled with champagne or wine and the bride and groom drink their first toast from this cup together at the same time signifies their union as one. This old tradition stems from centuries ago in the small town of Nuernberg.
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