Getting married in Germany involves going to the magistrate’s office (Standesamt) because only marriages performed in the Standesamt are legally valid. Many people stop at just this: however, there are some traditions, especially if you are of the Christian faith, related to weddings. If a religious ceremony is being held, the ceremony is held after the marriage at the magistrate’s office.
Wedding traditions – first Things first!
The bride often wears white, and in addition, the gown can be a heirloom gown passed down via an older sister or her mother. If she does not have one, of course, she can purchase a new gown. Not all brides today do this, but this tradition is similar to traditions in the UK and in the US.
Second – the Church!
If a Christian wedding ceremony at a church is held, because the couple is already legally married (remember, only marriages performed at the Standesamt are legally valid), the couple enters the church together and exits together. This is a bit different from some wedding traditions, but remember: the religious ceremonies now are held after the civil ceremony, and so the couple is already married in the eyes of the law.
Speaking of the wedding ceremony, it’s customary for the wedding party to throw rice at the couple when the couple exits the church. The rice is from an old tradition believing that the woman will have as many children as the rice is stuck in her hair.
Third – Wedding Traditions before the actual Wedding
There is also an evening roughly one week earlier than the official marriage associated with weddings called the Polterabend – the “evening of broken crockery”. From what we can trace, the German proverb Scherben bringen Glück (“broken crockery brings you luck”) comes from this practice. The idea is that the new couple clean up the broken dishes and kitchenware, implying that nothing will be broken in their new home.
Fourth – the Rings
Engagement rings are traditionally worn on the LEFT hand (and were often just simple gold bands). After the wedding, the same ring is worn on the RIGHT hand. Men also wear their wedding rings on the right hand. This might be different from your traditions! In the U.S., wedding rings are worn on the ring finger of the left hand, from an ancient thought that there was a vein there that led directly to the heart. In Germany and Austria, though, it’s more common to wear the rings on the right hand.
Fifth – The first Obstacle for the newly wedded Couple!
After the ceremony, as part of the post-ceremony festivities, there is a log-cutting ceremony in some areas of Germany. This represents the first obstacle that the wedded couple meets – they must work together to successfully saw a log through using a rather blunt long saw with two handles, demonstrating teamwork and their willingness to face obstacles together.
What are your favorite wedding traditions? Are they different from these?