...Walking Down the Aisle Part 1: Wedding traditions from Germany
Never-ceasing and still growing number of emails with questions on German wedding traditions prompted this article's uprise. Indeed, Germans respect and love their traditions and maintain them through time and distances. Foreigners travel to Germany and marry there, Germans living abroad wish to get married in accordance with their native rituals, so it is high time to get brides and grooms acquainted with what they will have to do on their German-like Hochzeit (wedding).
Wedding traditions in Germany differ from region to region. Here are some of the highlights:
Car Procession - after the wedding a car procession is formed and drives through town honking their horns - others honk back wishing the couple good luck.
Costs - the father of the bride has to pay the wedding. This is an old custom but today normally both parents and the couple itself divide the costs for the wedding.
Dance - the first dance is danced by the bride and the groom, it is traditionally a waltz. The next dance is only for bride with her father and groom with mother, while bride's mother dances with groom's father.
First Night - to make the first night as difficult as possible, friends of the couple do lots of funny or sometimes cruel things. They fill up the rooms with balloons, hide lots of alarm clocks in the bedroom, take apart the bed, and so on.
Flowers - besides the flowers for the bride and in church, the hood of the wedding car is decorated with lots of flowers.
Junggesellenabschied - a few days before the wedding the groom and his male friends go to a pub or sometimes other places to drink and have fun. (the last time?)
Kidnapping of the bride - in some areas (mostly in small villages) friends kidnap the bride and the groom has to find her. Normally, he has to search in a lot of pubs and invite all people in there (or pay the whole bill). Sometimes this ritual ends badly.
Polterabend - this is an informal (informal dress and food) party at the evening before the wedding where plates and dishes are smashed (the broken pieces are thought to bring good luck to the bride). The bride and groom have to clean up everything.
Rice - after the wedding when the bride leaves the church, friends throw rice on them and it is said that they will get as many children as rice grains stay in the hair of the bride.
Veil Dance - this is a popular game for a wedding evening. Every woman or man who wants to dance with the groom or bride, has to pay for it.
Wedding Cake - the wedding cake, mostly a large cake with lots of ornaments, has to be cut by the bride and the groom together.
Wedding Evening - at the wedding evening a lot of games are played, speeches are held (the first normally from the father of the bride), sometimes a wedding newspaper is handed out. Songs are sung, and so on.
White Ribbon - the bride carries lengths of white ribbon with her bouquet, and after the church ceremony is over and the guests are leaving the church, she hands each driver a ribbon that they tie to the radio antenna.
Wedding Rings - Germans wear wedding rings on the right hand - the groom and the bride have normally identical rings (wedding "bands" -- no diamonds).
Wedding Shoes - another tradition is to collect pennies for years and buy wedding shoes for the bride with this money.