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10 things you need to know before a German wedding

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10 things you need to know before a German wedding
A couple kissing at their wedding. Photo: DPA
17:17 CEST+02:00
At first, a German wedding may not seem all too different from those in the UK or US. But you may find some of the customs a bit surprising, if not confusing. So we're here to help.

Traditions of course vary from region to region - just as much as the dialects of Germany do.

Here are some things you might witness the next time your friends get hitched.

1. Polterabend

 

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Literally meaning “eve of making a racket,” this is usually the night before the wedding when the couple throws a big party for friends to basically smash a bunch of porcelain - for good luck, of course.

This isn’t a very formal occasion as invites aren’t sent and traditionally it just spreads by word of mouth. Part of this is so people can come who aren't otherwise invited to the wedding itself, which tend to be smaller in Germany of around 100 people or less.

At the end of all the dish-breaking the bride and groom generally work together to clean it up - as they should for everything else for the rest of their lives.

2. If there is a bachelor/bachelorette party...

A wax figure of tennis player Boris Becker, representing his own bachelor's party selling goodies. Photo: DPA.

Stag or bachelor parties are much more common in the UK or US, but if Germans take on the tradition, they call it Junggesellenabschied - literally just bachelor's farewell, but maybe not so easy to say.

One of the requirements of the German bride- or groom-to-be is that along the party-hopping way, they must sell things like shots or condoms to people that they meet in the streets, carried about on a little tray.

3. Best men and maids of honour

While Americans generally have a whole gaggle of groomsmen and bridesmaids to escort the happy pair along the procession, Germans tend to just have one trusted person each.

The Trauzeuge/Trauzeugin (wedding witness) has an important role throughout the process, but unlike in other countries can actually be any gender for both the bride and the groom. This is usually a close friend or relative, and they might do things like plan the stag or hen party, or help kidnap the bride (more on this later).

4. Honking the horns

You've probably seen (or rather heard) this German tradition on weekends before. It's customary that after the wedding ceremony, everyone drives to the party venue with their car antenna somehow decorated, honking their horns the whole way there.

Whether you honk your horn as an outsider simply driving along is up to you.

5. There may be tree trunks

It’s quite common to play games at German weddings, and one of them for brides and grooms is Baumstamm sägen - sawing a tree trunk. After the ceremony, the couple embark on their first real challenge together: sawing a log of wood in half.

With one on each side of the saw, the bride and groom work together to sever the chunk of wood, hopefully proving their strength as a couple.

But don't worry: there will be plenty of other games for guests the rest of the night, generally various ‘battle of the sexes’ type activities.

6. Kidnapping the bride

Another sort of wedding game is the Brautentführung or kidnapping of the bride. Close friends will at some point "kidnap" the bride after the ceremony, dragging her from bar to bar while the groom tries to find them.

The cheeky kidnappers might just also leave the bill behind for the groom to foot.

7. The veil dance

While Germans may also throw the bride's bouquet to single women during the party, another more German tradition is the Schleiertanz - the veil dance.

This involves taking the bride's veil and having the couple dance under it. When the music ends, single women will try to rip off pieces from it and whoever gets the biggest piece is said to be the next to marry.

Another variation is that people will throw money into the veil while the couple dances, buying themselves a dance with one of the newlyweds.

8. The wedding cake power play

A couple with their wedding cake. Photo: DPA.

Midnight is when Germans often choose to cut the cake. 

And take note when they do: it's said that whoever has their hand on top during the slicing is the one who "wears the pants" in the relationship. Knowing this, the couple may end up playfully fighting over their hand positions.

9. The rings

 A couple show off their wedding rings. Photo: DPA.

Engagement rings aren't actually such a big deal in Germany, and some couples never bother with them. If there is one, it's generally worn by the woman during the engagement period on the left hand, and then either switched to the right hand after the ceremony, or not worn anymore once the pair are married.

And both the man and woman will wear their wedding rings on the right hand - unlike in other Western countries.

10. A proper German homecoming

One tradition - though not as common - after all the wedding hullabaloo is that friends of the couple will fill their new abode's bedroom with balloons. When the newlyweds show up, they have to pop them all before they can really start their lives together.

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