This will be my final post to discuss German weddings. So far, we’ve talked about the wedding rings being worn on the right hand, and the tradition of Polterabend and sawing a log in half at the wedding, and today I want to talk just a little more in depth about the actual wedding day.
In Arkansas, the couple must go to the County Clerk’s office to apply for a marriage license. There, the license is paid for and filled out, but you are not married at that point. You take the license to the wedding and only after the vows have been exchanged does the pastor sign it attesting to the fact that you are now married before God. The license must be returned to the County Clerk’s office within 30 days of the issue-date, and once they receive it, they also acknowledge that you were married on the day of your wedding. In other words, the law takes your word for it that a pastor married you and nothing more must be done.
In Germany, the actual wedding with the bride in her beautiful dress and the groom all decked-out in his tux, doesn’t matter AT ALL. Nobody cares that you are married before God. The law is the only thing that matters. So, the couple also goes to the County Clerk’s office (the Standesamt), to get their licence, but they must get married there. I don’t have any details, but I imagine it’s about as romantic as getting married by the Justice of the Peace in the States. Normally, the couple will go to the Standesamt on their actual wedding day so the date of their church wedding matches their legal date of marriage, but sometimes, the couple is married weeks or even months before the wedding. However, the normal wedding day typically begins around 8:00 when the office opens. The couple is officially married when they leave (which just takes some of the romance out of the day, don’t you think?) and they head off to breakfast with friends and family.
If I remember correctly, My German told me the groom’s family pays for the meals and the bride’s family pays for the wedding. Typically, the wedding party and guests spend the entire day together. After breakfast is a time to relax and maybe put up some last-minute decorations. Later, they’ll all have lunch together (again, paid for by the groom’s family), and then head to the church to get married before God. After the wedding, they go to the reception. Normally they have loud music and dancing and they party for hours! After dinner, the groomsmen kidnap the bride. Normally they take her to a bar or cafe, and the groom must go find her. When he finally arrives at the correct bar or cafe, the whole wedding party and all the guests are waiting for him. At that point, he must pay his groomsmen to get his bride back. My understanding is that he will go to his guests and ask for money so he can buy his bride. Whatever he collects is given to the groomsmen and he finally gets his bride back. Then, they have coffee and enjoy more time together. At the end of the very long day, the money collected so the groom could buy his bride is given to the couple for their honeymoon.
The bride and groom are the last to leave and once their guests are gone, only then can they finally be alone and start to enjoy their new life together.
My personal opinion is that this not only sounds butt-puckering expensive, but totally and completely exhausting. I was worried My German would be really disappointed by our boring, short wedding without music and dancing, but it was quite the opposite. When he talks about our wedding, he swoons. His eyes light up as he tells people how intimate, relaxing, and beautiful it was. Just yesterday he told me, “I wish I could marry you all over again.”
For you foreigners reading, this is how our wedding day played out…
My girlfriends and I went for pedicures before breakfast while my fiance went out for coffee with the pastor. Afterwards, we all had a late, intimate breakfast together at my mom’s house. At 12:00, two masseuses came to give us a couple’s massage, and I left to get my hair fixed at 2:00. Afterwards, we had some light snacks for lunch. Around 5:30, we arrived at my Aunt’s gorgeous house, and our garden wedding began at 7:00. We had a lovely time and were gone by 9:30!