7 quirky German wedding traditions
It’s spring - one of the busiest seasons for weddings in Germany (and across the globe, for that matter!) Celebrating your marriage remains popular here, as the number of divorces continues to drop. Now, most of us are familiar with common Western wedding traditions, such as the bride wearing a white gown or having a flower girl - but did you know that Germany has its own unique customs? From log-sawing to bridal kidnappings, some of these German wedding traditions really take the cake (no pun intended.)
Uncommon German Wedding Traditions you may not know
Here we share our list of 7 unconventional German wedding traditions you should know about before attending a local wedding.
1. The Wedding Shower (Polterabend)
The Greek tradition of smashing porcelain for good luck at a wedding is well-documented, but did you know that Germans share a very similar custom?
Known as the Polterabend, meaning the “eve of making a racket”, this event usually takes places the night before the wedding. Friends and family from far and wide are invited to come together for a big party, where everyone breaks a bunch of china and porcelain dishes for good luck and to scare away any evil spirits. Only pottery dishes are smashed - breaking glass during the Polterbrand is considered to bring bad luck.
Tradition indicates that the more shards of broken china, the better luck the couple will experience throughout their married lives. The best part? At the end of the party, the bride and the groom work together to clean up the mess, as a symbol of how they will work together as a couple in the future.
2. The Bachelor & Bachelorette parties (Junggesellenabschied)
While bachelor and bachelorette parties may not be as popular in Germany as they are in the USA, UK or Australia, the Germans do have their own customs when it comes to celebrating the end of single life before a wedding.
Known as the Junggesellenabschied, meaning the “bachelor’s farewell”, the respective bride or groom is required to sell certain items, like condoms, candies or alcohol shots to strangers in the street while they are partying the night away. The goal is to earn as much money as possible, while still selling all the items by the end of the night.
3. The Groom / Bridal parties (Trauzeuge/Trauzeugin)
Many brides and grooms opt to have large parties of bridesmaids and groomsmen to escort them on their big day. However, in Germany, the wife and husband to-be tend to just have one trusted person each to assist them with all their wedding preparations.
The Trauzeuge and Trauzeugin, “best man and maid of honour”, can be any gender and play a vital role throughout the wedding planning process. In addition to acting as witnesses at the wedding ceremony, they may also help plan things such as the Junggesellenabschied or help kidnap the bride during the reception (more details on this later!)
4. Bridal wear (Bräutkleid)
Typical bridal wear in German does differ slightly from the Western norm. While a German bride will usually don a white gown for her big day, long, sweeping trains are few and far between. Ballgown styled dresses without a train tend to be favoured by most German brides, with a fingertip-length veil – unless the bride is getting married in a church, in which case a floor-length, cathedral-style veil is preferred.
Another older custom, which is still practised in some parts of Germany, sees the bride carry a pinch of salt and bread on her wedding day, as an omen for a good harvest, and the groom carry grain for good luck and wealth.
But one of the main differences in German wedding tradition involves the wedding rings. For starters, it is not common for a German bride to wear an engagement ring (diamond or no diamond!) If she does, once she is wed she will often swap it for a wedding band, which matches her husband's and is worn on the right hand, rather than the left.
5. Log Sawing (Baumstamm sägen)
Games and pranks are quite common at German weddings, but one of the most common games is the Baumstamm sägen, also known as the sawing of a tree trunk. After the ceremony the newlyweds are expected to embark on their first challenge as a couple, namely cutting a log of wood in half.
The bride and groom must saw through the log together, which is set on a sawhorse outside the ceremony venue, to prove their strength and teamwork as a couple. Only after the log has been cut in half, and the celebratory confetti tossed, will the couple make their way to the reception, accompanied by a burst of cars honking, to drive away any evil spirits and bring good fortune.
6. Veil Dance (Schleiertanz)
Wedding receptions in Germany are an all-night affair, which usually start with coffee and cake before the time comes for the first dance (Hochzeitstanz). But there is another German wedding tradition that also involves the bride’s veil.
Although some German brides may toss their bouquet to their single friends to see who is next to wed, another custom, the Schleiertanz, may take place instead. During this "veil dance", guests take the veil and make the newlywed couple dance underneath it to the music. Once the music stops, single women at the wedding try to rip pieces off of it. Whoever grabs the biggest piece is said to be the next to get married.
An alternative version of the veil dance sees guests throw money on the veil while the couple dances underneath, to win a dance with the bride or groom.
7. Kidnapping the bride (Brautentführung)
As previously mentioned, pranks and games are very common at any German wedding reception. One of the most popular pranks in the southern part of Germany is the Brautentführung - the kidnapping of the bride.
In a nutshell, the grooms' friends “abduct” the bride at some point during the reception. The group moves from local bar to bar to keep their prize hidden as long as possible. In some cases, the groom is given a funny ransom note, or hint that his new wife has been taken.
Once the groom has managed to find his bride, he is then expected to pay her ransom, which is usually the bar tab the kidnappers have managed to ring up!
Unique German Wedding Traditions
Did you already know of these fun wedding traditions? If you are busy planning your wedding in Germany do you think you will adopt any of these customs? Let us know in the comments below!