Spring is approaching fast and what time is better to have a romantic wedding then spring.
If you are an American wanting to get married in Germany, you have to be aware of quite a few things:
Germany is not the place for an impulsive, spur of the moment wedding between Germans and Americans.
Although with enough time and planning, you can enjoy a wedding day that is simply “wunderschoen”!
- US Armed Forces are advised to consult the Persona Services Battalion (PSB) at least 9 weeks before your wedding date
- According to the US Embassy in Berlin, required documents vary from region, so it’s best to contact your local Standesamt and set up an appointment. (German Registry office)
- At the very least you will be required to show your passport, birth certificate along with a document from your home embassy to show that you are eligible to marry
- Obtain apostilles for birth certificates, death certificates, divorce decrees and annulment decrees from the Deputy of State for your State, that validates your documents internationally.
- Courthouse fees will vary throughout Germany depending on your income and region, also places may require a 6 weeks’ notice in advance
- The Standesamt also requires a witness to the ceremony of both parties, this would be the job of the maid of honor or the best man
A traditional German wedding may last about 3 days, starting with the traditional “Polterabend”, then the formal wedding at the courthouse and at last the ceremonial wedding at the church. The formal wedding (civil ceremony) takes place at the Standesamt . Depending if you get married both at Church and civil court, the “Polterabend “ would be held after the civil service and a couple days before the Church ceremony. The civil ceremony at the Rathaus is held with Family and close Friends and usually just an unspectacular ceremony and it’s really all you need to have to be legally married in Germany. Many couples decide to just hold the civil ceremony to keep costs down.
The night before the “official Wedding” (if you only do the civil service then the night before that), the church Wedding, you have the” Polterabend”. It is comparable to the rehearsal dinner in the states, but held casual and with many quirks and customs. Friends and Family are invited for a big dinner and they all bring old china and Porcelain. One of the customs is that the bride and Groom later on have to sweep up all the broken cups, plates and occasional toilet bowl for good Luck. In an old German saying it states “Scherben bringen Glueck” Broken Pottery will give you good Luck. Expect this party to go on till the wee hours.
The third day of the Wedding spectacle would be the religious ceremony. This is the main event!
Depending if you are Catholic or Lutheran, the ceremony may be more or less strict. There is no big wedding party with several bridesmaids and best men, just a flower girl leading the couple down the aisle.
Normally the priest will welcome the Bride and Groom at the church entrance and lead them down the aisle while the church bells ring and the march is played. Then there is the official part of welcoming, praying and the optional singing of the church quire. The church wedding vows have to be a passage from the bible, a motto that is to lead you through your married life together.
Here are some must knowsknow’s when it comes to wedding customs in Germany:
- Both men and women wear gold engagement rings on their left ring finger
- After the wedding the rings are worn on the right ring finger
- Another custom is for the “best man” to steal the bride and hold her ransom until the groom finds her and buys her back… usually with a rack of beer or the promise of another party
- It’s also common for the friends of the couple to leave a surprise in their bedroom. Everything from a room full of balloons or water cups is permitted.
- Another one is that the bride will start years before saving pennies. The single cent pieces are used to buy the wedding shoes. It makes sure that the marriage starts on the right foot.
- Germany also likes to “punish” Ladies and Gent’s for waiting to get married past 30 years of age. Those offenders are forced to sweep and polish the courthouse doors and steps and can only be released by a kiss of a “virgin” of the opposite sex
- During the church ceremony you may see the groom stepping on the brides dress or the bride stepping on the grooms foot, this is to ensure that the other one knows, who wears the pants in the family
- Instead of rice you might see the bride here throw coins to the kids in the wedding party
- All members of the wedding party will be given colored ribbons to tie to their cars antenna before driving off to the wedding feast
- When the party drives off together through the villages all cars will be blasting their horn to inform everyone that they just got married
- The bride’s mother may place a pinch of salt, Garden burnet and some dill weed in the right shoe of the bride. At the ceremony the bride would hold her shoe up and whisper : “ Ich trete auf Pimpernelle , Salz und Dill; wenn ich rede bist du still” (I step on Salt Garden burnet and dill, when I talk you are to be quiet)
- The Groom has to carry the wife over the doorstep into his house the night on the wedding