German Weddings

Having spent my formative adult years in Germany, I have been to more German weddings than American weddings. There are some striking differences in how each culture approaches the celebration (and paperwork) that accompanies two people committing their lives to each other. As Gina mentioned in her blog post in 2010, weddings in Germany aren’t retail extravaganzas – this is one of the biggest differences. However, there are numerous subtle differences that change the entire experience, and even the symbolism of the ceremony.

Let us begin before the wedding day. There is no such thing as a bridal shower in Germany. Brides-to-be are not showered with gifts in advance of showering them with more gifts, and while wedding plans involve many details, the industry built around them is miniscule compared to the North American version. Bachelor parties, and bachelorette parties, are newer traditions but are increasing in popularity, as young people love an excuse to go out and misbehave. There is no bridal registry, although you can select a number of gift ideas at a local shop and have them displayed at a Hochzeitstisch (wedding table).

In our modern age, you can probably also set up a wishlist on and share it with your guests, if you really want to. The average age of Germans on their wedding day, however, is in the 30-33 year old range. This means that most Germans who are getting married already have everything they need in their home. In fact, most of them have probably lived together for a number of years already and don’t need a new crystal vase or a Crock-pot. Continue reading

Canadian Wedding with a German/Swiss Twist

Four months before my July wedding I was inundated with the same comment from almost every female I encountered: “Oh you must be so busy!” Further into the conversation always came the question, “Is it difficult planning a wedding from overseas?” I was living with my fiancé in Switzerland, for the hockey season (August- April) and was getting married in Montreal, Canada, on July 9th.  For a while my answers remained the same: “No, not really”.  I didn’t understand what was so hard about planning a wedding, even from another country.  We picked the venue the last time we were in Canada, I ordered my dress from a shop near my house in Switzerland (planning to haul it home on the plane), I googled photographers, cake makers, bridesmaid dresses, floral ideas- and felt totally confident that the internet was the only tool I needed.  Until it came time to order invitations . . .

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The wedding table: novel and practical!

Before I moved to Germany, I was a Financial Counselor at my alma mater. I did not go to school for finance, but previous jobs in the realm of retirement funds and a decent amount of on-the-job training mixed with my own personal experiences with college funding were all that I needed.

Receiving training in finance really rearranged the way I think about a lot of things that most people take for granted or don’t ever stop to question.

The first on that list was obviously the ridiculous cost of post-secondary education in the US. Ludicrous is too nice a word, seriously. We (most Americans) have been raised with the understanding that by the time we are 25, we’ll probably be really in debt. And hopefully out of college, paying it back.

The second on the list was weddings.

I’m 29, from divorced parents, and a professional photographer. Always the wedding photographer, never the bride. Continue reading

German Wedding Fun

It’s still summer here in Germany.  Along with our annual Mediterranean beach escape, my family and I have been hitting the Autobahn to attend various weddings of friends here in Germany. Since I also had my church wedding in Germany, I have closely observed with special interest the various traditions which take place at these festive occasions. I’ve listed these various games and activities here which are usually organized by other guests or family members of the bridal pair. Take this as a preliminary guide, so that you know what to expect and to perhaps strategically duck out for a smoking break, regardless if you smoke or not.

Cutting a Heart Out:  As the bride and groom are emerging newly married from the church or Standesamt (civil registry office), friends of the bride and groom have prepared a sheet with a heart drawn on it.  The sheet is held in front of the couple and they must cut the heart out in order to pass.  In order to enhance the challenge, they are typically given the smallest pair of scissors such as nail scissors in order to symbolize overcoming the first challenge in their new union. Typically, the husband then carries his new wife through the heart.

Most of the other activities typically take place at the Hochzeitsfeier, the party commonly known as the reception at an American wedding.

Group Art. Guests are invited to paint a square of a canvas. I’ve seen this executed in different forms. The theme could be to draw a heart and personalize it. At my wedding, various guests were given squares from one painting.

One wedding guest getting artistic.

One wedding guest getting artistic.

The goal is that the couple will have a work of art to hang in their marital home by the end of the night. If the couple is lucky, they will indeed have a palatable souvenir – even after the Schnapps has made a few rounds – ready to hang from their wedding. Continue reading