I came up with that cheesy title just for your pleasure, Tobi!
This past weekend, I traveled to Germany to attend the wedding of Tobi’s brother and now sister-in-law. Achim and Anna looked great, and it was a very happy occasion. During the same ceremony, their daughter, Clara, was baptized. (Talk about killing 2 birds with one stone!)
There are a few differences I noticed from the American weddings I have attended. I don’t know how many of these things are typical differences between cultures, or if they were just specific to this particular couple. (I would love to hear comments from you readers about other traditions you know about!) (For further reading pleasure, here is a link to some German wedding traditions I found online.)
There was no wedding party. No maid of honor or best man, and no friends in special dresses and suits standing up with the couple as they took their vows. It was a more personal thing: just the bride and groom, walking together down the aisle. Whereas American couples stand in front of their family and friends, in this ceremony, the bride and groom sat in two chairs set up in front of the altar. At one point (during the blessing) they also knelt on pillows on the ground. And the altar was not really an altar, but actually a really big desk, like you might find in the office of a judge in a courthouse.
Most German weddings have some sort of program, including games, skits, slideshows and speeches. This phenomenon was quite interesting to me, because Achim & Anna specifically said that they didn’t want any games at their wedding. Guests heard this and were like, “What? No games? No program? That’s unheard of!” But there were a few games anyway, and all tasteful.
But I can understand why they wouldn’t want too many games. I hear they can get kind of crazy! Tobi’s sister, Cornelia, told me about extreme cases, such as the bride-kidnapping tradition that went too far when the friends actually put the bride into an airplane. Tobias also mentioned that PowerPoint presentations are big at wedding receptions, and it can easily get boring if one friend after another shows endless photos of the bride and groom.
So there was no real program, though they did have some games and activities. And the guests really seemed to enjoy the evening. (I know I did!)
One really neat idea was that Tobias, and Anna’s brother (also named Tobias), had people bring photos of the couple and supplied collaging materials for guests to make scrapbook pages for them. People got really creative with that.
Tante Hannah did a funny skit which, unfortunately because she exaggerated her already difficult-to-understand Schwäbisch accent, I didn’t understand very well. It included giving them various items they would need for their marriage (band-aids, safety pins, an aloe plant) and a bouquet of fake flowers that were made out of a very large sum of euros. Everybody seemed to enjoy her skit.
She also brought a big piece of paper that they rolled out and had people stick their heads through to sing the different notes of a good luck song to the bride and groom. It was pretty funny.
Tobias and Tobias came up with questions for a type of game show, where guests had to answer questions about the couple.
My Tobias came up with some pretty awesome, hilarious questions. For example:
What did Anna give Achim’s parents as a gift when she met them for the first time?
A: Handmade pralines
B: A bottle of Jägermeister
D: Nothing at all.
Achim & Anna sometimes used charades to help out the contestants with the answers to the trivia questions.
The winner received a bottle of wine that was pimped to include an autographed picture of Achim & Anna and many sparkly stickers. That was fun. Because Achim & Anna helped the guests with the answers to most questions, the four contestants were tied and we had to pick one at random to win the game. I think Tobias would make a great game-show host!
Oh, um, hi.
I experienced a little bit of culture shock in trying to properly greet people at the wedding. The handshake seems to be very popular in Germany. Tobi’s parents shake my hand to greet me, which is interesting because I come from a family of huggers. But they also seem to do the same to their own kids. But then sometimes there’s this weird handshake/awkward hug combination. My head always went to the wrong side in this scenario – being used to the French “bise”, which generally starts with kissing the right cheek, followed by the left – but they always went to that same side in trying to hug me, resulting in a few near-misses on a full-on facial collision.
Once I got some practice, and finally started getting used to moving my head to the other side for the hug, all of a sudden, there’s somebody who gives an actual real hug without handshake, and I almost punch them in the stomach with my outstretched hand.
It was thoroughly confusing. And it definitely can be awkward. But the handshake + hug feels really bizarre. And even though greetings can be confusing in one’s own home country (like when you hug someone who hates hugs, for example), at least I don’t feel as embarrassed as when I’m a foreigner and I mess up the greeting. But all the family and friends were very nice to me, and I really enjoyed being there and getting to meet more of Tobi’s family. That was really special.
Food & Drink
There was a good bar at the reception; they had pretty much anything you could want. We started the evening with a champagne toast, and finished the evening off with schnapps.
Before the meal, there were many different types of hors d’oeuvres to munch on while we mingled. And then dinner: the buffet that had some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted. My taste buds were in culinary heaven.
Their wedding cake was non-traditional. It was a big heart-shaped strawberry shortcake! Delicious! The bride and groom also cut and served the entire cake, and they didn’t feed each other a piece. (And I imagine smashing that on each other’s faces would have been way too messy!)
Dance the night away!
Every good wedding has dancing…and this one had a LOT! I really enjoyed that. One thing I noticed was that there were no line dances… I asked Tobias about that, and he said that it’s not as big in Germany as it is in the USA. So, no Electric Slide or Cupid Shuffle, but there were plenty of songs people knew enough to both sing along and dance their hearts out.
People often stay until really late at German weddings; sometimes even the whole night. The bride and groom didn’t race off to a honeymoon (although the bride went to bed earlier because the baby had woken up and was crying). The last of everything ended around 3 a.m., if I remember correctly. I didn’t wear a watch, but I was definitely tired at that point. I know it was late, and Tobias and I were two of the 8 or so people left until the very end. It was awesome to stay in the same place as the reception: all we had to do was go upstairs and fall right into bed.
The morning after
There was breakfast provided for the guests who spent the night. It was a very nice way to end the weekend, and be able to say a more personal goodbye to the bride & groom.
Just a couple more favorite pictures!