Hello Josi. As fas as I know, European countries usually organize a bachelor party before a wedding. How is that custom in Germany?
The Bachelor party is a must have in Germany. Usually the brides or grooms best friend organizes the day. It is literally a whole day. Some start with a break first, go to a photographer to take pictures as a memory of this day and in the evening, they go in a pub or club and dance the whole night to celebrate. Some start drinking in the morning, some start in the evening it really depends how your friends organize this day. And it is a surprise. As a bride or groom, you are not allowed to organize the day by yourself, you have to trust your friend’s organization skills. It could happen, that your friends use this freedom and organize some mean tasks for you. like you have to sell condoms or shorts to people that they meet in the streets. You have to sell a specific amount of money and use that money to buy drinks in the evening.
| A wax figure of tennis player Boris Becker, representing his own bachelor's party selling goodies (Photo: DPA)
In Vietnam, inviting someone to a wedding is often done by an invitation card. How is the tradition of sending wedding invitation in Germany?
A wonderful old Bavarian custom is the “Hochzeitslader”, the man who deliver wedding invitation. Rather than mail out invitations, the Hochzeitslader is sent around to personally invite each guest to the wedding. He dresses in fancy attire adorned with ribbons and flowers. He goes around the village from door to door extending a personal rhyming invitation to all on the guest list. The way that guests accept the invitation is to pin one of the ribbons from the Hochzeitslader's attire onto his hat. Then they are to invite him into their homes to share a drink or two. When the guest list is long, this ritual can take a couple of days to complete!
Personally, I don’t know this custom, because this is not common in my region. But I saw a wide variety of beautiful designed wedding cards. Sometimes my parents receive one. You would never ever send an e-mail to invite your guests, it is always a letter or like I said before a card.
| A Hochzeitslader, the man who deliver wedding invitation (Photo: Pinterest)
What is the next step in a wedding?
Like other countries, a civil wedding will be required to legalize their marriage. The civil ceremony will be a quite small ceremony attended only by the bride and groom with their immediate family and closest friends. The bridal couple will dress well, but rather simply. It is usual for the bride to wear a simple dress to her civil ceremony. Then it is usually to marry twice in Germany. Of cause to the same person. The official wedding, which is acknowledged by the government, is the civil wedding. But a lot of couples also marry in a church. Admittedly, less people are now associated to the church than a few years ago. However, there are still many people that do. Those people do it with their full devotion. Because of this devotion, they want beside the governmental acceptation, God’s blessing for their marriage. For this wedding, you invite all your friends and family members, sometimes friends of your parents. Brides wear a white wedding dress and hold a flower banquet in their hand. After church follows a dinner and a big party.
In many cultures, it’s compulsory for a certain ritual to chase away evil spirits or bad luck in a wedding ceremony. Is that similar to a German wedding?
Yes. There is an event to prevent bad spirits, but it takes place before the wedding. It’s called “Polterabend”, literally meaning “eve of making a racket”. The night before the church wedding, the bride and groom have an informal gathering with their friends, family, and neighbors. They will break Chinese dishes to bits, with the idea that it will bring good luck to the bride and groom. Only china and porcelain are used, never glass; breaking glass is considered to be bad luck in Germany. The activity symbolizes that while some dishes may break, the marriage never will. Once all the dish-smashing has reached its conclusion the bride and groom will clean up the mess, as a symbol of how they will need to work together for the rest of their lives. It’s a very romantic custom.
| A couple cleans up the mess after Polterabend (Photo: Youtube)
Are there any other games in a German wedding?
The Germans are rather fond of playing games at weddings, a particular favorite is Baumstamm sägen, to translate it, “sawing a tree trunk”. At the end of the church wedding, the newlyweds exit the church. There will be a log of wood set out on sawhorses in front of the church. The bride and the groom are required to saw through that log. It is a symbol of their teamwork, and how well they work together to complete the task which is supposed to be a sign of how well they will work together at other chores during their marriage.
| Baumstamm sägen (sawing a tree trunk) (Photo: Pinterest)
Is there anything else before the ceremony ends?
Once the newlyweds head down the steps of the church, they will be showered with rice. This is an ancient custom in many cultures, as the rice symbolizes fertility. Legend says that every grain of rice that sticks in the bride's hair represents another future child.
Once the log is sawed and the rice is tossed, it is time for the newlyweds to make their way to the reception site. The bride and groom make their exit in a car or carriage decorated with beautiful flowers. The w hite ribbon that the bride carries is cut into lengths and distributed to the wedding guests. They tie a piece of ribbon to the antennas of their cars before heading off to the reception with a flurry of happy honks. Cars passing by will honk back for good luck.