German Wedding Traditions and Customs
Breaking dishes, pots, or anything that will break into pieces and then cleaning it up together is said to bring good luck to the bride and groom just before the wedding. The idea is to prepare the bride and groom for facing life's trials together.
Another pre-wedding custom occurs when the friends and family of the bride and groom create a wedding newspaper that is filled with pictures, articles, and stories of the engaged couple. The paper is sold at the reception to assist with the honeymoon expenses.
For the invitations, an official inviter who is dressed in fancy clothes with ribbons and flowers goes door to door to extend a personal, rhyming invitation to the guests. Guests accepted by pinning ribbons to his hat and offering him a drink or two. If there were numerous invitations, it usually took the inviter a couple days to get through all the houses.
Instead of wearing a veil, German brides wear tiaras or flowery headbands and they also wear dresses with no trains. After the ceremony, the bride and groom must saw a log in half to symbolize overcoming life’s tough challenges together and the guests throw rice at the couple. It is said that whatever amount stays in the bride’s hair is the number of children the couple will have.
As the couple makes their way to their car after the ceremony, the path is laid with fir boughs to symbolize hope, luck, and fertility. The hood of the wedding car is decorated with flowers and as the car procession drives through town, they honk their horns and others honk back to wish the couple good luck.
The customary toast at the reception in Southern Germany is done with a brautbecher (bridal cup) which is a pewter or crystal cup in the form of a maiden holding a small cup above her. Both ends of the cup (the skirt and cup) are filled with champagne or wine and the bride and groom drink their first toast from this cup at the same time signifying their union.
At some point during the reception, the bride is kidnapped by the groomsmen where they will take her to a pub. Once the groom finds her he is supposed to invite everyone in the pub to a drink and cover the bride’s bill. At midnight the bride’s crown is replaced by a bonnet. It is bad luck to try on someone else’s crown or to take it off before then.
At midnight, the bride is blindfolded and she must catch a bridesmaid who is dancing around her. The bridesmaid she catches will be the next woman to marry. Married women then tie the bridal bonnet on the bridesmaid and she must then dance with the groom’s male relatives around 3 lit candles on the floor. If they stay lit, the marriage will be smooth.
Finally, in order to make the first night as a married couple as difficult as possible, friends of the newlyweds will fill up the rooms with balloons, hide alarm clocks, take apart the bed, etc.