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MARRIAGE

10 things you need to know about German weddings

If you're invited to a German wedding, you may find some of the customs a bit surprising, if not confusing. So we're here to help.

Leo and Carola put on their rings at their symbolic wedding ceremony in a branch of the Penny supermarket chain in the Berlin district of Wedding, February 22nd, 2022.
Leo and Carola put on their rings at their symbolic wedding ceremony in a branch of the Penny supermarket chain in the Berlin district of Wedding, February 22nd, 2022. Because why not? Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

Traditions of course vary from region to region – just as much as the dialects of Germany do.

Here are some things you might witness the next time your friends get hitched.

1. Polterabend

A wedding couple made of straw attracts the attention of motorists in Eschborn near Frankfurt/Main

A wedding couple made of straw attracts the attention of motorists in Eschborn near Frankfurt/Main (picture from 31.08.1998). Photo: picture-alliance / dpa | Roland_Witschel

Literally meaning “eve of making a racket,” this is usually the night before the wedding when the couple throws a big party for friends to basically smash a bunch of porcelain – for good luck, of course.

This isn’t a very formal occasion as invites aren’t sent and traditionally it just spreads by word of mouth. Part of this is so people can come who aren’t otherwise invited to the wedding itself, which tend to be smaller in Germany of around 100 people or less.

At the end of all the dish-breaking the bride and groom generally work together to clean it up – as they should for everything else for the rest of their lives.

READ ALSO: ‘Ja, ich will!’ What it’s like to get married in Germany

2. If there is a bachelor/bachelorette party…

A wax figure of tennis player Boris Becker, representing his own bachelor’s party selling goodies. Photo: DPA.

Stag or bachelor parties are much more common in the UK or US, but if Germans take on the tradition, they call it Junggesellenabschied – literally just bachelor’s farewell, but maybe not so easy to say.

One of the requirements of the German bride- or groom-to-be is that along the party-hopping way, they must sell things like shots or condoms to people that they meet in the streets, carried about on a little tray.

3. Best men and maids of honour

While Americans generally have a whole gaggle of groomsmen and bridesmaids to escort the happy pair along the procession, Germans tend to just have one trusted person each.

The Trauzeuge/Trauzeugin (wedding witness) has an important role throughout the process, but unlike in other countries can actually be any gender for both the bride and the groom. This is usually a close friend or relative, and they might do things like plan the stag or hen party, or help kidnap the bride (more on this later).

4. Honking the horns

You’ve probably seen (or rather heard) this German tradition on weekends before. It’s customary that after the wedding ceremony, everyone drives to the party venue with their car antenna somehow decorated, honking their horns the whole way there.

Whether you honk your horn as an outsider simply driving along is up to you.

5. There may be tree trunks

A man sawing a tree.

Better pack a chainsaw just incase. Photo: picture alliance / Tobias Hase/dpa | Tobias Hase

It’s quite common to play games at German weddings, and one of them for brides and grooms is Baumstamm sägen – sawing a tree trunk. After the ceremony, the couple embark on their first real challenge together: sawing a log of wood in half.

With one on each side of the saw, the bride and groom work together to sever the chunk of wood, hopefully proving their strength as a couple.

But don’t worry: there will be plenty of other games for guests the rest of the night, generally various ‘battle of the sexes’ type activities.

6. Kidnapping the bride

Another sort of wedding game is the Brautentführung or kidnapping of the bride. Close friends will at some point “kidnap” the bride after the ceremony, dragging her from bar to bar while the groom tries to find them.

The cheeky kidnappers might just also leave the bill behind for the groom to foot.

7. The veil dance

While Germans may also throw the bride’s bouquet to single women during the party, another more German tradition is the Schleiertanz – the veil dance.

This involves taking the bride’s veil and having the couple dance under it. When the music ends, single women will try to rip off pieces from it and whoever gets the biggest piece is said to be the next to marry.

Another variation is that people will throw money into the veil while the couple dances, buying themselves a dance with one of the newlyweds.

8. The wedding cake power play

A couple with their wedding cake. Photo: DPA.

Midnight is when Germans often choose to cut the cake. 

And take note when they do: it’s said that whoever has their hand on top during the slicing is the one who “wears the pants” in the relationship. Knowing this, the couple may end up playfully fighting over their hand positions.

9. The rings

 A couple show off their wedding rings. Photo: DPA.

Engagement rings aren’t actually such a big deal in Germany, and some couples never bother with them. If there is one, it’s generally worn by the woman during the engagement period on the left hand, and then either switched to the right hand after the ceremony, or not worn anymore once the pair are married.

And both the man and woman will wear their wedding rings on the right hand – unlike in other Western countries.

10. A proper German homecoming

One tradition – though not as common – after all the wedding hullabaloo is that friends of the couple will fill their new abode’s bedroom with balloons. When the newlyweds show up, they have to pop them all before they can really start their lives together.

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CULTURE

Eight signs summer has arrived in Germany

How do we know summer has arrived in Germany? Well, we're seeing more naked people and getting soaked in thunderstorms. Here's a few more signs.

Eight signs summer has arrived in Germany
Germans hitting the Schlachtensee lake in Berlin on Sunday. Photo: DPA

Shops sell out of fans

Photo: DPA

When temperatures rise to the late 20s and 30s, Germany gets sticky. That's because of the heat, but it's also exasperated by the lack of air conditioning in many public places. Apart from the odd shop or modern office, it’s quite difficult to get a blast of cool air as the mercury rises.

READ ALSO: Heatwave in Germany – temperatures of 40C forecast

And don't even mention public transport, especially the U-Bahn, which has already transformed into a sea of body odour and it's only June. 

Those who've had enough of waking up drenched in their own sweat every morning will probably head to a shop with the aim of buying a cooling fan, only to find that it's impossible to find one. 

Last year in the heatwave, fans of all shapes and sizes sold out in stores across Germany. Our advice: purchase one on the next cooler day so you can be smug when the heat creeps up again.

Failing that, write a reminder in your diary to pick one up in winter when there's sure to be a large supply, and hold onto it for dear life for all future German heatwaves. 

Germans head to the lakes

The Helenesee in Brandenburg. Photo: DPA

The Germans are generally big fans of the outdoors all year round and now that sunnier days are here they will flock in huge numbers to the many lakes or outdoor pools in the country. 

The best way to do it is figure out your route in advance – as some lakes require careful public transport planning, pack a picnic and lots of liquid (no, beer doesn't really count. We mean water!)

Plus, don't forget your sunscreen and take care when swimming in water. 

It's also worth nothing that beaches can be very busy at this time of year. Still, we would thoroughly recommend making the most of the awesome water spots across the country, from Bavaria to Brandenburg.

People get naked

An FKK sign at a beach in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Oh Germany, we really know it’s summer when you get your kit off.

Don't be surprised when you get to the lake to find that some people are wearing absolutely nothing. 

Germany has a tolerance of and, in some cases, a fondness for being “textile free.” Whether it's one of the country's hundreds of spas and wellness resorts, parks or lakes, many residents here are known for having no qualms about taking their clothes off.

This is the country of FKK – Freikörperkultur – an informal movement that translates to free body culture.

The movement comes to life in summer when you'll find designated FKK spots at beaches and even parks, such as the Englischer Garten in Munich. 

Try not to stare, just go with it and if you're intrigued then think about joining in. What's the worst that could happen? 

SEE ALSO: The dos and don'ts of public nudity in Germany

You get caught in torrential rain

Unfortunately, summer in the Bundesrepublik includes dramatic thunder and lightning storms which bring with them torrential rain. The rain is good for the crops, but it's a little inconvenient for going about your day. 

If you're Scottish like me, you will be used to carrying an umbrella/raincoat around with you at all times. But if you're not in tune with unpredictable weather, then perhaps consider investing in some light waterproof wear. Failing that, it's so warm that you'll dry pretty quickly. 

Some of the lightning storms are quite the spectacle, but watch them from a safe position. 

Strawberries are everywhere

If spring was the season for Spargel (asparagus) then summer is the humble strawberry’s time to shine. Yes, Erdbeeren are available pretty much all year round due to industrial farming but this is when they are at their best. 

Little huts pop up at the side of roads, in train stations and on streets selling tubs of strawbs, making them great for picking up on the way to your picnic.

Heatwave tip: another seasonal fruit that is great for helping you cool down on a summer's day and available everywhere – watermelon.

Festival season gets underway

Would it even be summer in Germany without an array of festivals? From street parties to parades and big music extravaganzas, this country really does try to make the most of the social side of summer. 

There was even a strawberry festival held in Hamburg at the weekend!

As well as the bigger events, such as Fusion, a music festival near Berlin, find out if your neighbourhood or town is hosting a fest as often it's a great way to meet the people who live in your area and make connections. 

The parties are reminiscent of cosy street gatherings, guaranteeing a real local feel. 

Shops shut for a holiday

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

#urlaub#urlaub#erholen#entspannen#weilburg#luftballons#öffnungszeiten#geschlossen#

A post shared by Ballon Oase (@ballon_oase_) on Jun 16, 2019 at 7:26am PDT

Get ready for stores, cafes and restaurants to shut their doors – sometimes for weeks on end – as owners go on their summer holidays. This usually happens in the second part of summer; in fact, some businesses shut for the entire month of August.

But don't be surprised if independent stores or cafes have a sign on their door alerting you to the fact they are closed for a weeks, anytime from now. 

More bikes get stolen

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

Einen wunderschönen ☕️ guten Morgen euch. Die Sonne lacht und ein herrlicher Sonntag ☀️ steht bevor. Ob eine kleine ? Ausfahrt, eine ? Radtour, ein ?‍♂️ Spaziergang oder gehts ins Freibad? Für was entscheidet ihr euch? Euch auf jeden Fall einen tollen Tag ?. . #hannover #hannover_fotografie #maschsee #maschseeliebe #maschseehannover #bike #fahrräder #segelboot #sport #hannoverliebe #instanature #hannoverliebt #instahannover #meinniedersachsen #meinhannover #hannoverlove #ilovehannover #lovehannover #lowersaxony #niedersachsen #hannoververliebt #hannoverliebe #natur #nature #chillen #love #liebe #fahrradtour #fahrradfahren

A post shared by Matthias – Photography (@hannover_fotografie) on Jun 16, 2019 at 1:27am PDT

This is a depressing but a true fact of life in Germany: as soon as the good weather is back in force, the risk of your bike getting nicked increases dramatically. Of course, thieves are on the hunt for Fahrräder all year round, but as demand goes up in the hot weather, more bicycles are swiped from the street – or even the Hinterhof (courtyard).

It's important to have a good lock or two for your bike to keep it secure. But short of keeping it locked away in your room and never using it, there's not much you can do.

The silver lining is that buying a fairly decent bike in Germany is usually not very expensive due to there being so many around. However, we wish the police did a bit more to crack down on these thefts, which are often organized by gangs in urban areas. 

Have we missed anything out? Let us know your ideas by emailing [email protected] 

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