Marrying A German: Wedding Customs

A German wedding is one of the important events in everyone’s life, it symbolizes a new stage in life, the beginning of life together between two loving people, the birth of a family. Each nation has its own customs, its own superstitions associated with this event. We have repeatedly noted that in Germany, very carefully treat the history, culture and traditions. Germans have a number of wedding customs (die Hochzeitsbräuche), which relate to the time before the wedding (die Hochzeit), directly to the marriage ceremony itself and the time after the wedding. Some wedding traditions are common in a certain area and less popular in other parts of the country. We will tell you about a few wedding customs that every German is familiar with.

The night before the wedding / Wedding eve (der Polterabend)

The day before the wedding it is customary to break old dishes. Relatives, friends, colleagues, and sometimes neighbors of future newlyweds get together and break old dishes. The noise of the broken dishes is supposed to drive away evil spirits, and the shards should bring happiness to the couple. The custom is not to break glass or mirrors – it’s a symbol of bad luck. Sweeping up the shards is a task for future spouses – it symbolizes harmony in the family.

German wedding

The bride’s shoes.

It is customary to pay for the bride’s shoes with change (lots of nickels, dimes, etc.). This old tradition was born in the days when German families began to save money in advance for their daughter’s wedding. The bride (die Braut) who saved on her own, for a long time, to buy her wedding shoes and pays for them with large amounts of change is considered especially thrifty and faithful.

The mystery of the wedding dress

The groom (der Bräutigam) should not see the bride’s dress before the wedding – it would bring bad luck. Nowadays, many adhere to this custom and hide the dress from the groom’s eyes until the very last moment.

Bride’s Awakening.

This custom is characteristic of the countryside. The night before the wedding, the bride spends at her parents’ house. Traditionally, on the morning before the wedding, her friends wake her up with shouts and the noise of clappers. Sometimes they even invite the entire brass band 🙂 The noise symbolizes the beginning of a new stage in life and drives away evil spirits.

“Etwas Altes, etwas Neues, etwas Geliehenes, etwas Blaues” – new, old, borrowed, blue

This old English tradition is also popular in Germany. On her wedding day it is customary for the bride to wear something new, something old, something borrowed, and something blue.

“Old thing” refers to the bride’s life before the wedding. Typically, as an “old thing,” the bride wears old family jewelry.

“New Thing” refers to the future family life – the bride’s dress and shoes.

“Borrowed item” is an item borrowed from the bride’s mother or a close friend of the bride (usually a married friend who is happily married). The borrowed thing should bring happiness in family life. It can be a handkerchief, shoes or jewelry.

“A thing of blue is a symbol of fidelity: a blue ribbon, a blue stocking garter, or a blue button on a dress.

A coin in the bride’s slipper

A coin placed in the bride’s slipper is supposed to bring material prosperity to the young family. Often, the coin is attached to the sole or sewn into the hem of the dress, as it is rather inconvenient for the bride to keep the coin in the shoe throughout the marriage ceremony and the subsequent celebration.

The newlyweds together carve a heart in a large sheet, after which the young husband must carry his wife through this heart-shaped “passage.” This action symbolizes the “entrance” into happy married life, where all difficulties will be overcome together, and the husband (der Ehemann) will carry his wife (die Ehefrau) in his arms.

Sprinkling rice on the newlyweds

When the couple go out after marriage, it is customary to “sprinkle” them with rice, a symbol of prosperity. It is also believed that the number of grains of rice stuck in the bride’s hair indicates the number of children the couple will have.

The rose bush and the sawing of the log

On their wedding day, the newlyweds should plant a rose bush and saw a log together. The planting of the tree by the newlyweds symbolizes the beginning of a new life together, and the sawing of the log symbolizes the support the young couple will have for each other.

The bride’s veil.

In the old days it was customary to remove the bride’s veil only at midnight. The veil was designed to protect the bride from evil spirits and bad luck. After the veil was taken off, it was torn into many small pieces and thrown into the crowd of guests. Whoever got a piece of it would soon be married too.


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