This past August I married my now German husband (J.P.) in the Canadian Rockies and wanted to include some German customs in our Canadian-German wedding.
Who better to ask than my German fiance? So when I asked J.P. which customs he wanted to include he shrugged and said “Can’t think of anything.” I was in disbelief, the man who had an opinion on everything from our wedding colors to our invitations to our chair hire to whether we should serve a plated dinner or buffet, now all of a sudden didn’t have an opinion on something that I actually needed his opinion on?
From a combination of attending a German wedding, speaking with German friends and Google research, I compiled a list of German wedding traditions. I soon realized that coming up with the traditions was the easy part but that actually implementing them would not be so easy as I started discarding them one by one. I didn’t think the Polterabend (breaking dishes the night before the wedding to bring good luck) would go over well in a Canadian national park. Nor would the rice throwing, which is not allowed in Canadian national parks. I convinced J.P. that our guests could blow bubbles instead. He remained unconvinced but relented, eager to be a law-abiding citizen, as most Germans are. Still he took the precaution of explaining the reason for the bubbles in lieu of rice to our German guests before the wedding, who ended up having the most fun blowing bubbles (top photo).
I also didn’t want to walk down the aisle together as German couples normally do, believing that if we saw each other before the ceremony on our wedding day that it would bring bad luck. J.P. was fine with not walking down the aisle together but wasn’t impressed that now we would have to pay for TWO hotel rooms the night before the wedding, as he wondered aloud “Do all Canadians waste their money like this? “ I couldn’t really blame him, he had lived in Swabia, a part of southern Germany where the people are famous for being tight with their money for 18 years. Still I stood my ground.
I also didn’t want J.P.’s friends to kidnap me during the reception taking me away from my own wedding and hanging out in a local bar where J.P. would have to find me and buy a round of drinks for everyone. J.P. readily agreed to forgo this one – practically pointing out that none of his German friends knew any good bars in Banff having only just arrived the day before.
On the other hand I did forgo a veil as most Germans bride do (but to be honest I didn’t want to wear a veil anyway). We also omitted wedding attendants and just had two witnesses sign our marriage documents as is typically done in Germany. We served as the emcee ourselves. Had I not seen this working well previously at the German wedding we attended, I would not have been so easily persuaded, but it also relieved the burden of finding an entertaining bilingual emcee. We danced, or attempted to dance, the Viennese Waltz, another German tradition for our first dance. The most obvious and fun German custom (which is really only a Bavarian one) that we integrated into our wedding was cutting of the log. Directly following the ceremony the newlyweds must work together with a a two-person saw to cut through a log. It’s supposed to be symbolic of how well the couple will work together during their marriage and to show the couple that the marriage works much better when they work together. All Germans have heard of this, but none of our German guests, including J.P. had seen it before since none of them are Bavarian. We did it anyway, much to the confused look on our Canadian guests faces and the amused looks of our German guests who kept mumbling “They know that just because they’re moving to Munich, that they’re not Bavarian right?”
Ironically the Bavarian log-cutting tradition was one of my favorite parts of our Canadian-German wedding.