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German Wedding Traditions and Customs

If you find yourself involved in a German wedding, there are some customs and traditions of which you should be aware. Some of these are observed nation-wide and some are observed in certain regions. And some may not even be observed at all (especially among the younger generation). Here’s a short list of some of the most common traditions.

A civil ceremony is usually held at the local Standesamt a couple of days or even months before a large church wedding. A civil ceremony is all that is needed to make a marriage legal in Germany and many couples opt only for this simple ceremony that is usually held with a few close relatives and friends as witnesses.

In Germany the traditional engagement ring is usually a gold band worn on the left hand. After the wedding the same ring is worn on the right hand. Men also wear their wedding ring on the right hand.

May is normally a preferred month for weddings.

Brides normally wear white gowns and the grooms will be dressed in black.

On the eve of the wedding friends and family may gather for a party called a Polterabend. This normally involves food, drink and the breaking of plates and other tableware (with the exception of glasses and crystal). The bride and groom are expected to clean up the shattered plates together thus showing that they can get along well. It’s also been said that this custom brings good luck to the soon-to-be-married couple.

Friends of the groom may throw a modest Bachelor Party (Junggesellenabschied) at a local pub a couple of weeks before the wedding.

Rice is thrown as the bride and groom exit the church.

A white ribbon is tied to the antennas of cars for the procession through town. Cars will honk their horns during the procession. Honking back is optional. The ribbons are usually handed out by the bride to guests as they leave the church.

At the reception the first dance is usually a waltz and reserved for the bride and groom. The next dance is for the bride and her father and groom and his mother. The bride's mother will dance with the groom's father.