In cultures the world over, wedding ceremonies go hand in hand with special traditions — and superstitions. Germany is no different: you'll find regional peculiarities as well as influences from abroad. For your inspiration and entertainment, we've listed some of the most common German wedding traditions below. While many German couples will follow some of the listed traditions, some customs have gone out of fashion.
The customs associated with polter night (Polterabend) probably stem from pre-Christian times. The day before the wedding, stoneware and porcelain — never glassware — is violenty smashed by friends and family in order to chase away evil spirits. The shards are traditionally swept up by the betrothed. In North Germany, polter night ends with the burning of the groom's trousers or the bride's bra at midnight, to symbolise the end of bachelorhood. The ashes are buried next to a bottle of schnaps, which is to be dug out for a communal round of drinking a year later.
Abducting the bride
It used to be a widespread German tradition to literally 'steal' the bride before the wedding. The groom’s best man was honoured with the task of taking the bride on a pub crawl while leaving hints for the groom to find them. The bride and her 'kidnapper' could drink until the groom showed up to 'free' his bride by paying for the bill. Nowadays, bride-abduction is more common in villages — it would get quite expensive if the kidnapper decided to head to the Reeperbahn!
Following a practice that became popular in the late 19th century, many German brides today opt for a white dress and veil. German grooms typically go for a formal wedding suit in a neutral colour, accessorised with a tie, cufflinks and handkerchief matching the bride's dress. It is absolutely forbidden for the partner to see the wedding dress before the ceremony, as it is said to bring misfortune.
To prove the bride is a responsible spender, she should pay for her bridal shoes in cent coins. One of these cents can be saved to be put into her left shoe at the wedding, ensuring wealth for the bride and her love. During the wedding festivities, one of the bride's wedding shoes is symbolically auctioned off. After the guests put their 'bids' inside the shoe, the groom makes the winning bid and returns the shoe (and its contents) to the bride.
It is said to bring bad luck if the betrothed sleep in the same bed the night before the wedding: one of them traditionally stays with their parents.
A German bride traditionally carries a hand-tied floral bouquet, given to her by her partner at the wedding ceremony. After the ceremony, like it many countries, the unmarried women gather behind the bride, who throws the bouquet over her back. Whichever lady catches the bouquet is said to be the next in line to get married.
Traditionally, the bride is supposed to wear her white bridal veil until midnight, followed by the so-called bridal veil dance. The veil or a similar cloth is held up by the female guests above the dancing bridal pair. During the dance, the women try to tear off a piece of the fabric. According to the legend, whoever tears off the largest piece will be the next bride!
After the festivities have ended, the groom traditionally carries the bride across the threshold of their home or hotel suite: a tradition that dates back to superstitious days when people believed there were evil spirits lurking in the door frame...