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20 things you need to know about weddings in Germany

Of course: every wedding is unique.

No bridal couple wants to get married exactly like everyone else. It should be the most beautiful day in life - and, for many people, on this day all dreams should come true.

Nevertheless, there are things that simply belong to a wedding.

Without these traditions it is somehow not a real wedding. And these things are a little different in each country and even in each region.

Here are the most important traditions you can expect at a wedding in Germany.

The engagement

Willst du mich heiraten?“

That's certainly the most romantic of all questions!

It sounds very similar to the English: “Will you marry me?”

A tiny difference:

“Willst du” means: “Is it your intention?”

“Will you” on the other hand means: “Are you going to do it?”

Totally unromantic is the legal regulation in § 1297 BGB (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch):

No application for entering into marriage can be made from an engagement.

Which basically says that just because you're engaged, you're not obliged to get married.

Maybe that's the reason for the saying:

‘Verloben bedeutet: an sich binden und weiter suchen’ (~ Getting engaged means: bind to oneself an keep on looking).

But of course no couple in love wants to hear that!

The Engagement Ring

Are you in love with a German? Then you should be warned: fantastic engagement rings are unfortunately uncommon in Germany!

Most couples will wear the wedding band on the ring finger of the left hand as an engagement ring and once they get married, they’ll put it on the ring finger of the right hand.

Inside the ring, there will be the date of the engagement engraved, then the name of the partner and finally the wedding date.

Hochzeitstraditionen in Deutschland

The 'Polterabend'

The 'Polterabend' traditionally takes place on the evening before the wedding.

This is a fun, informal party for men and women, like a combined hen and stag party - often with many more people than the actual wedding party. In addition to the family, neighbors, friends and colleagues are also invited to this evening.

The guests will bring along old china, which they throw on the floor in front of the house, because: "shards are lucky"!

But: it must not (!!!) be glass - otherwise it will bring bad luck!

Some guests even bring an old sink so that there are a lot of shards!

wedding in germany traditions
Scherben bringen Glück!

The bridal couple then has to sweep up the shards.

But beware:

Nowadays, many bridal couples ask that you don't bring china.

It is very noisy when the porcelain breaks and the shards can also be dangerous.

If in doubt, it is therefore better to ask.

Even without broken china, a Polterabend is usually very cheerful. There's a lot of laughter when families and friends tell the soon-to-be-weds "the truth" about their partner- for example, that the groom spends a lot of time in the bathroom every morning, or that the bride gets in a bad mood when there's no lunch.

Often someone has written a new text about the bridal couple to a well-known song and everyone can sing along.

Sketches are also performed, for example about how the couple will spend a Sunday in 10 years time.

The bachelor party /the bachelorette party

This custom comes from the USA and is now also popular in Germany: quite often you can meet happy groups of men or women who are dressed up in a funny way.

While there is usually a lot of alcohol flowing among men, wellness is also very popular with women.

The 'Wedding Table'

Nobody needs 5 toasters.

And even if Aunt Erna has a friend who paints great pictures, these may not go so well with the interior decoration of the bridal couple.

That is why many shops offer a 'wedding table'.

Nowadays, this is mostly a virtual table with everything the bride and groom would love to be gifted with: Maybe some nice crockery, glasses or even a (!) toaster.

Guests can then select something from that table whatever meets their tast and fits their purse.

This way you don't have to ponder for long and the bridal couple receiveswhat they want!

The registry ofice - no spontaneous wedding

In Germany, all marriages must be performed at a ‘Standesamt’, the registry office.

A spontaneous wedding like in Las Vegas is not possible here … you need to make an appointment to hand in your paperwork first - and that appointment has to take place at least one week before the wedding.

Civil wedding in Germany
die standesamtliche Hochzeit

Fortunately, a registry office doesn’t need to be boring or stuffy. You can find them in beautiful places like castles or manor houses, so each bridal couple can choose their ideal place for the number of guests they wish to invite.

Not that you’d need to have any guests at all – even witnesses are optional these days!

The marriage name

In Germany, women used to take their man's last name.Her own surname then became the "maiden name". All children were then automatically given this surname.

If Herr Schmitt and Frau Meier get married today, they have many options:

  • Herr Schmitt und Frau Schmitt - all children are called Schmitt.

  • Herr Meier und Frau Meier - all children are called Meier.

  • Herr Schmitt und Frau Meier - all children are called Schmitt

  • Herr Schmitt und Frau Meier - all children are called Meier

  • Herr Schmitt und Frau Schmitt-Meier /Meier-Schmitt - all children are called Schmitt

  • Herr Schmitt-Meier / Meir-Schmitt und Frau Meier - all children are called Meier

The name given to the children is the family name.

The church wedding

A church wedding is optional -but for many people the registry office is more of a formality and the wedding ceremony in the church is the “real” wedding.

kirchliche Trauung in Deutschland

In Germany, about 27% of the population belong to the Catholic Church and about 25% to the Evangelical Church.If one spouse is Catholic and the other is Protestant, there are also ecumenical marriages where two pastors (from both churches) hold a service together.

The night before the wedding

The groom is not allowed to see the bride on the morning of the wedding - otherwise it will bring bad luck!Even if you're not superstitious... you don't have to take any risks, right?

That is why bridal couples usually spend the night before the wedding separately and only meet at the wedding ceremony.

The white bridal dress

What does a bride look like?

When you think of a bride, you think of a beautiful, long, white dress.

das Brautkleid

A bride who wants to get married in church is certainly looking forward to the dress of her dreams - preferably with a veil and maybe even long, white gloves.

You don't need to have a bridal dress at the registry office.

But for some brides, this is a perfect reason to choose two wedding dresses at once!

Of course, the groom is not allowed to see the wedding dress(es) before the wedding!

The bridal bouquet

Of course, the bride also needs a color-coordinated bridal bouquet.

Just before midnight, the female unmarried guests gather behind the bride. The bride then tosses the bouquet over her head into the crowd. The one who catches the bouquet can rejoice: she will be the next bride.

Flower children

Once the ceremony is over and the couple exits the church (or registry office), the flower children make their grand entrance.

Often they are nephews, nieces or godchildren of the bride or groom.

They too are dressed in festive clothes: the girls wear a white dress and the boys wear a small suit.

They walk out of the church in front of the newlyweds, dropping small flowers on the path

Groomsman and Maid of Honour

It doesn't matter whether it's at the registry office or in church: it's nice to have your best friends, sister or brother with you.

Usually they have seen or heard the whole story of the bridal couple: from the first meeting, to the romantic infatuation and the first kiss ... to the happy ending at the altar.

Often the groomsman and maid of honour have also helped with the organization of the wedding and coordinate the Polterabend - after all, a lot of what takes place there is supposed to be a surprise for the bridal couple!


Most people in Germany only know bridesmaids from American movies. But since these movies are so wonderful and romantic, some newlyweds have adopted this tradition.

Sawing a tree-trunk

After the romantic marriage vows, here comes the first big joint task:

The bridal couple has to saw through a tree trunk together.

The reception

After the wedding, of course, all guests want to congratulate the bridal couple and toast to their future together.

That's what the reception is for. While the bridal couple and the parents accept all the congratulations, there is sparkling wine or prosecco for the guests, pure or mixed with orange juice, and usually canapés, i.e. finger food.

Normally, you don't need a special invitation for the reception - especially if the wedding has taken place in church. Neighbors, school friends, colleagues, parents' friends and other acquaintances who are not invited to the wedding evening are also happy for the bridal couple and will bring a gift.

The wedding Party

In the evening the big wedding party finally takes place!

After an aperitif there is a festive meal.

It's often a 'seated meal' - this means that there is a seating plan, i.e. a plan of who should sit where.

At the seat there is a place card with the name.

Speeches are held between the courses (starter, main course, dessert) - traditionally by the fathers of the bride and groom ... but of course, these days the mothers can hold the speech, too!

The Bridal Waltz

The bridal couple opens the dance floor with a waltz. Some bridal couples even take extra lessons!

After a few beats, the bride dances with the new father-in-law and the groom with the new mother-in-law. Then the couples separate and call for new dance partners... until the dance floor is full!

The wedding cake

A wedding cake is something very special: often it has several tiers!

It is not only decorative and tastes good, but it also tells the guests something about the bridal couple:

The wedding cake is cut together by the bride and groom and distributed to the guests.

Now you have to look closely: who has their hand on top when cutting? This is the person who will also call the shots in the marriage!

Wedding Pranks

That can't have been all... that's what many friends of the bridal couple think on the evening of the wedding.

That's why there's often one last trick. For example, the whole bed or the path from the door to the bed is covered with balloons - preferably in the shape of a heart, of course.

Carrying the bride over the threshold

In the past, married couples were only allowed to live together after marriage.

Of course, the smitten husband wanted to show that he would anticipate his wife's every wish and carry her on his hands...well, at least over the threshold. Even if couples have been living together long before the wedding, this is a nice start to the new phase of life!


Now you know the most important traditions that belong to a wedding in Germany.

If you want to know more about German traditions and life in Germany and learn German at the same time, then read the other blog posts as well!



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