I am American. My wife is German. We got married in the States and it was awesome. So awesome, in fact, I was inspired to write this blog post for the benefit of every American who has married — or is about to marry — a German person while in the United States of America.
‘Die Hochzeit,’ meaning ‘Wedding’ in German, sounds rather intimidating, doesn’t it? Unless you’re currently learning the German language and are familiar with its pronunciation, ‘Die’ is probably the word you’d least like to associate with the happiest day of your life, and ‘Hochzeit’ sounds, at least to me anyway, an awful lot like ‘Hogtied.’
But marrying someone from Germany really isn’t the frightening ordeal one might reasonably expect it to be. In fact, the wedding process will most likely be a totally smooth and completely awesome experience… with the exception of these 5 little details of which you should probably be aware before you bring your German over to the United States to get hitched:
1: Your German Will Be Unfamiliar With diamond Engagement Rings.
Until very recently, giving diamond engagement rings was a tradition largely ignored here in Germany. I have seen more and more jewelers carrying these sorts of rings as of late, but the vast majority tend to be unadorned bands. Thick, depressing, German-as-hell wedding bands. But we are Americans, godammit, and we want our fiancés to wear engagement rings mounted with bright, shiny, blood diamonds. And we want the cost of these diamonds to absolutely decimate our savings accounts, because if they don’t, it means we don’t love our fiancés enough.
Another thing about Germans and their wedding rings — many wear them on their right hands. They wear them on their left hands during the engagement period, switch them to their right hands during the wedding ceremony and then keep them there for the rest of their Teutonic lives. I wear my wedding ring on my left hand, where it belongs, and so does my wife — we roll American style on this one. Unfortunately, this means our rings often go unrecognized as symbols of marriage here in Germany. To Germans, we appear merely to be engaged — perhaps not even coupled at all — and my wife’s diamond engagement ring looks more like a piece of blindingly expensive jewelery… or an outright invitation to hit on her. I’m not worried though. Have you ever seen a German guy hit on a woman? It’s adorable.
2: Your German Will Expect a ‘Polterabend’ before the wedding.
The word ‘Polterabend‘ consists of the German verb ‘poltern’ (to make a racket) and the noun ‘Abend’ (evening). If you’ve ever seen the movie Poltergeist, you’ve probably already guessed this name is, at the very least, a discouraging omen.
A Polterabend is a German wedding custom — a big, all-night party prior to the wedding itself — where guests smash porcelain objects in order to bring luck to the couple’s marriage. The symbolism of this ritual is expressed by the old adage, “Scherben bringen Glück,” which means “Shards bring luck.” And I’m sure they do, for what could possibly go wrong when you combine magic, superstition, copious amounts of alcohol and flying shards of razor-sharp death pottery?
In practice, however, the Polterabend is mostly an excuse to have a raging party. And if anyone knows how to both rage and party simultaneously, it’s those wily Germans. I, however, think it is a spectacularly bad idea to go nuts the night immediately before your wedding. Not all Polterabends occur the night before — some take place a week or two earlier — but you know all those videos of people passing out right at the altar? That doesn’t happen when you’ve spent the previous evening in your hotel room, quietly rehearsing your vows and going to sleep at a reasonable hour. That happens from Polterabends.
The Wife and I did not have a Polterabend, however, because most venues in the Unites States close at a reasonable hour. Not in Germany. Here, you can rent out a place and go ballistic until the sun comes up. It’s basically expected of you. My wife was highly offended by the American peculiarities she encountered while researching Polterabend venues, because she was entirely unfamiliar with terms like “closing time,” “last call” and “noise ordinance.”
3: Your German Will Party Harder Than You At the Reception
Yes, we are Americans, and yes, we can party. But there’s something deep inside German DNA which allows them to party harder than us by orders of magnitude. A real German party makes an American party look like a bunch of diaper-wearing toddlers trying to hump a piñata.
Your German will drink, but will not get sloppy drunk — just the right amount of fuel to feed the machine. He or she will take — or be featured prominently — in every single picture taken that night. He or she will dance, sing, eat ridiculously heavy foods, laugh and then dance some more… all while you have long since passed out. Germans are cosmic partiers, you see. Your German will be the sun in the solar system that is your wedding reception, and its gravity will pull all celestial matter toward its center — including you, the wayward planet with the decaying orbit — where you will burn in its white-hot embrace for all eternity.
You know how Americans don’t have any traditional drinking songs? Your German has forgotten more drinking songs than you will ever learn. (But don’t sweat this part too hard; their drinking songs are pretty retarded.)
And you know how Americans don’t have any traditional drinking dances? Germans know dozens of dances, and at your wedding reception, you will be expected to participate in every goddamn one of them. Watch out for the Chicken Dance , Cowboy und Indianer (komm hol das Lasso raus) and the Slap Dance. They look great in the pictures you will see later on, but right in the moment? Right when it’s happening, as you hop around in a circle holding hands with your spouse on one side and some hairy cousin you barely even know on the other? You may think your life has spun dangerously out of control, but don’t be scared; this is all German engineering. This is the Autobahn, baby. Hold on tight and try not to look like a pussy.
4: Your German — and the other german Guests — Will refuse to drink and drive.
As an American, it physically hurts me to admit Germans are better drinkers than we are — hurts me right in my star-spangled heart muscles — but it’s true; they grow up with some of the least restrictive alcohol laws in the world, which seem to encourage drinking responsibility, rather than drinking recklessness. Maybe it’s because Germans youths are legally allowed to purchase beer and wine at age 16, and then allowed to purchase hard liquor at 18. There’s no excitement in it for them. They’re not breaking any rules. Oh sure, there are spectacular drunks and catastrophic failures of alcohol abuse in Germany too, but they’re not nearly so prevalent as in the States.
Wisely, Germany’s relaxed age restrictions on the purchase of alcohol do not extend to driving while intoxicated. Unlike the United States, there is no legal limit of 0.08% blood alcohol level in Germany (though I’ve heard in some parts of the country there is a limit 0.05%, which can be achieved by accidentally swallowing a thimble full of mouthwash). In Germany, if you get pulled over and the officer determines you’re even slightly intoxicated — there goes your drivers license. You’ll be slapped with a massive fine, community service and a restriction on your ability to drive for the foreseeable future. You may even lose your license forever.
Germans grow up with this reality, and they won’t take any chances. They intuitively know how stupid it is to drink and drive. This is why you may need to organize shuttles and taxis for your German wedding guests. (And screw the American ones, right? Because they have the freedom to die in a fire of twisted metal and broken windshield glass if they so desire. It even says so in the Bill of Rights… probably.) So, unless you arrange for safe transportation to and from your wedding reception, some poor German is going to remain sober all night, and just one sober German alone is enough bring about a second Great Depression.
5: Your German won’t understand why American Weddings are so incredibly expensive.
Listen — you and me? We’re American. Our weddings are traditionally extravagant. We get hitched using so much money either our parents pay for everything, or we go bankrupt attempting to handle the cost ourselves. It’s just how we roll.
Germans, however, are a practical bunch of squares, and we could really learn a lot from them about money. They use local churches, restaurants, hotels and the backyards of affluent relatives to get married. Their wedding venues are cute, quaint, and so utilitarian you’d likely observe better scenery in a dentist’s office while having your wisdom teeth pulled under general anesthesia. That said, American wedding venues overcharge young couples just as hard as they can. So hard it should be illegal. Like, porno hard. But since it isn’t illegal, you’ll need to have a conversation with your German fiancé about the realities of American wedding expenses:
GERMAN: “Do we really need to rent a ballroom with an inflatable bouncy castle?”
GERMAN: “Are they really going to charge for food on a per-person basis? That’s like $100 per person!”
AMERICAN: “Yes, but kids are half price.”
GERMAN: “Why do we have to put a 50% deposit down?”
AMERICAN: “Because they’re afraid we might destroy the place… and we absolutely will.”
GERMAN: “Wedding cake prices range between $250 and $1000. Is this normal?”
GERMAN: “Do we really need to have an open bar?”
AMERICAN: “Hell yes.”
Now, before you attempt to describe the sorts of expenses involved in a typically lavish American wedding, email this infographic to your German and let it do the talking for you:
I hope you find these considerations helpful and encouraging. Marrying a German is likely to be the very best decision you ever make in your life, and I congratulate you for having such excellent taste when you chose one to be your lifelong companion.
Now please, as you are planning your wedding while attempting to work all day, run errands, do chores, get enough sleep, maintain a healthy relationship with your German and retain your sanity, remember it is all worth it in the end. The organizing, the calls, the emails, the decisions and the expenses which go into American wedding planning will feel overwhelming at times. And unless you can afford a wedding planner, the stress will increase each day leading up to the wedding itself. But when that day is finally here, and things really get rolling? Everything will fall right into place. I promise.
Here are a bunch of photos from German weddings to help give you some ideas and let you know you are not alone. Please click one of the thumbnails to start the slideshow:
Congratulations on scoring a wonderful German to be your spouse, and have a blast at the wedding! You’ve earned it!