German culture is typically associated with delicious food, beer, and excellent parties.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that many people with German heritage want to learn more about the customs and traditions from Germany.
German and American weddings share many traditions, such as a first dance and the bride throwing a bouquet, but many things are unique to German weddings.
This guide will cover some of the special German wedding traditions.
12 German Wedding Traditions and Rituals
Here are twelve unique German wedding traditions and rituals.
1. Polterabend (Porcelain Shattering)
Polterabend is a pre-wedding tradition, also known as “Porcelain Shattering,” that has been going on for so long that its origins have become murky. The practice has been carried primarily by families with German-Jewish heritage outside of Germany.
The tradition revolves around literally breaking and shattering things, particularly porcelain objects. The night before the wedding, the couple, friends, and family gather in front of the bride’s house. Guests bring ceramic and porcelain objects such as plates, bowls, and vases. The couple and guests shatter the objects, and then it is the couple’s job to clean up the broken shards.
The tradition comes from the German saying that “Shards bring luck.” The couple cleaning up the broken shards is supposed to show them how they will always clean up messes together in their life. Because the tradition is somewhat superstitious, it is considered bad luck if any glass or mirrors are broken.
2. Hochzeitslader (Wedding Inviter)
The “Hochzeitslader,” also known as “Wedding inviter,” is a less common wedding tradition in the modern day, though many have rediscovered this tradition in recent years. A wedding inviter is an actual person that goes to the homes of wedding guests to personally invite them on behalf of the couple.
This tradition comes from the olden days when the entirety of a town would come to a couple’s wedding. The hired wedding inviter would go door-to-door through the town, inviting the inhabitants to the festivities.
The wedding inviter, both then and now, typically entertains the guests by inviting them with a fun limerick. The inviter is dressed in fancy German dress and covered in long ribbons. To accept the invitation, the guests pin one of the ribbons to the inviter’s hat.
3. Save a Penny
The tradition of saving a penny in the bride’s shoe is one of the many German traditions that people believe brings love and prosperity to the marriage. The wedding tradition of a bride keeping a penny in her shoe is surprisingly widespread, but the Germans have an extra twist on the ritual.
Traditionally, German women buy their bridal shoes entirely with one-cent coins. This practice is meant to show the bride can be thrifty and start the family’s financial future on solid ground. One of the coins, typically a penny for German-Americans, is saved so the bride can slip it into her shoe for the wedding day.
For families that follow this tradition, young girls will often keep a jar where they can store coins.
4. Engagement/Wedding Ring
Unlike Americans, Germans don’t typically have a separate engagement and wedding ring. Many people propose with no engagement ring or with the knowledge the engagement ring will later become the wedding ring.
In Germany, a wedding ring is worn on the right hand, so engaged women will wear their ring on the left hand. On the wedding day, the ring will be presented during the ceremony, or the bride will simply move the ring from her left hand to her right.
In addition, engagement and bridal rings are generally very simple, either a plain gold band or one fitted with a small stone or diamond.
5. Bridal Chalice
The German bridal chalice is a handmade cup that serves as two cups at once. The cup can be made from metal, wood, or glass, but the appearance of the cup is always the same. The cup takes the form of a woman holding a smaller cup above her head.
The woman’s skirt serves as one cup, while the smaller cup she holds is the second. The smaller cup is on a hinge, so the wedding couple can each drink from the cup simultaneously. The couple drinking together signifies harmony and unity in the relationship.
6. Saw a Log
The German log cutting tradition may sound like an elaborate prank to an outsider, but it’s a fun part of German weddings that has lasted. The practice is known as “Baumstamm Sagen.” After the ceremony, the newlyweds will walk outside the venue and face a large log placed on a saw horse. The couple takes a small handsaw with two handles and must work together to saw clean through the log.
This tradition comes after the ceremony because it is considered the first difficult challenge the couple must achieve together. By working together on a challenging task, the couple proves they are a true team and will tackle any problems they have together.
7. Discofox Dance
The discofox dance is a relatively modern addition to German wedding traditions. The discofox is similar to wedding dances in America, such as the Cupid Shuffle or the Macarena. Unlike American dances, the discofox can be adapted to various disco songs.
The dance craze emerged in the 1970s as disco dances like the “hustle” became popular. During the reception of a German wedding, it’s common for several disco songs to play. Because the dance works with most disco songs, a typical reception will see the dance many times over.
8. German National Flower
Flowers are a staple of any wedding, but many traditional German weddings opt to use the German national flower, the cornflower, throughout decorations. The cornflower, or Centaurea cyanus, is a bright violet flower that initially grew as a weed in corn fields.
The petals of cornflowers are edible, so it is pretty common for cornflowers to be incorporated into wedding food and drinks. Because the flower petals have such an intense color, they make for a beautiful garnish in drinks or on top of desserts.
9. Traditional German Wedding Food
Food is a critical part of both weddings and German culture. The first course for the wedding dinner is Hochzeitsuppe, a German wedding soup. The soup has a broth base and contains white chicken chunks or meatballs, asparagus tips, egg noodles, and “Eierstich.” Eierstich is an egg custard made with eggs, butter, milk, nutmeg, and herbs and then cut into diamond shapes.
The main dish is typically a beef dish, either boiled or seared and served with horseradish, onions, pickles, and a remoulade sauce.
The traditional German wedding cake, Baumkuchen, is a true feat, comprised of fifteen to twenty layers. The cake is made from a base of honey and almonds. When cut, the many layers of the cake give it a “tree ring” effect, amplified by the golden tone given to the cake by the honey.
10. Bridal “Kidnapping”
German traditions are often filled with fun and pranks, and this wedding tradition is the same. In the past, the bridal kidnapping would happen on the day of the wedding, but many opt to practice the tradition before the wedding now, often during the bachelor party.
The bride is “kidnapped” by the groom’s best men and taken on a pub crawl. The groom must search for their bride, and once they find the right bar, they have to pay a “ransom” for their bride by buying everyone a drink. However, the best man has to remember to bring the bride’s prepared bouquet, because if the groom brings it, the best man has to pay for everyone’s drink.
Many Americans were introduced to the tradition of “bridal kidnapping” in the popular TV show “The Office.” In the show, the groom is of German heritage and carries out several German traditions, though often exaggerated for comedic effect.
For example, in the show, the bride is kidnapped and placed in the trunk of a car, which is absolutely not the case in the tradition. Instead, the bride is knowingly invited and enjoys a fun night out at several bars while waiting for her groom to join.
11. Veil Dance
The veil dance often happens in addition to the bride throwing her bouquet, but it has the same idea. The single female guests gather on the dance floor, and the bride’s veil is held over them.
Once the bride signals, it is up to the female guests to rip the fabric of the veil to shreds. It’s thought that whoever gets the largest piece of fabric will be the next to get married. Many brides buy a cheap veil for this, so it’s easier to rip, and they can keep their actual veil in storage with their dresses.
12. Wedding Gifts
One of the slightly modern additions to German wedding tradition is the types of wedding gifts given. Many German couples live together before marrying, so they usually don’t require many home goods.
Instead, many German couples prefer gifts of cash nowadays. The money is often put towards the couple’s honeymoon fund.