Weddings. I always cry at weddings. Mostly because I’m three sheets to the wind, but also because I’m very much in touch with my emotions. Why are you laughing? Damn you reader, it’s 2013 and I’m allowed to be sensitive. Anyway, Wednesday gave me the opportunity to attend my first German wedding and as per my usual blog entries I’m going to take the time to make some fairly elaborate cultural observations (generalizations) and try not to rip off Buzzfeed too much in the process. So , better to start this midweek adventure than at the beginning.
Wedding vs Law
If you’re going to get married in Germany, you better do it by the book. The particular book that you should do it by is one containing the exciting world of German law. This is kind of like any novel by Dan Brown except with better prose…and characters…and a logical plot.
In Britain you can choose to have a religious ceremony or, if you’re a godless heathen, getting married by an officially licensed registrar. Germany, because it’s trendy and alternative, is different and demands the happy couple be officially married by a Standesbeamter or Bürgermeister (essentially a registrar or the mayor). Once recognized by the cold dead eyes of local government, the now officially married couple can wing it down to the local church and have the godly masses celebrate their union with hymns and a celebratory bible verse or six. This double decker wedding might sound like a logistical nightmare, but I am reliably informed it’s careful separation of church and state. Just don’t mention that the German government is headed by the Christian Democrats, that will only cause trouble.
Suit or Jeans? The ultimate question.
It should be mentioned that from what I’ve been told, and seen, German weddings are on the whole informal affairs. There is generally a much more relaxed atmosphere than can be found at the fairly formal weddings I’ve attended in Britain. This is possibly one of the odder cultural comparisons with regards to weddings; Britain craves structure, while Germany doesn’t. If you go to a British wedding, nine times out of ten the structure will be the same. Formal attire, wedding ceremony, drinking, dinner, drinking, speeches, drinking, disco and finally a formal and well-coordinated brawl between all those left standing. Then, possibly, some more drinking. Germany, on the other hand, follows a loose structure where by you mill around outside, bride arrives, ceremony, some loose chilling with champagne and then off for a knees up. Frankly this lack of organization terrified me. Honest to god, I saw someone wearing jeans. I’ll let that sink in. Jeans! There I was, dressed to the nines, like some kind of crappy car salesmen and someone wanders in from a C&A commercial. I tell you now; it made me want to grit my teeth and bottle up my rage until it kills me from a heart attack in my mid-fifties. That’s how we do it in Britain.
Fill your boots with Coffee and Cake
After narrowly avoiding my denim fueled aneurism, we set off down the road for the reception. At this point in a British wedding someone (everyone) would have had at least four pints and several glasses of complimentary champagne. In Germany it’s more of a slow burn. First we had to observe the noble tradition of coffee and cake. The Germans that I know, regularly take the piss out of Britain for their tea breaks and scone mastication, especially at four in the afternoon. Well they do exactly the same in Germany, except its more coffee and less tea. Although slightly bewildered why no one had downed a yard of ale and started crudely stripping in front of the bride’s mother, I joined in this celebration of sugar shock and caffeine, all the while wondering when the beer might arrive.
You only have one cake? We have a table.
So there I was, pondering why the bar hadn’t opened and I turn expecting to see the typical tiered wedding cake. Instead I was greeted by the wonderful image I’ve gleefully added to this blog. Germans love cake. This picture proves it. We in Britain have been fooling ourselves for so long; we’ve actually begun to believe the lie that dry fruit cake covered in icing is acceptable. It’s not; this table is the only right way to do it. There was so much cake I couldn’t fit it into this picture. Germany, I salute you…
Freeeeeeeee the balloons
As the important cultural study ‘99 Luftballons‘ by the eminant essayist Nena categorically proved, balloons are an intrinsic part of German culture. Having studied the works of Nena, I was prepared for the arrival of balloons at some point in proceedings. And so it was that after eating my body weight in cake and finally finding the bar had opened, I was summoned to ritualistically blow up balloons alongside my girlfriend and her family. Sadly, we failed to reach the required ninety nine and settled for the perfectly respectable fifty two. We then handed them over to each guest and as we all stood outside, released these wild balloons back into their natural habitat. Weather and low flying aircraft permitting, they are currently being enjoyed by some rather surprised Russian villagers in the Ural Mountains.
Let’s get out of here.
The bar may have opened, but it turned out to be a clever double cross. After slipping out for a cigarette, I returned to see something that turned my blood to ice. A man, setting up the karaoke. Despite my desperate pleading to my girlfriend to ‘follow me if she wanted to live’, I found myself, thankfully as part of a group, singing along to a selection of Schlager music and wishing I had ordered more beer when I had the chance. Thankfully this part of the evening was short, and I managed to reach the safety of my table without someone requesting I sing some other phonetically challenging tune. As the night closed in, I found myself in the familiar, blurry territory of the post wedding shindig. The rest of the night, as Dan Brown might so eloquently put it ‘was finished with an explosion and a plot resolution…durrrrrrr…can I have my money now??’. Such beautiful imagery.