15 German wedding traditions & customs [Explained]

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If you plan on getting married or attending a wedding in Germany, you should be aware of some German wedding traditions, so they don’t catch you by surprise.

Wedding traditions in Germany are a mix of national and international activities. Some things you might already know from your own country, while others might seem quirky.

For example, Germans wear their wedding rings on their right hand and send personalized thank you cards to their guests a few weeks after the wedding.

💡 Read more: Dating in Germany – the ultimate guide for expats

The 15 most popular wedding traditions in Germany

1. Bachelor(ette) party (Junggesellenabschied)

Like most parts of the world, each person gets a ‘last party’ before their wedding.

In Germany, though, friends take the bridal couple out separately to the city center or travel to a party city to misbehave. Some groups will dress up with matching outfits, and the person getting married will have a funnier outfit. The point of the night is to get drunk and for the person who will get married to perform funny, ridiculous, and challenging tasks throughout the night.

For example, the person who will get married might have a basket full of sweets or other funny things that they need to sell throughout the night.

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2. Wedding-Eve-Party (Polterabend)

One of my favorite German wedding traditions is the Polterabend. This event happens a week or a day before the wedding.

The bridal couple host this event, and friends and neighbors are welcome to come. The guests have to bring some porcelain to the party. Throughout the party, the porcelain is slammed and broken on the ground.

Throwing porcelain in a Polterabend in Germany

Yup! The one in the picture is Yvonne, my wife, destroying some porcelain we bought off ebay for a friend’s Polterabend.

Traditionally, the bridal couple needs to clean up the mess created by the guests. Some guests might be mean and fill their porcelain items with confetti, sand, or glitter. 

Picture of a lot of porcelain on the ground.

3. Sleep in different houses the night before the wedding

A study found that 38% of German bridal couples sleep in separate houses and are not allowed to see each other before the big day.

4. Wedding candle (Hochzeitskerze)

Traditionally, the wedding candle is either a gift from the bride’s godmother or mother.

Lighting the candle forms part of the church ceremony, where the couple lights it up together. The couple keeps the candle and lights it on special occasions, for example, for their first wedding anniversary or after a fight as a sign of reconciliation.

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5. Saw a tree trunk (Baumstamm sägen)

After the ceremony, the married couple should saw a tree trunk together. This is the first obstacle the couple needs to overcome together.

Traditionally, this task represents that the couple needs to work together to overcome the difficulties they will face in their marriage.

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6. Honking cars

After leaving the ceremony, the guests receive a white ribbon to put on their cars to recognize them as part of the wedding group. 

During the drive to the party location, the guests will be honking until they arrive to announce to everyone on the streets that there is a recently married couple.

7. Bridal shoe (Brautschuh)

This tradition says that the bridal couple should hide a penny in their shoes on the wedding day to bring prosperity to their marriage. 

Nowadays, having a coin in the shoe is just a painful experience. Ouch! So the couples that follow this tradition tape a penny to the outside of their shoes.

8. Bridal kidnapping (Brautentführung)

Some of the groom’s friends ‘kidnap’ the bride on the wedding day. They take the bride to a pub. When the groom realizes that the bride is missing, he must go out to find her. 

Once the groom finds the bride, he needs to perform a funny task and sometimes even pay the bill at the bar to get the bride back.

Usually, the guests join the ‘kidnapping’ or the ‘finding the bride’ group, so they don’t get bored.

Unfortunately, this tradition has died in popularity because it interrupts the party.  

9. Bridal bouquet (Brautstrauß)

Almost half of the brides (47%) in Germany throw their bouquet during their wedding (survey about wedding traditions in Germany). This international tradition has increased in popularity at German weddings.

Florists will typically add a branch of myrtle in the bouquet as it is a sign of good luck.

picture of a bridal bouquet in a German wedding

10. Wedding pranks (Hochzeitsstreiche)

One of the most popular German wedding traditions is for friends to play a lot of pranks on the bridal couple during their wedding day.

The pranks range from hiding the house key to setting an obstacle course in the couple’s house and bedroom. The jokes depend on the creativity of the bridal couple’s friends.

11. Wedding cake (Hochzeitstorte)

It used to be important for wedding cakes to have marzipan in them. Some still hold this tradition, as they believe almonds brink luck in love.

Some joke at how the bridal couple cuts the cake: the person who has the hand on top is the one who is in charge.?

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12. First dance (Hochzeitstanz)

Traditionally, it is up to the newlyweds to open the dance floor with a dance. 48% of German couples open the dance floor by dancing the Viennese waltz (survey about wedding traditions in Germany). 

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13. The veil dance (Schleiertanz)

At midnight the newlyweds dance to a romantic song under a veil held up by guests. Sometimes guests have to get on chairs to hold the veil on top of the married couple.

While dancing, all unmarried women are allowed to ‘steal’ the bride’s veil and tear it into pieces. Custom says that the one who gets the biggest chunk will get married next.

14. Carry the bride over the threshold

This tradition is also popular in Germany and all around the world. Traditionally, the bride is not supposed to touch the threshold of her new home. So the groom needs to carry her over it.

15. The favorite wedding gift: money

In a survey done to over 1.000 German bridal couples, 62% said that their favorite wedding gift was money.

So if you plan on attending a German wedding, you know what would make the bridal couple’s heart happy. Generally, Germans will give 50 euros to friends, 100 euros for really good friends, and 200 euros for family.

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Final thoughts

Modern German weddings will have a mixture of old German traditions and other international ones like throwing the bouquet for the single women to catch.

My favorite tradition, which I think is a global one, is clinging the glasses to motivate couples to kiss. 💋

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Jen
About the author: Jen is originally from Guatemala and moved to Germany in 2012 to start a new job without any knowledge of German or life in Germany. Jen’s mission is to help fellow expats beat bureaucracy and to have a smooth time while they settle into their new life in Germany.