Ja, ich will…
That’s probably the sentence every girl is dreaming of, to hear and say one time in her life.
I’m fortunate to have already attended four different weddings. I was at the wedding of my uncle when I was 5 years old, and 3 weddings of my cousins in the last few years. Every wedding is something special and different from other weddings. Often a lot of people marry “twice” on two different days. One day, you have a civil marriage in a registrar office and the other day is the church wedding. In a few exceptions, the people have both on the same day.
The civil marriage is actually the process which makes you legally husband and wife, but is at the same moment unspectacular. The couple is seated in a small room with a registrar. Besides them, there are the witnesses (2 people) and the closest friends and family. That has often just practical reasons because there is not enough space for more than maybe 15 people. After the very short ceremony in which the couple signs a bunch of papers, some friends and family members are waiting outside of the office and throw rice over the new married couple. Although this is the “most important” part of the wedding, the big party after the church wedding and the wedding in the church gets the most attention. The dresses for the civil marriage are classic and beautiful but the couple usually doesn’t wear their “wedding outfits”. The bride is wearing her beautiful white (sometimes champagne or crème colored) dress in the church.
But before this, the couple has to organize a lot because wedding planners aren’t common, or only something for rich people. Organizing a wedding is very stressful, not only for the bride but also for the family who normally supports the event. The friends of the future married couple are organizing Bachelor(ette) parties for them. In the last decade, the number of Bachelor parties has increased a lot. In the summer, you can see a lot of them and sadly you spot them immediately. In Germany, there is the trend to have the party in the public and the most of the parties fulfill all the clichés (e.g. stripper). The sad thing about it is that the bride or the groom will be put in very embarrassing positions. They have to wear some “funny” costumes and have to sell some things like alcohol or kisses. I don’t like this new tradition and when my friends would embarrass me, I would disinvite them. I like that you want to party the last time in “freedom” but you don’t need to embarrass the people. Some people just go to another city to party and that’s great.
If the couple survives the parties of their friends, they get married. The ceremony in the church is always kind of similar but can differ on some aspects. Normally, the church is full with friends and families and the future husband is waiting for his fiancée in front of the altar. Often the bride is walked to the altar by her father, but I also saw the couple walking in together, so you can do however you like. The priest leads the ceremony; the people sing songs and read out intercessions. Often the couple or the priest chooses a history they want to read before they exchange their wedding vows. One story which is really popular is a changed version of Aristophane’s speech in Plato’s Symposium:
“His speech is an explanation of why people in love say they feel “whole” when they have found their love partner. He begins by explaining that people must understand human nature before they can interpret the origins of love and how it affects the then present time. It is, he says, because in primal times people had doubled bodies, with faces and limbs turned away from one another. As somewhat spherical creatures who wheeled around like clowns doing cartwheels, these original people were very powerful. There were three sexes: the all male, the all female, and the “androgynous,” who was half male, half female. The males were said to have descended from the sun, the females from the earth and the androgynous couples from the moon. The creatures tried to scale the heights of heaven and planned to set upon the gods. Zeus thought about blasting them to death with thunderbolts, but did not want to deprive himself of their devotions and offerings, so he decided to cripple them by chopping them in half, in effect separating the two bodies.” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symposium_%28Plato%29)
Finally the couple answer the question: “Willst du (name of the person who is asked) die/den hier anwesende/n (name of the person you want to marry) zu deiner/deinem rechtmäßig angetraute/n Ehefrau/Ehemann nehmen ? Sie/Ihn lieben und ehren in guten wie in schlechten Zeiten bis das/der Tod euch scheidet? So antworte mit „Ja, ich will.““ Then they exchange the rings and the priest declares the couple to wife and husband. The couple kisses each other, walks out of the church and a big celebration follows. There are no special rules for the party afterwards but sometimes the couple has to play some games together to show that they work together. The food (often a buffet) at weddings is exceptionally good and everybody enjoys being together. The people drink and dance a lot and from time to time, the father of the bride or the witnesses hold a speech about how great the couple is and how they met.
I have to say that I really like weddings and I always have a great time there. So, if you have the chance to go to a German wedding, don’t miss it and say “Ja, ich will!”