So, as ya’ll have probably heard by now, I’M ENGAGED!! Wahooo!! So, now that the engagement is well under way, I feel the need to compare the traditions and cultures of Germany and America, since after all I’m an American girl marrying a German guy!
Here are 5 ways in which I find German/American engagements different:
1. The Diamond Engagement Ring Is Almost Unheard Of
It is not typical in Germany for the woman to receive an engagement ring prior to the wedding. It is more common that a woman receives a simple silver ring unadorned with loads of bling bling. Germans wedding rings are much less flashy and over the top than in America. But this is not me. After all, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!” It took some persuasion to start looking at wedding rings here in Germany as my German learned the American tradition of popping the question with the right ring. After all of our searching, the rings we found were very simple compared to American standards. When I showed a picture of the style ring that I liked to jewelry stores, I got an overwhelming “That’s too American”, “We can’t make that”. So, eventually we had a jeweler in America make both my engagement/wedding ring set as well as Hans’ ring and ship them to us. I can now say that I am happily wearing the “American style” ring of my dreams! After all, I’ve waited 30 years for this happy moment!
Then we had to agree on which hand to wear our rings. Traditionally, Germans wear their rings on the left hand during the engagement period and then switch them to their right hand during the wedding ceremony. Americans on the other hand, wear the engagement and wedding ring at all times on the left hand, on the ring finger as they say it is the only finger thats nerve leads directly to the heart. So, we chose to follow the American tradition, even though to some it will probably continue to look as if we are merely engaged forever while in Germany.
2. The Engagement Period Will NOT Receive A Big Celebration
If you’re an Anglo-Saxon, you already know how much of a big deal the engagement is. The engagement comes with the right ring, the right proposal and celebrated with a lot of OOHHs and AHHHs when asked to show the ring. Here in Germany, it’s a bit different and a whole lot less exciting.
Upon coming home from our weekend trip to Vienna and announcing to our families that we were finally engaged, I guess I expected a little bit more OOHs and AHHS than we got and the immediate planning of a small engagement party. Turns out, traditionally in Germany, there is no big “We’re engaged!” announcement! Most people have no idea that an engagement took place until they receive the wedding invite in the mail! Surprise!!!
We have now been engaged for 3 months, and still my soon-to-be German family has yet to throw a “Congratulations” party/dinner/celebration of this joyous event. And this is one of the biggest differences between German and American engagements. The wedding is the biggest concern in Germany and the engagement is just a general happy occasion.
In North America, getting engaged certainly comes with its own big bang! There are celebrations between the families to celebrate the coming together of two families, the Engagement Party for the couple, sometimes combined with the Bridal Shower where the Bride-to-Be is showered in gifts preparing her for the honeymoon with lingerie and other sexy items to kick start the honeymoon period after the wedding. Therefore, I feel a little sad that I am missing out on this part of this wedding process, but I am still trying to keep as many American engagement traditions in ours as possible.
3. There Are No Engagement Pictures
Another big part of the engagement process that is traditional in North America is the taking of beautiful engagement pictures, to celebrate the next phase of the relationship. Many people in America take these pictures and use them as their “Save the Date” announcement cards, others send pictures to family with the invites. Sometimes, the engagement pictures are even themed as a more fun way of taking pictures. As my parents did, they hung their engagement picture over the fireplace as a constant reminder of the happy event, which I also plan on doing to continue this little tradition.
Here in Germany, considering that the engagement is almost of little importance, many have never heard of the idea of taking engagement pictures. Upon announcing to German friends and family, the resounding question was, “Why?” Sure it’s an extra expense, but why not cherish the moment!?
4. Bachelor/ette Night Out On The Town
For once, there is actually something the same in both countries. No wonder though, considering it involves alcohol! In both countries it is popular for the Bachelorette and her girls, the Bachelor and his guys to go out on the town and paint it red, separately to celebrate the last days of being unmarried. Common phrases are “Buy Me A Shot, I’m Tying The Knot” and “One Last Ride For The Bride” and people are encouraged to participate in the fun!
The only difference here in Germany, is that more times than not, the parties dress up in funny costumes, usually the bride/groom drawing the most attention. They walk around the town and try to sell odd tidbits and things like “A Kiss for a Euro” to random people in order to make some extra money for the wedding couple. While this is a relatively new tradition for young Germans, Americans have dressed up in matching clothes to draw attention to the fact its a wedding celebration for many years.
5. There Will Be A ‘Polterabend’ Before The Wedding Day
As every culture is bound to have their own strange wedding traditions, Germany certainly has its own. The night before the wedding is a big hurrah celebration lasting allllll night long, called ‘Polterabend’. ‘Poltern’ is the German verb “to make a racket” and ‘abend’ is the noun for “evening”. It is a big celebration for the guests to come together and smash large amounts of porcelain objects in order to bring luck to the wedding couple’s marriage.
The belief in the effectiveness of this custom is expressed by the old adage: “Shards bring luck” (German: Scherben bringen Glück). The expression is derived from a time when the word “shard” referred to the unbroken clay pots of pottery makers, and not just the broken pieces. It was said that a full jar was a lucky thing to have, therefore the expression “shards bring luck”.
Afterwards, it is the responsibility of the couple to work together to clean up the mess, as a symbol of working together through their first ordeal.
Special thanks to Andreas F. for taking our very special engagement pictures!
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Have you married a German? What was your experience?