English at a German Wedding

Weddings can be strange affairs, when you are single. There can be periods of awkward conversation with people, and whilst surrounded by couples, and those already married, or about to be married, you attempt to express how much more amazing your life is, as a singleton – well that’s what I have tended to do in recent weddings, mostly this consists of me talking about my travels, and the things I have done, with the feeling of freedom, and not being “tied down”. This of course is not how I truly feel at times; I’ve reflected a lot recently on where I am in life, and one day I would love to be married and have children of my own. One day.

For now, I am just the single guest, at the wedding.

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Recently, the awkwardness of being single at a wedding occurred, only it was much more difficult, as I was English, at a German-English Wedding. A couple I had met, whilst living in New Zealand (he was a kiwi, she was German), were getting wed, in the conveniently located city of Berlin (a 1.5 hour flight from London). I was delighted to have been invited, and it was great to see them both again, after almost 10 months.

However, the difficulties that mainly occurred were due to the language barrier. Apart from the Groom, and myself, there were 4 other native English speakers there.

My German is really is the Wurst (sorry, it had to be done). In fact, I had only really remembered hello and thank-you.

During the course of the day, I had several people come up to me and enthusiastically start a conversation in German, and I’d say “sprechen sie englisch?” and we would have a short conversation, with the equally confusing part were I said that I was originally from Northern Ireland, but met the couple in New Zealand, and now live in London.

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During my four days in Berlin, I stayed with the parents of the Bride. This, as well as the wedding was a real eye opener and lesson into the culture of the English language.

A lesson in the culture of the English language

Although I had learnt French in school, and obtained a good grade, I have since lost most of my ability to speak the language, as I haven’t really needed to use it. Growing up, most of our holidays were to places which spoke English (Scotland, Wales, England). On two occasions, we did go to France, and stayed at a holiday camp, were everyone spoke English. Though I can remember hearing two children speaking in another language (possibly Italian), and thinking how awesome it would be fluent in another language.

During our time in France, we would all do our best to say our best Merci Beaucoup and Bonjour to the locals. My dad on the other hand, had no interest and would be as broad as they came, with a thick Northern Irish countryside accent, he would point at things and loudly say “one of those please!” We always took the mickey out of him for this, even if he did try and speak French (sorry Dad).

From that background and my recent experiences overseas, it has made me realise how ignorant English people can be. We go away, expecting that people will speak our language and complain when they don’t, then when those from other countries arrive into our own, we complain again, that they cannot speak English.

One of the most important lessons, I learnt when in Asia was that, there are at least three words, which are important, and you should learn, before getting to a new country.

  1. Hello (or another formal greeting)
  2. Thank-you
  3. Sorry (Apology)

This short trip to Germany has sparked an interest in other languages and has made me want to learn something new. I no longer want to be that awkward English girl, who is unable to communicate with the locals.

Now back to the Wedding – I haven’t been to many in my day (perhaps 5 or 6), but most; in fact all have been Weddings were the couple were the same nationality, culture and were native English speakers. My experience at the German-English wedding highlighted some differences between the two cultures, which I wanted to share.

5 difference between English and German Weddings

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1. You are married, before you are married!

In the UK and Ireland and New Zealand, what usually happens, is the couple getting married will have a ceremony at the beginning of the day. This can either be done at a Church, or in another venue. Afterwards, the signing of the marriage register happens, then you go party it up at the reception. The entrance into the venue or Church is normally quiet important, with the groom waiting at the end, whilst the Bride walks in, usually with her Father, who will ‘give her away’.

In Germany, the registration is done before the wedding, either on the same day, or a week or so in advance. The ceremony at the Church is therefore just for a blessing, where the couple will walk down the aisle together.

At the wedding I was at, it was a bit of a hybrid. My friends had registered to be married in New Zealand (as it would have been more complex for him registering in Germany), and then at the Ceremony the Bride was ‘given away’ by her Father, with the groom at the end of the church.

2. It’s late!

Most of the weddings I have been to, have started around lunchtime, or perhaps even earlier. They tend to feel like super long days, as you have the ceremony, then reception, then a break and an evening celebration.

In Germany, because some couples choose to register in the morning, their ceremonies do not start until 2 or 3pm, and the celebrations continue on to 3-5am in some cases.

3. It’s showtime!

In the UK, one of the important aspects to the reception is the speeches. The Father of the bride, groom and best man usually speak, but this is not always the case; the bride has sometimes spoken at weddings I have been to.

In Germany, at this wedding I was at; there weren’t really any speeches and even they don’t tend to have a ‘best man’, but instead there was, what they called “a programme”. The family of the bride had prepared a song, to introduce themselves to the couple, and almost welcome the groom into their fold. Someone had prepared a poem, and their were games (something similar to a Mr and Mrs game). After asking one of the other guests, they said “usually, there are more games at weddings”. Totally new to me.

4. Rings!

Early on, during my time in Germany, I noticed that a lot of those who were married (and German), were wearing their wedding rings on the other hand. I questioned this at the wedding, during a conversation with another guest, and he confirmed that the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger, of the right hand. It is transferred here during the ceremony. The engagement ring is taken from the left hand, and a new ring put on the right. Some people continue to wear their engagement rings on the right, after they are married.

Also – some men, will wear an engagement ring in Germany.

5. You don’t pay!

In all of the weddings I have been to, were I have been invited to the reception, you will be seated for a meal, and there may be a few bottles of wine on the table, as well as a glass of bubbly toast with. Otherwise, you have to purchase your own drinks at the bar.

In Germany, the drinks tab is picked up by the Brides family (Danke Schon)

NB: I know some weddings in the UK, and other parts of the World, do this too, but the lady at the bar looked genuinely shocked when I attempted to hand her a 20 euro note, to pay for a beer.

Have you been on a wedding overseas, where your language isn’t the main language spoken?

Have you been to a wedding in Germany? Is this an accurate representation?

 

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