Seventeenth-century German weddings are a popular theme for today's newlyweds. The Pennsylvania Dutch brought those traditions with them when they settled into the United States in the late 17th century. Those of German descent often wish to honour those long-ago traditions, even if only in part. Some want to go the whole mile and have their wedding in Germany. Whatever the case, there are many interesting customs that can easily be added into a wedding plan today.
Before the Wedding
According to custom, during engagement the couple wore their rings on their left hands. The rings were made of plain silver or gold bands, and, at the time of the wedding, they were moved to the right hand's ring finger, where they would remain throughout the marriage. Superstition plays a big role. The night before the wedding, a party is thrown for the couple and the guests are expected to throw dishes made of porcelain at the couple's feet for good luck.
Traditionally, the couple married at a state office with only a few close friends and family. Then, about a week later, many couples chose to have a more elaborate wedding in a church. The expenses of the wedding were shared among all the family, with both the couple's parents chipping in, as well as the couple themselves. The bride's dress was simple, but decorated in rich brocades as well as jewel-toned velvets. Brides wore a short veil that did not cover the face over hair that was worn down. The dress has a shorter train. Brides of the century did not wear white as they do today. The bride and groom had one attendant and each guest received a piece of white ribbon from the bouquet with which to decorate the couple's transportation.
The Wedding Reception
The reception was full of artistic expression, and rich music filled the air. The first wedding dance was traditionally a slow waltz. Family members of the couple gave well thought-out speeches and everyone sang traditional German songs while drinking German beer. The wedding cakes served in that day were large and elaborately decorated with ornate ornaments; the bride and groom would cut the cake together. The honeymoon did not begin until the last guest left the reception, then the couple would leave in their decorated horse and carriage.
Tradition and Superstition
As the couple left the church, the guests would throw rice at the newlyweds. At the same time, the couple would toss coins at the children standing outside the church. A German superstition says to count the grains of rice remaining in the bride's hair and that would be how many children would be born to the couple. Another tradition is for family and friends to prank the newlyweds and disrupt the couple's wedding night.
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