Letter From Germany
In light of my forthcoming ordeal, I feel compelled to write about marriage customs in Germany.
As in all countries, people chose to marry for a variety of reasons and pick a time that suits them. The main wedding seasons in this country are May/June, which seems to have something to do with romance/tradition/women's illusions, and late December, which is driven by the desire to save taxes (grooms hold out until the last minute).
The traditional practice is to become officially engaged (if contraception has worked properly) with the exchange of rings and a formal announcement to the world. A date for the wedding is selected, many months or years in the future, and the battle begins.
Shortly before the weddings (there are two steps, which I will explain), there is something called Polterabend. There is no translation, and I am not familiar with a similar practice in any civilized country. Friends and acquaintances show up and expect to be fed and watered (with alcohol, of course); in return, they bring old plates, dishes, and glasses, which are smashed on the doorstep and walkway. In other words, they create a mess that must be cleaned up. It's supposed to bring luck, but it mostly brings work and expense. This is a chance for people not invited to the actual wedding ceremony to take revenge...and get free food.
The first of two wedding ceremonies is the official government bit. The couple must go to city hall with their witnesses and take the vows in front of a civil servant. This is as unromantic as it sounds. When I did it, I felt like I was visiting the dentist, since the waiting room was thusly furnished. People can redo this bit in a church, but it has no official meaning other than adding expense and guaranteeing entrance to heaven.
The second ceremony (with or without church hocus pocus) is the more traditional bit, as shown in Father of the Bride and other wedding movies. This is the bit that costs a lot of money, because there must be an expensive dress, a lavish venue, enough food and drink to impress relatives and jaded friends, a photographer, too many flowers, a band, etc.
The above explains why I had urged my daughter to fly to Las Vegas, buy the cheapest wedding package, and send me a post card...
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Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.