A German Wedding in Two Parts – Part II

After you’ve celebrated a bilingual, double wedding in a bucolic European setting, what do you do? You party!

A big hug for Julia from her Aunty Christine

A big hug for the bride from her Aunty Christine

Following Julia and André and Myrie and Matt’s ceremony, the festivities began in earnest. Guests spilled out of the Church into the afternoon sunshine, where a Bier und Brezel (or beer and pretzel) reception was waiting for them on the grass. It isn’t uncommon for German couples to begin the celebrations as soon as they leave the Church and this is something that guests always appreciate.

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I personally love this idea, as it’s a great way to celebrate with and include guests who, for whatever reason (be it budget, wedding style or other commitments) can’t attend the reception. Dave, attending his first German wedding, was particularly enamoured of the idea of beer and pretzels to celebrate, so much so that he wants to replicate it at our own wedding. (Jury’s still out on that one).

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Once we’d all sipped and supped, it was on to the reception proper. Julia and André and Myrie and Matt had hired a camp in the picturesque village of Legau for the weekend so that guests could stay on site. This was particularly handy for those of us in heels as we could return to our cabins and put on comfortable shoes before beginning the celebrations!

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The reception hall looked out over a green field dotted with fruit trees and guests relaxed on the deck with a drink to enjoy the late afternoon sun. But before we sat down to dinner important work had to be done – namely, the inflating of over a hundred red, heart-shaped balloons with helium. Julia’s family had arranged a balloon release as a surprise for the bridal couples (one of many to come that night) and it was absolutely beautiful.

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Each guest took a balloon and on the count of three, we let them all go. They danced and floated across the bright blue Bavarian sky and I do believe more than one person was humming Nena’s 99 Luftballons. (Ok, one of them was me).

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Much more was to come, however. In addition to some very funny and heartfelt speeches, in which guests were acknowledged with a roll call of attending cities (Melbourne represent!) and a delicious roast dinner, there were games a plenty. Christopher, my host brother, took his duties as brother of the bride (well, one of them at least) very seriously and set up a number of challenges for the couples.

The first was a ‘World Cup’ Kicker (or Fußball for those non-German speakers) tournament between Germany and New Zealand. Julia and André and Myrie and Matt faced off across the table for a best of three challenge, which Germany won convincingly. Following this, it was brides vs grooms before guests took to the table to challenge the newlyweds.

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Christopher then enlisted some help in setting up an obstacle course on the grass. Each couple was given a bobby car, a blindfold and a witch’s hat. André and Matt were blindfolded and sat atop the cars. Julia and Myrie then had to shout directions through upside down witch’s hats as their husbands blindly made their way around the course, with the first one to the end being declared the winner.

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Oh, was this a spectacle. Guests were collapsing in stitches as the girls hollered and the boys collided with just about anything they could – each other, trees and various legs. Poor Matt suffers the same condition I do – that is, being very tall – and when you’re that close to the ground, it’s hard to move those long legs! André crossed the line just ahead of his new brother-in-law and both were rewarded with a beer for their efforts.

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With the majority of the challenges out of the way, Christopher then had both bridal couples sit down, with Julia and Myrie sitting back to back with André and Matt. Each person was given both a hammer and a wooden spoon and the couples were then asked a series of questions. If they thought the answer was best suited to the bride, the wooden spoon went up and for the groom, the hammer. These questions ranged from the sweet to the ridiculous and as the ‘official translator’ I was called on to interpret for the non-German speakers between my giggles. It was a fun and enlightening way to end the formalities.

And then, to the dance floor. There’s so much I could write about the rest of the evening, but I think the photo below of Julia and André says it all perfectly.

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Thank you, Julia and André and Myrie and Matt, for such a beautiful celebration. It meant so much to me to be part of it, to be able to introduce Dave to my German family, to catch up with old friends and to be able to share in such a special time in my beloved Julia’s life. I am so very blessed.

I wish all four of you so much love, adventure and laughter in the years to come. You know there are beds here in Melbourne any time you want them. xx Koren

Julia and André, Myrie and Matt, 7 July 2012
Venue: Umweltstation Legau
Photos: 1, 3-9 by D Batty
Part I of this gorgeous wedding can be found here.

A German Wedding in Two Parts – Part I

When Dave and I began planning our 5 week trip through China and Europe, we had two must-visit destinations. Shanghai, to see my sister and her partner and the town of Augsburg, Germany, to introduce Dave to my second home. Oh, and to participate in the bilingual double wedding of my adopted sister.

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Julia and Koren

I spent a year living in Germany as an exchange student when I was 17. The three host families I lived with were each loving, caring and generous. They taught me German (when I arrived, the only words of German I knew were from The Sound of Music), looked after me when I was sick and treated me like a daughter, sister, grandchild and niece. I’ve been sat at my desk for over an hour now trying to work out how to express what my families, that time and Germany itself mean to me but I can’t. It’s simply too big for words.

The best I can come up with is that I fell in love. With my families and with the country. It was a wretch to leave and as I made my tear-soaked goodbyes, I made a firm vow to go back. As often as I could.

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Julia, Myrie, André and Matt

And so in June last year Dave and I travelled to Germany, just three weeks after our engagement.  It was sheer luck that Dave proposed on day 1 of our trip as he then got to meet my host fathers, each of whom had long ago told me that they reserved paternal approval rights over my future husband! (For the record, he got the thumbs up).

My last visit had been six years earlier, accompanied by my parents and sister. It means the world to me that my blood and host families have all met and that my family here in Australia understand why I love my German families so much. My Dad formed such a bond with one of my host fathers, Günter, that he now calls him a close friend despite a language barrier and distance of several thousand kilometres.

But back to the wedding.

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Julia and André

I lived with Julia, her brother Christopher and parents Rita and Günter for almost six months. Julia, Christopher and I were inseparable, spending long summer days baking (and eating) cakes, swimming in the local lake and generally getting up to mischief. We lived through all the angst and joys of being a teenager together and kept up a firm correspondence on my return. I subsequently confused a lot of people who had hitherto only known me to have one sister (here in Australia) by talking endlessly about my siblings in Germany.

So when Julia asked if I would like to conduct the English component of a bilingual double wedding that she and her husband André planned to share with André’s New Zealand-based sister, Myrie and her partner, Matt, my answer was a simple and very loud YES!

Julia and André

Julia and André

Now before we go any further, a little explanation. I am only authorised to conduct marriages in Australia, so the ceremony I was to take part in was purely symbolic.

Under German law, the only place where couples can marry is the registry office. Julia and André had already done this in front of their immediate families and Myrie and Matt had recently married in Matt’s native New Zealand. As is often custom in Germany, Julia and André and Myrie and Matt reserved their celebration with extended family and friends for a church blessing followed by a reception.

The double wedding took place in a region of Germany known as Unterallgäu. This is postcard Germany at its very best –  green fields, quaint village churches, mountains rising in the distance. Dave later said it was exactly how he imagined the German countryside would look. Guests arriving in traditional Bavarian clothing only added to the authenticity.

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The couples drove themselves to the church, Julia and André arriving in my host mum Rita’s decorated Mini. Guests were seated inside and then the procession began. Both brides looked incredible and there were audible gasps as they made their way down the aisle. It was deeply moving to be able to walk down the aisle in front of Julia and Myrie after having shared a prayer and hug before our entrance.

Julia and André and Myrie and Matt made a request of their guests which I loved – they asked everyone to refrain from taking photos during the service. They left that to the professional photographer and encouraged guests to simply enjoy the ceremony. So often I see guests hidden behind their cameras, missing out on the most important moments because they’re so focused on getting the shot. The couples’ request to put devices down meant that everyone could really take in what was happening.

Julia and André

Julia and André

A bilingual ceremony was a new experience for me and one I really enjoyed.  As Matt had a number of friends flying in, it was important to both couples that all guests could understand and engage with the service. We had translated the ceremony and the sermon in advance and both couples heard the sermon for the first time on the day. It was wonderful watching their reactions to it and to see those guests who didn’t speak German follow along.

At the end of the ceremony, both couples released doves as a symbol of their love and union. With all the formalities over, it was then time for the party!   But that, my friends, is another blog post.

Julia and André

Julia and André

Part II to come

Julia and André, Myrie and Matt, 7 July 2012
Venue: Memmingen, Germany
Photos: 1, 2 and 5 by D Batty.