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.

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  1. […] you’ve celebrated a bilingual, double wedding in a bucolic European setting, what do you do? You […]

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