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  • Writer's picturemarie

Oh my: Key differences between German and American weddings

I have spent a lot of time in the States over the last two years and was able to be a guest at two weddings there. Since I've been working as a Wedding Day Coordinator, it's been difficult for me to be a "normal" guest. I look at everything in detail and then analyze what I would have done differently or what I particularly liked. Being able to do the whole thing in the USA was even more exciting. Because, believe it or not, American weddings are VERY different to German weddings. And I'm not talking about opulent florals or glittery dresses. But about the schedule, the customs and cultural differences. So, let's take a little journey into the wedding world of the USA vs Germany!

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Difference #1: No curfew vs. lights on at 10 p.m.

I think I had the biggest cultural shock when the last song of the night was announced at 9:55 p.m. (at one of the two weddings it was even at 9:30pm!). Right when everyone is on the dance floor having a blast! Over here, Germans won't sign a venue with a curfew at 2am because they want to party until dawn. How come American weddings end that early? Well.. I learned that every additional hour at the venue would be very expensive. Unfortunately, I couldn't find out how much it would be, so let's say it's "very expensive". Instead of continuing the party at the venue, there is usually an after party for all guests. Sometimes additional people are invited there who did not receive an invitation to the party due to lack of seats or budget. In both cases I attended, the afterparty took place at a hotel bar. In my opinion, the high of the dance floor around 9pm and everyone partying can't be recovered when moving to a different location. Between picking up your jacket and taking the shuttle to the afterparty, a lot of the party mood is lost and fades away. I'm definitely Team Germany here :)

Difference #2: Bridal Table vs. Sweetheart Table

German American wedding

The bride and groom sit at the sweetheart table - placed in the middle of the hall with a view of all their guests. What I noticed: The bride and groom don't end up sitting there because they go from table to table between meals and chat with their guests. In my opinion, valuable moments at the table with loved ones are lost because they only eat as a couple and are not sitting at the table with their closest friends and families. On the other hand, it provides a little break for the two of them. I'll have to reach out to the bride and ask her how it felt for her to get another view on this!

Difference #3: Reception vs. Cocktail Hour

In Germany, we generally keep the reception after the wedding rather small. The aim is to get guests so full that no one gets drunk too quickly and can make up for their missed lunch, but also not so full that no one is hungry at dinner. At both weddings in the USA, the so-called "cocktail hour" had SO much food that I didn't even need my 3-course meal anymore. There were various stations set up all around in a large hall: sushi, steak & fries, fresh oysters, Italian antipasti, small burgers and much more. The selection was gigantic and would definitely have been enough for me that evening. Other guests did tell me that the selection is not always that big, so the two events I attended might have been an exception. I LOVED the variety of it all and it was fun to taste a little bit of everything. I think a good average is wonderful here - put something in your stomach, but don't take away the hunger for a delicious dinner.

Difference #4: Moderation through the evening with MC

This one is tricky 😅 The Bavarian readers may know the "Hochzeitslader" at weddings who guides through the evening. In North Rhine-Westphalia, where I come from, we don't have anything like that. I have never been a guest at a wedding where someone guided through the program. Until I was in the USA. The MC then says things like "Now a big round of applause for the bride and groom!" before the two enter the hall. The person also calls guests up to the dance floor or asks them to sit down for the main course. In my opinion, this gives the wedding more of a party vibe and really heats up the atmosphere - but it's not the quiet dinner that Germans have.

Difference #5: 2-3 groomsmen vs. an army of bridesmaids and groomsmen

german american wedding

We know it from Instagram: The pictures of a bride with 8 bridesmaids in the same dress at her side. In fact, that's how it really is in the US and the "Bridal Party" is taken very seriously. "Bridal Party" include all bridesmaids and groomsmen - if you are asked to be part of to the bridal party, you have to take it seriously! There is a dress code, there are gifts for everyone and a strict plan for the ceremony. That's why the rehearsal is so important to ensure a smooth wedding day - you practice the ceremony as well as entrance to the ball room for everyone in the bridal party. Usually, girls and boys are paired and walk down the aisle together. In Germany, not all weddings will have bridesmaids. It depends on the size of bridal couple's inner circle. However, there will always be one or two maid of honors and best men, but not many more.

I hope I could give you a little insight into American weddings! I'm also happy that more and more binational couples want to get married in Germany. Having experienced both American and German weddings makes it so much easier to support binational couples as a Wedding Day Coordinator. Understanding what is important to them, where they are coming from culturally, to me, is super valuable. So if you are about to marry an American in Europe or are American yourself - I would love to be there for you on your special day!

American wedding

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