The whole reason we went to Europe in the first place was to be at the wedding of two amazing people: my brother-in-law, Jesse, and his beautiful wife, Maggie. I had never experienced a wedding in another culture, and I was excited to see the traditions that would set their wedding apart.
The wedding was held at Maggie’s family farm. The farm was absolutely stunning; it’s more than 600 years old (first mentioned in an official document in 1382). It stands surrounded by hills of lush grains; the location was idyllic. The family renovated the farmhouse especially for the wedding reception and it was immaculate. Their renovations made the old building look fresh, but somehow its primitive elegance remained firmly intact. The aged floors shone like they were new, and fresh paint left the old building crisp and clean.
The wedding ceremony was perfect in its simplicity. A plain white tent provided shade for the ceremony and white ribbons tied at the end of each aisle caught the breeze. The ceremony was spoken in both English and German. The bride and groom actually sit during most of the ceremony. It is important that the bride sits to the right of the groom—this symbolizes the groom’s protection over her. The ceremony was eloquent, touching, and at times mesmerizing listening to vows given in a foreign tongue.
Just like in the United States, the festivities picked up after the bride and groom said, “I do”. The traditional Bavarian band had already downed plenty of beer before they started to play. They were decked out in their lederhosen and as the guests drank their share of beer and Prosecco it was easy to sway along with the unfamiliar tune.
The men did a fabulous job of not complaining about being hot in the 90 degree weather; it’s an European tradition that none of the guys can take off their jackets until the groom does. When Jesse’s jacket came off, all of the other jackets were off within seconds. It was really fun to watch Jesse and Maggie Baustamm sägen or in simpler terms: cut a log with a two-person saw. This fun tradition is representative of the two working together, and their ability to solve problems that will arise throughout their life.
As the day turned to dusk the beautiful classic dancing began. The kind of dancing that I’ve only ever seen on TV. The kind of dancing I read about in Pride and Prejudice. Everyone moved with elegance, grace, and perfect posture. I happen to possess none of these things, so I stood to the side and watched. They seemed to float as their light steps careened them across the floor. How did they do this with so much beer in them you ask?
I don’t know.
I have been to a lot of weddings—usually the ceremony and the reception combined lasts about six hours tops. Not so in Germany. The wedding began at two in the afternoon and Jesse and Maggie didn’t leave until two in the morning. Maggie’s family didn’t leave until six in the morning. Fellowship: eating, drinking, talking, and dancing are an integral part of the wedding celebration—and it is done well. Very well.
As the night drew into the next morning everyone stood around with sparklers to see the couple off. It was a bittersweet moment, as it always is. A moment that is representative of new beginnings and the turning of a page. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends all feeling sentimental stand in rows and hope for a glance or even a hug as the couple walks down the pathway leading to their future. That is one of the things about a wedding that is always the same. At that little farm we all felt the love of the married couple and the bitter edge of the changes that it would bring. At the end of the night, we were not separated by traditions, culture, or language barriers, rather we were brought together in our hopes for the happy couple.
To Jesse and Maggie!