German Language Blog

My Big, Fat, Bavarian Wedding Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in Culture, Food, Language, Music, Traditions

… OK, so the title of this post is a tad misleading. I didn’t have a big, fat, Bavarian wedding. But I went to one, and that was just as good!

Last year, I attended my cousin’s wedding in Bavaria. It was the first Bavarian wedding I’d ever been to, and there were several things about it that differed to the English weddings I’ve attended in the past. So should you ever attend a wedding in Germany/Bavaria, I thought share my experience with you, to give you a little taste of what you could expect from it!

1. The Church

My family come from Niederbayern (Lower Bavaria), which is a Catholic region of Germany. So the first part of my cousin’s wedding was a Catholic Church wedding. They had a choir, prayers, and readings from the Bible. It was very traditional. Below is a photo of the church she was married in. As you can see, it’s very grand:

Kirche in Zwiesel, Bayern. Photo credit: Constanze Arnold.

Kirche in Zwiesel, Bayern. Photo credit: Constanze Arnold.

2. The reception venue

This was in a place called Eck, and was held in a converted barn. It even had its own brewery, and served its own brand of beer. They had a Bavarian band playing traditional music, dressed in traditional Lederhosen. It was, in a sense, quintessentially bayerisch, and it had a lovely, upbeat atmosphere to it.

Eck. Photo credit: Constanze Arnold

Eck. Photo credit: Constanze Arnold

3. The cakes

At English weddings, this is the point where you go straight to the wedding breakfast. But in Bavaria, they do things slightly differently. Instead of eating your meal first, you get Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake). And lots of it!

Kuchen: Cake. Photo credit: Constanze Arnold

Kuchen: Cake. Photo credit: Constanze Arnold

At my cousin’s wedding, there was an entire room filled with cakes that had been made by relatives and friends. I think there must have been around 15 cakes to choose from – and endless coffee to go with them! This did not surprise me in the slightest; the Bavarian equivalent of ‘coffee culture’ would be ‘coffee and cake culture’ . They’re obsessed with it in daily life, frequently baking or buying cakes and inviting people round for a slice (or three) at any time of day – so it only seems natural to extend that practice to their weddings.

I must say that this particular wedding tradition has a very homely, personal feel to it. After all, when you really think about it, why would you spend an extortionate amount of money on one, single wedding cake when you could have 15 wedding cakes made for you, for free, by your friends and family? (That way, there is something for everyone, too!)

4. Die Hochzeitssuppe

This translates to “Wedding soup”, and is a soup traditionally served as the first course at German weddings. Its ingredients vary from region to region, but it is traditionally a chicken broth with meatballs and different vegetables. I didn’t get to try this soup, though, because I don’t eat meat, so I sadly cannot account for its taste. I hear it is very popular though, and is not restricted to being served at weddings – it is available in many restaurants, too.

5. Brautstehlen

This is a German wedding tradition. Brautstehlen means ‘the stealing of the bride’ (Braut = bride, stehlen = to steal). What it entails is this:

The best man and groomsmen ‘steal’ the bride and take her to the nearest pub to get her drunk. This is done without the groom’s knowledge. Once the groom realises his bride has been stolen, he must go on a mission to find her and ‘win her back’. This is a bit of fun which involves some silly games and Trinklieder (drinking songs).

At my cousin’s wedding, I was completely unaware that Brautstehlen was going on until about halfway through. What happened was this:

When I looked up from my table, Simon (the groom) was wearing a woman’s apron and a Viking hat with blonde pigtails, and was holding a broom. He left the barn with the band following him, and all of the guests followed them out. Without questions, we joined them (we were too sozzled to question anything at this point). We all ended up in the bar across the road, where Julia (the bride and my cousin) was sat with the best man.

Brautstehlen. Photo credit: Constanze Arnold

Brautstehlen. Photo credit: Constanze Arnold

Everybody took a seat at one of the various long tables in the room, and helped themselves to a drink. The band took their place on the little stage behind us, and the “master of ceremonies”, I suppose you could call him, told Simon what he had to do to get his wife back. This involved making a speech about how fantastic and amazing she was, while kneeling on a plank of wood next to the best man. Julia eventually “took him back”, everybody cheered, and then the band led us all in some Bavarian drinking songs.

Brautstehlen. Photo credit: Constanze Arnold

Brautstehlen. Photo credit: Constanze Arnold

To give you an idea of the kinds of songs we sung, here’s a video. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone more stylish than these two singing it (!), but this is one of the songs we sung at the wedding, so it’s worth showing:

The details of the Brautstehlen tradition obviously vary from wedding to wedding, but that is my own, personal experience of it. Whether it makes sense or not, that is what happened! It’s a wonderful bit of fun, in my opinion!

And from that point on, it was just a great, big party!

So, that was my first experience of a Bavarian wedding. I would love to go to another one! Have you ever been to a Bavarian/German wedding? Were there any traditions or practices that stood out to you?

Some wedding vocabulary:

Wedding – Die Hochzeit

Marriage – Die Heirat

Cake – Der Kuchen

First dance – Der Hochzeitstanz

Church – Die Kirche

Bride – Die Braut

Groom – Der Bräutigam

Bridesmaid – Die Brautjungfer

Best man – Der Trauzeuge


Brautstehlen – the stealing of the bride (wedding tradition)

Hochzeitssuppe – traditional wedding soup

Trinklieder – drinking songs

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. marcia bernhard:

    Thanks!! This was a wonderful description of the wedding celebration. Hautnah.

  2. Pius:

    Bride stealing was the custom with us Germans in North Dakota.
    These days it has fallen out of favor

    • Constanze:

      @Pius Why is that?

  3. Larissa:

    Ha this is great!!!!

  4. Richard Schaffer:

    At my wedding the bride’s shoe is taken and sold at auction during the reception. The highest bidder gets to kiss the bride. A tradition so longer seen at the German weddings in my part of Kansas. Meine grossmutter aus Reisbach a.d. Vils, Bavaria.

  5. Richard Schaffer:

    Don’t know what is meant by “moderation”

  6. Kathy Gosz:

    I live in Wisconsin and have distant relatives in both Niederbayer (Brandten) and the Rheinland (Irsch bei Saarburg). I did not attend the wedding of the son of a good friend in the Rheinland so I only saw some pictures. The cakes were fantastic and there were tons of pictures of them, more than of the bride and groom. I’ve also researched wedding customs in Niederbayern (still very similar today) and in the Rheinland. I don’t know if Arno had to buy back his bride when she was captured on the way to the church. Probably not.

  7. Kathy Gosz:

    Forgot to say how much I enjoyed this post – I’m sending it to my sister right now.

    • Constanze:

      @Kathy Gosz Hi, Kathy! Thank you for your comments! It’s so lovely to hear everyone’s stories about Bavarian weddings. It’s pretty funny that there were more pictures at your relatives’ wedding of the cakes than of the bride and groom! But it’s true – seeing a whole room full of cakes (which you are allowed to eat!) is quite exciting! I hope your sister liked my article, too. 🙂

  8. Sam:

    Who was the band?

    • Constanze:

      @Sam I have no idea what they were called! Sorry!

  9. Beth:

    Oh how lovely!! I am looking for info as I have never been to Germany but am going to a Bavarian wedding in Germany in May. Do you have any advice about appropriate gift ideas or what to wear?! Thank you so much for your blog; it is very helpful!!! 🙂

    • Constanze:

      @Beth Glad you liked my article, Beth! There aren’t really any specifics regarding gift ideas or what to wear – though I would say that if you’re having the wedding in a Church, dress fairly modestly. That goes without saying, really, but many parts of Bavaria are still quite conservative in terms of religion. It depends on the part of Bavaria you’re in, how well you know the bride and groom, what sort of wedding it is, and so on. Any more questions, just ask! If not, have a great time at the wedding!! 🙂

  10. Weddings in Santorini:

    So nice post!

  11. Cheryl:

    What a great post! My sister is getting married to a German guy in July in his hometown of Anklam…we are all looking forward to it as his family is very traditional 🙂

    May I ask if you would know which Choir they used? We are looking to hire one for the Church ceremony, and any help would be much appreciated! Thank you!

    • Constanze:

      @Cheryl Hey Cheryl! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂 I’m afraid I have no idea which choir they used. I think it was a local one, connected to the church. I hope you enjoy your first experience of a big, fat German wedding! 🙂 x