Caro & Jan Got Married

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Feeling a little beat and in need of a quiet weekend already. Oliver and I flew to Bremen on Thursday for his sister’s wedding. Carolin got married on Friday or Saturday depending on which one you count. Friday was the state wedding, where a designated official legally united them in the bonds of matrimony. Saturday was the church wedding where the priest justified the years of church taxes the two have been paying by giving them a lovely ceremony in a picture perfect little stone church in the town of Lilienthal outside of Bremen.

Here in Germany many do it twice to be sure it’s done right.

I had seen photos of a friends’ state wedding and had also seen a few couples waiting to make it official at the ‘alien office’ downtown in Munich. I’d always thought it was perhaps the saddest and most depressing thing I’d ever seen.

Imagine a hopeful couple dressed in their best with a group of well-wishers being ushered into a sterile government office with maybe a picture on the wall, everyone sitting in folding chairs and signing certificates on a scarred card table. These were the impressions I’d pieced together in my head, and the images I was expecting when we got there. I was ready to ‘put on a brave face’ and try to pretend it was lovely.

Luckily it didn’t come to that by a long shot.

A wealthy woman donated her family farm (in the family for over 500 years) to the city of Bremen and they in turn made it into a wedding location for couples. It’s called the ‘Hochzeitshaus’ or “wedding house” and is the most astonishingly picturesque thing you’ve ever seen. All my prepared and packaged pity could be chucked to the wind, because this place was darling.

The only hitch was when Carolin realized that she’d forgotten her identification, which caused some excitement. Claus had to jump into the car and drive home and back in record time as the house was only rented for about an hour and a half or so.

Of course all turned out well.

The first wedding was at this quaint little farm. The house came equipped with a bar for the first toast and champagne to follow.

Outside they had to saw a log together to symbolize unity – if they didn’t work as a team the saw would stick in the wood. They were given the piece as a souvenir to keep. The date is written on it, the idea being then that Jan can’t forget and if he does Carolin can whack him on the head with it. The couple also released a bunch of balloons tied to postcards with different wishes written on them. If the cards are found and mailed back then the couple gets whatever is promised – a trip for two to Spain, a dishwasher, new socks…

The whole bunch got stuck in a tree on the way up of course, so we’ll see if they free themselves or not.

That evening everyone had dinner at a nice little Italian place nearby and most retired early in preparation for the next day. Oliver and I went over to the five star Park Hotel in Bremen to check on a guest who’d arrived from London that afternoon. Although living in London he was born in Jerusalem and his English has never quite gained real polish so he still sounds very arab. Eccentric but really nice, he insisted that we have drinks with him in the bar and when Carolin and Jan showed up to say hello he kept them up until two plying them with cocktails, kisses and more cocktails. At two I announced that the bride and groom had another wedding to go to and that it was time for bed.

The second wedding took place the next day in a tiny little stone church in the countryside. It was packed with people and as a surprise a gospel choir stood up and sang during the ceremony. The priest opened the ceremony with a plea for donations to a hospice for dying children from those attending. Oliver was positioned at the end of the ceremony, next to the only door and collected and assessed all donations. (“This is a cute 5 euro bill, what else you got in that bulging wallet?”) He did a pretty good job of shaking them all down. Other than the donation drive it was the same as in the US except that Carolin had had to fight to get the right to walk down the aisle with her father, “American style”. Apparently that is just not done over here and it was quite a feat to secure a priest who would allow it.

The church was simple and quaint, most of the light came from big fat white candles stuck on every pew and in holders on the walls. Real church bells rang (no recordings) announcing the brides arrival and the newlywed couples’ exit. Oliver was one of the ‘best people’ and would taking part in the ceremony. Gerlinde came up at the last minute and insisted I sit up front with her in the family pew. She was so flustered and nervous she ran through a few names before she hit on mine to ask me to join her. Much to the amusement to those that heard, the first two were the names of her deceased cat and latest dog, but I knew who she meant.

(I couldn’t help think as I did this, what had followed the last time I went to a boyfriends’ sibling wedding and sat in the family pew during the ceremony: The bride had whispered ‘you’re next’ in my ear and I had automatically thought, ‘oh no I’m not!’. Three months later I met Oliver.)

A big bus picked up all the out-of-towners and ferried them from the hotels to the ceremony and then to the party.

The party was in a thickly forested park in the middle of town – a huge park you really felt isolated. Claus, Oliver’s father, had rented this house/café/bar both inside and out and installed two doorman/bouncers to ensure that we were undisturbed. A huge tent was put up outside, set up with tables and a hot buffet that lasted until 4am.

A nice touch was the music selection. Along with the normal DJ playing fun dance music there was a live band called Forty Love. This was headed by family friend Horst Luecking, as the lead singer. Horst is about 50 now and the group had been disbanded about three years ago and was doing a reunion concert just for that night. (“…and for if ever Oliver ties the knot!” he said in his opening song. Nice.)

What can I say? Horst and his border-line senior citizen band rocked the house and before you knew it, three generations of wedding guests were bumping rumps and jumping around.

Claus gave an opening speech, complete with slide show to properly humiliate the bride. Carolin used to have a great steely set of braces and some huge Barn-Owl style eyeglasses. Great fodder for a good roasting.

Oliver won the title ‘hero’ to all the women there when he walked in the drizzling rain to our hotel and picked up my tennis shoes after my shoes started to kill me.

Our friend Simon, who’s often joined us for the New Year holiday in Austria, came and really got the dance floor moving. He’s a dancing maniac and was twirling Gerlinde in all directions, complete with deep dips and jazz hands. He later took the bride out for a spin and in the process christened her dress by ripping it half off. Carolin was a fabulous sport, declared a wedding dress should look like shit at the end of the night and spent the rest of the night with a huge safety pin holding her thousand-Euro dress together.

The party was just starting to die down when I headed home at 5am. Oliver came into the room sometime after 8am after dropping the last all-night guest off at the train station.

I put some pictures I managed to take on my little mac web site here.


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