At first, the idea seemed crazy to me. It was March of 2010 and I had just gotten engaged to my boyfriend of 6 years. We were living in Germany, and he had spontaneously proposed during an afternoon hike close to his Bavarian hometown. Following on the heels of our engagement, we made the decision to return to Bavaria the following year to celebrate for our wedding. The only problem? We also planned to move back to the States in the meantime! In fact, the time between our engagement and our departure back to the States was so tight, that we were only left with one day to look for a suitable venue. None of those we saw ended up being our “dream location.”
And so it was in April of that year, that I headed back to the United States with a full list of “to-dos” to complete from more than 3000 miles away. From day one, I had to be realistic about many things: like, for example, that my wedding wouldn’t be full of the many DIY details that I had fawned over in bridal blogs. It just wouldn’t be logistically possible to ship decorations over from the States, so I would have to make do with the linens provided by the venue, plus a few IKEA-bought candles that we could easily pick up over there (FYI – Germany has more IKEA stores than any other country, which explains why most homes there look like a page out of the catalogue!)
The inherent cultural differences between Germany and the US also posed a few additional bumps along the way, as I found that my expectations didn’t always align with the outcome or options I was met with. Like the fact that none of my vendors asked for a deposit – except for my photographer, who was American. While this may seem like a dream, given the cost of most weddings, keep in mind that deposits also offer protection. It was only after our officiant randomly gave away our date 6 months after booking that we actually began to ask our vendors if we could put down a deposit (as you can imagine, most said yes!). I also found it difficult to locate a baker that could reproduce the dream of a modern 4-tiered cake that I had held in my head for years. In Germany, the norm still leans towards plainer, more traditional cakes – most commonly, flat heart-shaped cakes covered in fruit.
But the thing is, after several months of trying to contrive my wedding to be the event I had always imagined it to be – I stopped. I realized that it simply wasn’t going to look like the weddings I had seen in American magazines...but that this was a good thing! I had chosen to have my wedding in Germany for a reason, and I needed to embrace what it would mean to have a German wedding with American flair…rather than trying to have an “American wedding” in Germany! Once I came to this realization, I began to treasure the cultural surprises, rather being than be thrown by them. Not only did this make for a much less stressful planning experience, it also made for some incredible adventures too!
So while a having an overseas wedding meant that I had to give up control about many things, it also means that I now get to tell my kids I was married in a palace (Schloss Nymphenburg) and that I incorporated several different languages into my ceremony. I also get to show them the formal pictures I took in Munich’s main square (Marienplatz) and recount memories of having tourists follow me to take pictures. So if you’d ask me if I’d go back and change anything – I’d say no, not in a million years.
Have you ever attended a wedding or another type of celebration abroad? What kind of cultural differences did you experience?