tangled up in blue

We got married on a Friday. A coincidence born of a tightly booked Standesamt (marriage office) and an upcoming visit from long-lost American friends, it did not, as it so easily could have, lead to excessive playing of The Cure. “Our song,” if we had bothered to choose one, would have likely been something like Godspeed’s Dead Flag Blues or a track from Wolves in the Throne Room.

My dress fulfilled every requirement dictated by that old tome of American wedding superstition: it was borrowed, blue, old (as in vintage), and new (as in to me). But that particular superstition doesn’t mean shit in Germany. (Though in an ironic twist, the word “blue” also means “drunk.”) In Germany, you break dishes in front of your house for good luck the night before the wedding, and then your friends make you sweep them up with your partner while videotaping everything.

This is called Polterabend, and I am arbitrarily certain that Polter‘s close resemblance to the word Folter (that means torture folks) is no coincidence. Breaking the plates was amusing. If I had had my way the shards would still be laying on the pavement in a hundred brilliant colors and pieces. If I had my way we’d smash dishes outside of the house every day.

We were up early on Friday. 6:45 am and I couldn’t fall back asleep. What’s a bride to do? Light the wood stove and start drinking wheat beer, is what. I put on my dress and within three steps had already ripped open the front seam. I had forgotten that fancy dresses were designed for “ladies” and that ladies aren’t supposed to take big “manly” steps out of their wagon homes. Not that I have been file-able under “lady” for years. I held the ripped pieces of fabric in my hand and giggled, imagining what certain people would have to say about the fact that it was my wedding day and I wasn’t wearing, make-up, hair product, or deodorant.

In the house others were already putting on make-up and costumes. The Clockwork Orange crew was there in all their white-clad, baseball-bat-carrying, jock-strap-sporting glory. Karlsson was in a tight sequin dress that used to belong to somebody’s grandmother, and Scissors had transformed into his blond counterpart Sandy. Frau Doktor was in her best ugly beige business suit, and her date was an American air force pilot in an enormous fur hat. Later there would be silver angel wings and ridiculous hats and a priest from the little-known Christian sect of Thomas. People would throw potatoes and rice (cooked and uncooked), onions and confetti.

We’d been planning on taking the tractor to the ceremony. It would have almost been legal, if we had piled enough vegetables in the back to convince any curious police officers that Natasha was just a farmer transporting her harvest and had coincidentally picked up an entire wedding party on her way into the center of town.

But it was cold, so we decided to take the bus—decided to take the bus, that is, until our platz-mates revealed their wedding gift: the shopping cart carriages of dumpster royalty. Welded to the side of each cart-chair was a little basket for champagne, snacks, and a half liter can of Faxe. We were wheeled to the bus stop, smuggled the carts into the bus (apparently in an attempt to keep homeless people off of public transportation, taking shopping carts on German buses was banned years ago), and landed in front of the Standesamt a half an hour early. Amen.

The Mainz Standesamt is a large concrete block located just behind the train station, and its innards are paneled with dark wood and adorned with fading plastic garlands. Being in charge of one of this culture’s most revered traditions, I had imagined the Standesamt might try to foster an atmosphere and aesthetic almost anyone could enjoy, but it is a dull beige waiting room that awaits each wedding party as they wait for their appointment, and the ceremony room itself feels depressingly, cheaply corporate.

I would have preferred to get married in a dilapidated old building or a forest, anywhere but that concrete block really, but German law is firm: If you don’t get married at the Standesamt, your marriage is not recognized by the government, and you gain no rights to cheaper taxes, inheritances, and hospital visits. Religious ceremonies, if a couple choose to have one, can be held later, but alone are not recognized by the German state. I might consider applauding this successful amputation of church and state, if only the government would start planning the operation to remove state from love.

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Wednesday January 13th 2010, 3:46 pm 9 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,expat life,germany

9 Comments so far. Please leave a comment.

First! Congratulations, all the best, cheers. Glad to see a bike parked behind the ‘carriage’ as well.

FAXE system!

Comment by uhu! 01.13.10 @ 6:54 pm

“FAXE system”—I am so jealous that I didn’t think of that wordplay myself.

Comment by clickclackgorilla 01.13.10 @ 7:27 pm

Congratulations!

I’m a big fan of the carriages :)

Most Standesämter look awfully corporate, sure. But many cities offer to marry at certain special places (like a castle or such), which can make the whole thing nice again.
That is, if the Standesbbeamte cuts short on the bullshit they’re prone to spill.

Comment by Onkel Mo 01.13.10 @ 10:51 pm

Wow, you got married? Is a Bauwagen Mommy-blog just around the next corner? :-)

Comment by ian in hamburg 01.13.10 @ 11:46 pm

Mo: I think Mainz does this too, and it, of course, costs extra to get married somewhere nice. It also costs extra (80 euros extra) to get married in the afternoon because apparently only rich people are allowed to sleep in on the day of their wedding. Ah well, they get a shorter party…

Ian: Well, in the words of a comment I made this morning: “People! Enough with all this “and we wish you many healthy babies” shit. I appreciate the loving thought behind your words, but you are going to curse me.” Which I can translate into a nice short, “no.”

Comment by clickclackgorilla 01.14.10 @ 1:15 pm

Congratulations!!!

Comment by fenu 01.15.10 @ 4:08 am

[...] tangled up in blue [...]

Pingback by old hickory said we could take ‘em by surprise | click clack gorilla 01.11.12 @ 4:32 pm

When we lived in a very remote part of the jungle in Panama we did not have electricity. We did our laundry by hand. We used a combination of borax, a glog of bleach and detergent. The bleach and borax were because everything molds in the rain forest. Mold stinks and stains.

Jeff and I shared one towel and then we each had our own quick dry camping towels. Those things are worth their weight in gold when backpacking or living in the tropics. When we had American visitors they often remarked that we didn’t have washclothes. This was true because they got gross and moldy within a couple days. We each had two outfits that we would rotate between until they wore out because body heat was the only good way to thoughly dry clothing and prevent mold.

On a random side note, I also drool when I sleep and my pillow was constantly molding. It got so I would toast my pillow in the little propane oven periodically to keep the mold in check.

I asked the local ladies how they do it and they would just shrug and say they wash and hung up the clothes. There must have been something they weren’t telling me.

Now, back in middle America, I love not having to wash clothing by hand, or worry that it will mold. I still hang-dry in the summer. We live in an area with lots of Amish/Church of the Brothern/Meninite groups that live an odd combination of simple yet modern lives. I can always tell which farmsteads are theirs because of the green doors and the clothes lines that are on a pully system. They usually attached to the house and then extend a fair distance to a two-story foot poll. So the clothing flaps in the wind on a clothes line angling 20 degree up into the air. They must get a better breeze up there. Also kids and animals can’t do any damage.

Comment by Foy 01.12.12 @ 4:39 pm

That honestly sounds like the most fun wedding ever. If I ever get married, I want a wedding like yours.

Comment by Audrey Apelbaum 03.21.12 @ 5:42 pm




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