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So, as ya’ll have probably heard by now, I’M ENGAGED!! Wahooo!! So, now that the engagement is well under way, I feel the need to compare the traditions and cultures of Germany and America, since after all I’m an American girl marrying a German guy!

Here are 5 ways in which I find German/American engagements different:

IMG_1963 1. The Diamond Engagement Ring Is Almost Unheard Of

It is not typical in Germany for the woman to receive an engagement ring prior to the wedding. It is more common that a woman receives a simple silver ring unadorned with loads of bling bling. Germans wedding rings are much less flashy and over the top than in America. But this is not me. After all, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!” It took some persuasion to start looking at wedding rings here in Germany as my German learned the American tradition of popping the question with the right ring. After all of our searching, the rings we found were very simple compared to American standards. When I showed a picture of the style ring that I liked to jewelry stores, I got an overwhelming “That’s too American”, “We can’t make that”. So, eventually we had a jeweler in America make both my engagement/wedding ring set as well as Hans’ ring and ship them to us. I can now say that I am happily wearing the “American style” ring of my dreams! After all, I’ve waited 30 years for this happy moment!


Then we had to agree on which hand to wear our rings. Traditionally, Germans wear their rings on the left hand during the engagement period and then switch them to their right hand during the wedding ceremony. Americans on the other hand, wear the engagement and wedding ring at all times on the left hand, on the ring finger as they say it is the only finger thats nerve leads directly to the heart. So, we chose to follow the American tradition, even though to some it will probably continue to look as if we are merely engaged forever while in Germany.

2. The Engagement Period Will NOT Receive A Big Celebration

If you’re an Anglo-Saxon, you already know how much of a big deal the engagement is. The engagement comes with the right ring, the right proposal and celebrated with a lot of OOHHs and AHHHs when asked to show the ring. Here in Germany, it’s a bit different and a whole lot less exciting.

Upon coming home from our weekend trip to Vienna and announcing to our families that we were finally engaged, I guess I expected a little bit more OOHs and AHHS than we got and the immediate planning of a small engagement party. Turns out, traditionally in Germany, there is no big “We’re engaged!” announcement! Most people have no idea that an engagement took place until they receive the wedding invite in the mail! Surprise!!!

We have now been engaged for 3 months, and still my soon-to-be German family has yet to throw a “Congratulations” party/dinner/celebration of this joyous event. And this is one of the biggest differences between German and American engagements. The wedding is the biggest concern in Germany and the engagement is just a general happy occasion.

In North America, getting engaged certainly comes with its own big bang! There are celebrations between the families to celebrate the coming together of two families, the Engagement Party for the couple, sometimes combined with the Bridal Shower where the Bride-to-Be is showered in gifts preparing her for the honeymoon with lingerie and other sexy items to kick start the honeymoon period after the wedding. Therefore, I feel a little sad that I am missing out on this part of this wedding process, but I am still trying to keep as many American engagement traditions in ours as possible.

3. There Are No Engagement Pictures

Another big part of the engagement process that is traditional in North America is the taking of beautiful engagement pictures, to celebrate the next phase of the relationship. Many people in America take these pictures and use them as their “Save the Date” announcement cards, others send pictures to family with the invites. Sometimes, the engagement pictures are even themed as a more fun way of taking pictures. As my parents did, they hung their engagement picture over the fireplace as a constant reminder of the happy event, which I also plan on doing to continue this little tradition.


Here in Germany, considering that the engagement is almost of little importance, many have never heard of the idea of taking engagement pictures. Upon announcing to German friends and family, the resounding question was, “Why?”  Sure it’s an extra expense, but why not cherish the moment!?

4. Bachelor/ette Night Out On The Town

For once, there is actually something the same in both countries. No wonder though, considering it involves alcohol! In both countries it is popular for the Bachelorette and her girls, the Bachelor and his guys to go out on the town and paint it red, separately to celebrate the last days of being unmarried. Common phrases are “Buy Me A Shot, I’m Tying The Knot” and “One Last Ride For The Bride” and people are encouraged to participate in the fun!

The only difference here in Germany, is that more times than not, the parties dress up in funny costumes, usually the bride/groom drawing the most attention. They walk around the town and try to sell odd tidbits and things like “A Kiss for a Euro” to random people in order to make some extra money for the wedding couple. While this is a relatively new tradition for young Germans, Americans have dressed up in matching clothes to draw attention to the fact its a wedding celebration for many years.


5. There Will Be A ‘Polterabend’ Before The Wedding Day

As every culture is bound to have their own strange wedding traditions, Germany certainly has its own. The night before the wedding is a big hurrah celebration lasting allllll night long, called ‘Polterabend’. ‘Poltern’ is the German verb “to make a racket” and ‘abend’ is the noun for “evening”. It is a big celebration for the guests to come together and smash large amounts of porcelain objects in order to bring luck to the wedding couple’s marriage.

Engaged to a German! - Part 1 of German/American Wedding - California Globetrotter


The belief in the effectiveness of this custom is expressed by the old adage: “Shards bring luck” (German: Scherben bringen Glück). The expression is derived from a time when the word “shard” referred to the unbroken clay pots of pottery makers, and not just the broken pieces. It was said that a full jar was a lucky thing to have, therefore the expression “shards bring luck”.

Afterwards, it is the responsibility of the couple to work together to clean up the mess, as a symbol of working together through their first ordeal.

Special thanks to Andreas F. for taking our very special engagement pictures!

Other posts related to the Wedding:

How to take Travel Themed Engagement Pictures

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Have you married a German? What was your experience?

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Replies to Engaged to a German! – Part 1 of My German/American Wedding

  1. Most of the Germans I know never actually announced their engagement! The first I heard they were getting married was when a wedding invitation turned up. Obviously they were “verlobt” as soon as they decided to get married, they just didn’t bother telling anyone!

  2. Interesting article! I love reading about different cultures and customs as you always get to know something completely quirky. In Germany’s case it was the smashing of porcelain objects, must be so much fun 😛

  3. This is so funny to me and all too real!! Haha I also recently married a German, in Germany, and thankfully he got me an American engagement ring, too… Those are just too important for us American girls! Our rings are also coming from America. The only thing I was upset about is the idea of a “Bridal Shower” isn’t a thing here. Bachelorette parties are real, but different. I guess there are just some things you have to compromise on for the one you love 🙂

  4. Congratulations on getting to marry a fabulous German guy! My German fella is so great that even just yesterday, after hearing all the great things my sweetie does for me, my friend asked if he was actually real or if I was making him up! 🙂

  5. So interesting to read how engagement and wedding is done in different cultures. Didn’t know about the difference between wearing the ring on left or right hand, I just wear it interchangeably in both, haha 🙂 Congratulations on you engagement and have a fantastic wedding party! 🙂

    1. Thank you! I was certainly interesting to learn because I always saw men wearing their ring a on the right hand and so I had to ask if that meant they were married! Because for me I always wore a simple decorative ring on my right hand and saved my left for when one day I would be engaged/married. That’s how we do it in the states! 🙂

  6. Just found your blog, and have enjoyed what I’ve read so far! It’s as if my older daughter wrote it, lol! My daughter, also a California girl, became an au pair to a German/American family after graduating from college about four years ago. She also met a German man and they tied the knot last March! She now works at an international preschool in Frankfurt, and has had the ability to travel all the eastern hemisphere. I love that young women no longer feel restricted to their own hometown or even their own country…the world is truly your oyster!

  7. I love reading about different wedding traditions! The Polterabend sounds like fun! (Cleaning up all those dishes on the eve of your wedding does not!) In France there is also a tradition where the bride and groom get together with their friends (separately, usually) and dress up in costumes and go around town doing silly things. I’ve found that in France people do announce their engagement to close family and celebrate with a toast, but don’t do all the parties and photos, etc.

    Have you written a post on your German-American wedding?! Congratulations, by the way 🙂

      1. Yes, I’d love to read it! I’m supposed to be planning an international wedding but it’s terribly daunting. It’s so interesting to blend cultural traditions. (I wish I could adopt the French tradition of inviting lots of guests to a simple afternoon reception and only having close friends and family at the ceremony and dinner, but I don’t think that would fly with the American guests! I remember I thought it sounded so awkward and rude when I first learned about it, but it’s a nice way to include people you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.)

  8. Congratulations!!! That is so exciting. Funny – I am German and will be marrying my American man in the U.S. I agree with the differences. Best of luck to the both of you!

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