Our Wedding

Monday, April 7, 2008

As Christine and I will be celebrating our eight wedding anniversary on April 7th, I have been giving some thought to our wedding (Hochzeit, in German). Most every married couples has some story to tell about their wedding, maybe there was something really unusual about the ceremony, the location; or collection of misfortunes, things that didn’t go according to plan or went totally wrong. A wedding is one of those life events for the participants, so most everything occurring at this time is amplified exponentially. Some things that taken in any other context would be considered minor, can on this day, become extreme highs and lows and often the day’s events build. The story of how we met gave us an interesting start as a couple, so why wouldn’t our wedding be memorable too? Without further adieu, here is the story that is our wedding.

Initial Planning

Shortly after I had purposed, we started planning the wedding. I had always wanted to get married in Europe at a castle, so I was intrigued by the possibilities. In Germany couples often have two weddings. The official wedding is somewhat like a civil wedding and is how a couple is legally married. Half of couples getting married will only do the civil wedding. The other half of couples getting married will have a ceremony in a church (kirchliche Trauung), so that they can be married in the eyes of God. The church ceremony has no legal standing.

We looked around at a few castles and decided upon the Biebrich Schloss for our civil ceremony. Biebrich belongs to Wiesbaden (not too far from Frankfurt); in fact it is often referred to as Wiesbaden-Biebrich. Christine knew an American bishop through having been a member of the Wiesbaden International Newborn Gospel Choir, and we arranged to have him perform the church service. We decided that we would have the church service at the same church where Christine’s parents had been married and that she was baptised at.

The Visa Situation

Weddings can be difficult enough anyways but when you add an international element to it, they can become pretty complicated. Because we wanted to marry in Germany, there was a requirement that I provide proof that I hadn’t been married before. I hate to imagine how complicated things would have been had I been married previously! I ended up going to the American Consulate in Frankfurt and getting a sworn statement that I had not been married before. Christine had been offered an Ex-Pat training assignment by one of the American managers that she had dealings with, so it was planned that she would come and live in the U.S. for a year and a half. One of the next biggest problems became that she needed a visa to enter into the U.S. I had heard horror stories about couples where one was American, they wed outside of the U.S. and then immigrations would not let the spouse in. While getting the necessary green card/visa was not guaranteed, it could take the couple up to a year and a half or longer. We were now hoping that she would get a training visa through work, if that didn’t work we would have needed to get a fiancée visa which would have allowed Christine to come into the U.S. and for us to then get married there. You needed to apply for a fiancée visa three months before it is needed. It all seemed very complicated and would have required the timing to be just right, something that I wanted to avoid.

Because of not knowing how the visa situation was going to turn out, we had to have a few plans. Plan A was that the training visa comes through and we can go with the wedding ceremonies as planned. Plan B was that we would have skipped the legal ceremony, had a church wedding in Germany, applied for a Fiancée visa and got married in the U.S. This would have meant that we would have been married in the eyes of God, but not legally. We didn’t know till the Friday before that she got the training visa so we could go ahead with Plan A!

Arrival of The Groom

I arrived at Frankfurt airport two days before the wedding. Matt (our best man) and Tracy (a friend of his) had flown with me. Shortly after walking through customs and meeting Christine, Tracy made the observation this was really our third date. We all kind of thought about that for a moment or two, Christine and I didn’t have any doubts as to if we were doing the right thing or not. That day Christine and I picked out wedding rings. We also had a session with an interpreter, I was told that this was required so that I understood what was going on and couldn’t claim later on that I thought that I was buying a washing machine or something like that.

The Groom's Parent Arrive

The day before wedding my parents were flying in, along with my friend Kurt and his wife Julie. Before leaving Christine’s apartment that morning I asked if I would need my passport that day, when Christine said that I wouldn’t, I promptly placed it on my bigger suitcase under a jacket or something and all thoughts about it vanished. Because of all the people that we were picking up, we tried to organize things so that Christine and I could lead my parents and their rental car to their hotel, while Kurt and Julie would follow Claudia (our maid of honor) back to the hotel. As luck would have it, my friend got separated which threw things off a little. We did finally all arrive at the hotel.

The Dress

Christine and I needed to go for the final dress adjustments and to find an outfit for me to wear. In order to fit Christine, my parents, and her mom and into one car (and avoid anyone else getting lost), we took my parents rental car to the bridal shop and Claudia re-parked Christine’s car. I found something to wear and they took Christine’s measurements to make the final adjustments. We now ran into the problem that the dress wouldn’t be ready till that afternoon, so we’d have to come back to pick it up. We had lunch and returned back to my parents’ hotel. We were approaching the time that the dress was to be ready and my dad suggested that we take their rental to pick it up. We did this and went to put the dress in Christine’s apartment, but guess what? Because we didn’t have her car, we didn’t have her apartment key. We found a neighbour that was home so we were able to leave the dress with the neighbour.

The Rehearsal

We drove back to my parents’ hotel and I left my suit there. We then had to head off to the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. We arrived at the church and waited for the maintenance guy to open it up. The church had not apparently been in use that day prior to our rehearsal, so it was cold. The rehearsal seemed like pure chaos to me and I was wondering how this was really going to work, when I heard my mom ask if there was going to be heat the next day at the wedding. My mom was almost always cold, so it wasn’t surprising that she would be concerned about this, but it only intensified the moment for me.

The Groom Gets Lost

The rehearsal dinner went well, everyone seemed to have a good time and enjoyed the food. After the rehearsal dinner Kurt and I went to an Irish Pub where one of Christine’s cousins was to meet us, he had told her that he wanted to throw me a bachelor party. After a few beers, Kurt and I then proceeded back to his hotel. After some difficulty we did finally get to his hotel and after some problems parking in the tight parking lot at the hotel, we decided to walk to Claudia’s apartment. Because it has been a superstition in my family that you shouldn’t see the bride before the wedding, I made arrangements to stay at Claudia’s apartment which was very close to the church and not too far from where the civil ceremony was to take place. I wasn’t sure how to get to her place while Kurt didn’t remember the way either. We walked around trying to find Claudia’s apartment and then we decided to take a taxi. The taxi dropped me off in front of the church and I told Kurt that he could go on back to the hotel. I walked all around the church looking for Claudia’s apartment but I couldn’t find it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any phone numbers on me so I could not really call anyone.

After a while my bladder kicked in and I was getting concerned about that. I was thinking that I didn’t want to get arrested in a foreign country for peeing in public. I was beginning to wonder if I would find Claudia’s apartment and if I would be able to make it to my wedding. All seemed to be lost, and then it occurred to me that maybe this was not the right church. I decided to walk further down the street to see if there was another church. That was the case. Claudia had given the Americans (except me) a tour earlier where she pointed out that the church that the cab driver had dropped me off in front of was the wrong church!

Because the door buzzers weren’t lit very well, I accidentally rang Claudia’s parents, who lived in the building next to Claudi. They let Claudia know that I was on my way. I arrived at Claudia’s apartment and she gave me the toiletry items that Christine had dropped by at my request. The stranger in a strange land anxiety had not left me and I was so relieved to be at Claudia’s apartment!

Will the Wedding Happen?

Early the next morning, Claudia told me that Christine had called and wanted to know where my passport was. I told Claudia that I thought that it was around my suitcase and I proceeded to take my shower. At my parents’ hotel, dad told me that mom had lost a lot of hair that morning. Mom had been battling cancer and the day after the wedding, my dad shaved off her remaining hair, so is was nice that she had most of her hair for all the pictures that were to be taken on this day!

Christine had been in a panic because she couldn’t find my passport, and her cousin who was supposed to pick her up in an old timer (a 1938 Lancia, I believe) was nowhere to be seen. Christine was waiting outside dressed in her gown waiting for her cousin. People drove by and honked at her all excited to see the bride in her wedding gown, which only made her more nervous. She was thinking about driving herself when she did finally get her ride to the castle. Claudia, my parents, my friends and I were at the castle waiting for Christine at this point. When Christine arrived she was all worried because we didn’t have my passport and the whole ordeal about being driven to the castle, and so on. My dad started to take some pictures of her, clearly stress, she promptly told him that now was not a good time to take pictures. Most of my life a driver’s license was the main from of identification, but driver’s licenses are not accepted as proof of nationality and identity in many international situations, so without a passport there was the possibility that the magistrate might have refused to marry us. We went into the castle and wanted to explain the situation, so that we could determine if we could even have the wedding. Our interpreter was sitting in an office waiting for us and she vouched for us, so we were able to have the civil wedding.

A couple of minutes into the ceremony, Christine realized that it was really going to work and we were really going to get married and she became relieved and was able to enjoy the ceremony. One thing that struck me about the ceremony was that they identified the participants by name, address, and occupation. I can still hear the magistrate and the interpreter saying “Matt Neumann, stagehand” (Matt’s primary employment at the time was doing stage setup, teardown, and occasionally spotlights at some area concern venues).

The Church Service

After going through the civil wedding, I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous at the church ceremony, because we were already legally married. I was able to enjoy the ceremony and marvel at the beauty of the church. The church ceremony was done in English with a friend of Christine’s translating into German. Matt and Claudia both read selected passages from the bible, Matt’s in English, while Claudia’s was in German. The gospel choir, that Christine belonged to, sang and were well received. The ceremony was nice and went well. After the church ceremony a log was set up in front of the church door and we had to use a hand saw to cut it. The log represents the first challenge that the married couple will face together.

The Reception

We had a nice small reception in a local restaurant. We asked a friend and neighbour of Christine to be our DJ. He had never done this before, but he did a good job and had fun (thank you Christian!). Christine had made a seating chart but things got mixed up and some people ended up sitting in different spots. At many weddings that I have attended, it is common that the people at the reception will strike their glass with a spoon and then the bride and groom are supposed to kiss. In Germany, when somebody strikes their glass with a spoon, it is because they wish to make a toast, so that custom didn’t work very well.

Between courses we all took a walk over to a park belonging to the Biebrich Schloss. We all stopped at a large tree that had a bench wrapped around it. Christine stopped and announced to everyone that at that exact spot was the first place that her father kissed her mother and she pulled out a picture of her father that she had been holding in her dress all day and told everyone that her father was a part of our big day. Christine’s father had passed away in 1993. I was touched by her inclusion of her father in the days events.

This was my first German wedding and reception (Hochzeitsfest or Hochzeitsfeier), so I wasn’t familiar with what happens at a reception. Christine’s friend Ute had placed several almonds decoratively on sheets of paper, one for every week of the year following our wedding date, and all the guests received at least one. During your week you’re supposed to contact the couple during your week, so that the couple knew that they had the support of friends and family. This was even a nicer idea when you consider that Christine was going to spend the next year in the U.S. and might occasionally feel homesick. Christine’s friend Anette organized a couple of games that were well received. Nicole, our DJ’s wife, had created this board with kids clothes on it, with holes for me to sick my head through the hole so that I was wearing what appeared to be a kid’s hat and kids clothes, while there were other holes where Christine put her hands and they appeared to be my hands. The way that it was set up, she could not see my face, so you can imagine some of the things that Nicole had Christine feed me tried to give me to drink. Most of our guests were thoroughly amused and laughed pretty hard while this was going on. I managed to move my head so that I could eat and drink everything alright up until a beer at the end.

I don’t really remember how it started, but a few of the women were in the mood to do some line dancing. Christian was rummaging through the CDs trying to find songs that would work for line dancing. Christian had done an excellent job as our DJ. Everyone enjoyed themselves and we had a very memorable reception.

Like many other couples, we’ll never forget our wedding. I’m really glad that my parents and some of my friends were able to attend. Going to Europe is something that many Americans would like to do, but so many people don’t ever get to do it. I was glad that my mom was able to Germany as a result of our wedding. Weddings can bring out the best of people and they can give us so much hope. It is nice to think about a couple getting married and wondering what adventures their marriage will bring them. It is nice to see the family bonds strengthened or renewed at weddings, to see families reaching out to welcome a new son in-law or daughter in-law. A nice spring or summer wedding on a nice day can give really lift your spirits. So this is more or less the story of our wedding. On your wedding day every bride is a princess, it is her day, and to all the brides, their groom is their prince, regardless of if he came riding in on that white horse in shinning armour or not. While I might not have been raised of nobility, we did get married in a castle and had a wedding I’ll never forget.

Before I forget, the video at the top of this post is a slide show that I made last year in honor of our anniversary and posted to our channel at YouTube. It is made up of the pictures taken by our wedding photographer. How about your wedding? What was memorable about your wedding? If you like blog, feel free to add us to your rss feed or subscribe via email. We welcome your comments.

Add to Technorati Favorites


Systems Overload said...

Christine told me that the video didn't play. If you have problems with it playing in your browser you can go right to the video at YouTube here...



Anonymous said...

Good one. Read more on makng your wedding a memorable event: http://matrimonyxpress.bharatmatrimony.com/2008/04/singles/the-secrets-to-making-your-wedding-day-memorable/

dcheronfamily said...

Unfortunately, the slide show that I put together is no longer viewable on YouTube and the Google account listed in the article no longer works. I've since created another YouTube account but it isn't focused on my family.