German wedding banquets can be as opulent as any in the world. However, many German families prefer their wedding banquets to be sit-down dinners with a formal, set menu rather than buffet style. Germans usually do not dance until after the last course is eaten. Instead, family and friends of the couple offer toasts and speeches during the meal. Sometimes, friends of the couple will enact theatrical or musical performances to poke light-hearted fun at bride and groom. Whatever the entertainment or format, you’re likely to find some of the following unique food and drinks served during weddings in the German-speaking world.
Hochzeitssuppe (Wedding Soup)
This is a frequent starter or first course on the wedding menu. The wedding soup is usually chicken broth with chunks of white chicken meat or small Fleischklößchen (meatballs), white asparagus tips, egg noodles or thin glass noodles and Eierstich (a German soup ingredient made from eggs, butter, nutmeg and herbs mixed with milk and then cooked until hardened and cut into pieces). There are numerous regional variations of the Hochzeitssuppe and instant varieties that go by this name are available at grocery stores. In some regions, currants or high quality raisins are added to the soup. The Westfälische Hochzeitssuppe (Westphalian Wedding Soup) is traditionally prepared with beef and beef stock. (See our recipe for Westphalian Wedding Soup.)
Hochzeitsnudeln (Wedding Noodles)
Pasta is quite a simple staple to make: mix semolina flour and water (for pasta secca) or semolina flour with eggs and oil (for pasta al uovo), knead and extrude, and, Voila! The key to high quality pasta is high quality ingredients, and it’s fitting that for weddings, only the best ingredients should be used. You may find the noodles appearing as an ingredient in Hochzeitsuppe or in a side dish such as Königsberger Nudeln at festive banquets. Germany has many premium pasta makers, and one brand is even called Hochzeitsnudeln. (See our recipe for Königsberger Nudeln.)
The second course of a wedding menu frequently includes Austrian Tafelspitz (literally, tip for the table). Tafelspitz is a piece of aged beef or young ox from the bottom sirloin, boiled till tender in a vegetable broth. Tafelspitz can either be served cold and thinly sliced (with condiments like horseradish sauce, sauce remoulade, silverskin onions and pickled gherkins), or hot with fried potatoes and apples. (See our recipe for Tafelspitz.)
Grüne Soße (Green Sauce)
A specialty from Hessia, frequently found during a Polterabend or Paube. (Paube is a milder version of the Polterabend, basically a pre-wedding grill evening hosted by the father of the bride). The green sauce is full of herbs and a perfect complement to grilled meat. (See our recipe for Green Sauce)
Grööner Hein (Pears, Beans and Bacon)
A traditional, rural delicacy from Northern Germany which you may find as a unique and great-tasting addition to rural wedding banquets. This dish is also known in German as Birnen, Bohnen, Speck. It’s a one pot meal made with halved cooking pears (Finkenwerder or Vierländer), green beans, a bit of savory, thick pieces of slab bacon, cut into squares, and, of course, potatoes (which are so ubiquitous in Northern Germany, they were not added to the name of the dish) all cooked in chicken or vegetable broth. The only difficult part is choosing the ingredients. (See our recipe for Grööner Hein.)
Baumkuchen or Baumstrietzel is a layered cake with honey and almonds common to German-speaking cultures that has been served at patrician weddings since the Middle Ages. It requires a rather elaborate production method and it’s quite time consuming to make, and so it is considered a king of pastries.
Traditionally, Baumkuchen is made on a spit. Thin, even layers of batter are poured onto a cylindrical form, which is rotated over a heat source. Each layer is allowed to brown before a new layer of batter is poured. Visually, each layer is separated from the next by a golden line, resembling the growth rings on a crosscut tree. When 15-20 layers are complete and the cake is up to 3 feet tall, the cake can be removed and sliced. Among the Siebenbürgen Sachsen (based in Transylvania, Romania) this this layered cake is called Baumstrietzel, and yeast is added to the batter. Other variations of the recipe add spices, ground nuts, honey, marzipan, nougat, rum or brandy to the batter or filling.
Home cooks can make this cake under the broiler, with layers of batter, honey or jam, browned one by one. Here is our recipe Baumkuchen made at home.
Sekt und Kaffee
According to historians, Germans adopted coffee drinking in the 1680s, nearly 40 years after the English and French started to enjoy the hot beverage. Due to its high price, the primary use of German coffee was as digestive treat after the wedding feast. Today, both coffee and a glass of Sekt (German sparkling wine) will do wonders for the digestion, especially if both are of good quality. See our Guides to Alcoholic Beverages: Beerand Guide to Non-Alcoholic Beverages.
Recipe for a happy, long-lasting marriage
2 cups of love
2 liters of trust
2 and 1/2 cups of physical closeness
2 tablespoons tender cuddling
2 lbs. forgiveness
1 bunch of good friends
5 tablespoons of laughter
4 tablespoons hope
Combine love and trust and then mix with closeness and cuddling. Let the mixture rise and carefully fold in forgiveness. Sprinkle with laughter, decorate with good friends, and top with eternal hope, then bake the mix in sunshine. Serve daily in ample portions.
Read more about wedding games and traditions on our Wedding Traditions page.