We got into Freiburg at 6am, and luckily, we had a room reserved at the Intercity Hotel, which is connected to the train station. It might seem a little silly to have a hotel room that you only use from 6am until noon, but those were some pretty key hours. We took a nap, showered, got ready, and had an awesome German breakfast (complimentary!), before Karen’s dad picked us up at 12:15pm.
After picking us up, Rudolf (Karen’s Dad), also picked up two other Americans – friends of Karen’s from when she studied in Barcelona. He dropped us all off at the church where their ceremony would be held. It was a really beautiful old church on top of a hill in the black forest.
People started arriving, and I found Jakob, Martin, Gabriel, and Tobie. Jakob had been in Minnesota on the same exchange as Christoph, and all the rest were friends that Naomi and I hung out with all the time while we were living in Germany the second time we came. It’s the first time I’ve seen this much of the group together in almost 10 years.
The wedding ceremony was very nice – they had a long sermon (about 45 minutes) with the theme of “the truth shall set you free.” It might have been a bit difficult, especially for Jeff, who doesn’t speak any German, but Karen and Christoph had printed out English translations of the sermon for us so we could follow along.
Since Jeff and I had no car and the wedding was in various locations around the black forest, Jeff and I were always just hoping we’d find someone going our way. Our ride to the ceremony was with the father of the bride, but he was fairly preoccupied afterwards. Luckily, pretty much everyone was going from the ceremony to the reception site, so it was easy to find a car with a couple extra seats. It’s a tradition in Germany to drive along all in a row and honk your horns on the drive from the ceremony from the reception, which was a lot of fun.
The reception site was a really cool old mansion, also on a hill. It’s u-shaped, with a really cool big tree in the middle. Christoph and Karen had picnic tables set up under the tree, so when people arrived to the champagne reception, they could grab snacks and drinks and relax at the tables. We sat with Jakob and the other guys from Hamburg and chatted and had great German snacks.
The area is well-known for hiking, so at one point, someone led a short hike around the reception area, and Jeff and I went along.
Around six or seven o’clock, it was time to start moving inside for the dinner reception. There was an ‘international table,’ since a number of people had flown to the wedding from far away, and needed translation, but Jeff and I were seating with the Homberg table with Jakob and the other people we knew. It was really fun to be able to sit with old friends, and easy to ask them questions about the reception.
The reception had a lot of programming. Karen and Christoph introduced every person at the wedding (there were about 150 people there). This is a tradition at German weddings – saying people’s name and a bit about how you know them or who they are. Christoph mentioned that Jeff and I had just gotten married two weeks earlier. He also told the story about the (joking) pact he and I had made 10 years ago (when Naomi and I were staying at his house) that we would get married if we reached some age (maybe 27 or so) and weren’t seeing anyone else.
Each of the dad’s gave speeches. Christoph’s dad talked about how Christoph and Karen had come from different backgrounds – Karen growing up in a loving, Christian household, and Christoph having it a little rough and having to grow-up fast (even at the wedding, his mom wasn’t able to make it) – but how they were both successful and made a wonderful pair. It was a very personal speech, and very nice. Karen’s dad talked about the speech that his father in law had made at his wedding, and said that the best quote that he could pass on came from Mary in the Bible – in the story about the Wedding at Canaan, they run out of wine, and Jesus tells the people to get a bunch of jugs of water. Mary tells the people to “Do as my son has told you.” He said that quote is the best advice for them to keep in mind, too, as they start their life together.
After people got their dinner, there were a bunch more presentations. There was a game where Christoph and Karen stood in front of a screen, and a phrase was projected behind them – things like “under 35,” or “play the piano,” or “more than 3 siblings.” If the phrase applied to you, you stood up. Then Christoph and Karen had to guess what all the standing people had in common.
Christoph’s sister told a couple stories and then did a cute karaoke-style duet with her brother to “Elephant Love Medley,” from Moulin Rouge, which he apparently really liked when he was younger. There were multiple video presentations – photos, video messages, etc. Some friends did a skit about Karen and Christoph being arrested for copyright infringement (they used Calvin Klein’s CK1 perfume logo on their invites and some other things, since it fits their initials). It was fun and cute to see people all do their own little performance, speech, or joke.
Around midnight, all of the performances were over, and people started dancing. Jeff and I stayed up – along with the whole crew from Homberg – well into the night. We didn’t get to our hotel until almost 5am (though from 3:30am onwards Jeff and I were a bit zombie-like, mostly just waiting for the shuttle.)