White dresses, red heart-shaped balloons, clinking champagne glasses – several wedding couples, young and old, scurry across Herrfurthplatz in Neukölln. Somewhere someone is playing Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” on the clarinet. The music is carried across the square by medium-strong gusts of wind, towards the entrance of the Genezareth Church. A pop-up wedding festival took place there on Saturday – for all couples who want to say yes in the church without much planning stress or the registry office.
“We want to try something new with the wedding festival, experiment,” says Susanne Kachel. She is a pastor in the blessing office in Berlin, an offer from the evangelical church that organized the campaign. Twelve other pastors take care of the weddings, says Kachel.
The Wedding Festival will be held for the first time this year. In November there will be a festival of the dead for Eternity Sunday and a big baptismal festival is planned for next year – possibly even in the swimming pool or on the Spree.
For a classic church wedding, the couple must be legally married and at least one of them must be a church member. “We know that there are people who don’t want it or who can’t for financial reasons, but who would still like to celebrate a blessing ceremony,” says Kachel.
Church membership is not asked at the wedding festival. Anyone who is already married in a civil registry office can, if they wish, be entered in the church register after the wedding. The blessing ceremony is free of charge. The blessing office finances the campaign completely itself, including from an innovation fund from the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia.
There were appointments in advance for weddings in the church, outside under the wedding tree or in the evening accompanied by electronic music. The 28 places that were available for registration were already fully booked before the start. However, there was also space for spontaneous weddings under a wedding arch – they are well attended.
A half-hour time slot is provided for each wedding ceremony. There is a short interview with the pastor beforehand to clarify important questions such as: “Would you like confetti to be thrown at you when you kiss?”
Then a blessing verse is chosen, a song is played, and a wedding band is braided. Ring whoever wants, kiss, and the ceremony is over again. Afterwards there are souvenir photos, rickshaw rides and sparkling wine. Afterwards you can still stroll through the market, where flowers and jewelery are offered at the stalls.
Steffi Großmann-Raschke and Tobias Raschke are the first to be blessed under the wedding tree on this day. This is right next to the church, decorated with colorful strips of fabric, fairy lights and garlands. A singer and a keyboard player stand under a small tent roof and play a selected song at the ceremony – they have ten pieces in their repertoire. The couple chose “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele.
Drizzle sets in just in time for her appointment. Steffi and Tobias don’t let that deter them. They say yes in sandals and sneakers, a white summer dress and a wine-red suit.
Steffi heard about the event on Instagram. “You do so much in life, why not get married again,” she says. The two are already legally married, but now want to marry again in the presence of their son. He watches what’s happening from his father’s arm, dressed in a shirt, bow tie and cookie monster jacket, and is happy about the flower confetti.
They do not want to be entered in the church register. “It was just for us,” says Tobias after the ceremony. The two are only accompanied by their little son and a mutual friend. In a shirt, bow tie and Cookie Monster jacket, the boy watches what is happening in his father’s arms and is happy about the flower confetti.
Astrid Sander-Schneider and Stefan Schneider also got married two and a half years ago and now want to be married in a church. That was important to Astrid. “Fortunately, my husband is involved,” she says. Even as a girl, she dreamed of a tall man on a black motorcycle. Today this dream has come true: Stefan rolls onto Herrfurthplatz on a Harley Davidson. He has attached a bouquet of flowers to the front of the motorcycle with a medical mask, which he hands over to her with a smile.
The two play together in an 80s band, Stefan is a bassist and Astrid is a singer. The band members are present at the wedding. Astrid and Stefan wished for “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” by Stevie Wonder for the ceremony.
Your wedding will take place in the church. He stands in front of the altar in a shirt and leather jacket, she is completely in white, with a corset, fishnet tights and a fur jacket. She also wore the same dress at her civil wedding.
They are blessed, put on their rings a second time, kiss and leave the church under a shower of flowers – time for the next wedding.