Standesamt – The Ceremony

22 08 2012

My poor little Mac needs to go to the Apple store to get fixed, hence the delay in updating about the wedding!  (Don’t worry! I have a full back-up of my computer so no pictures or important documents were lost! Haven’t backed up your system lately? DO IT NOW! You never know when a computer crash will strike!)

Okay so I’ll start with the courthouse ceremony – the Standesamt. (All pictures in this post are by our fabulous photographer, Annette Schrader!)

In Germany, all couples who marry are required to do so at the Standesamt, or registry office. This important step can also be done at any location, provided a government worker from the registry office officiates – so some people tie the knot on a boat, or in a park, or in a forest, etc. But the majority have a simple ceremony at the courthouse, often on the same day as the church ceremony. This is the legal part of getting married, and if you wish to have a religious (or otherwise more personalized) ceremony, you are certainly allowed to do so afterwards, but not before the court has made it official. Kind of like signing the marriage documents before the ceremony: you’re legally married before you actually say your vows. But here it is done in a government building. They still try to make it nice with quotes about love or what your life together will mean, but mostly focus on the legal contract that the couple is entering into.

We decided to have our official wedding two days before the church wedding, and boy are we glad we did! Having that breather between the two wedding days was really great, especially because there was so much to do before the wedding on Saturday! So, governmentally speaking, we got married on August 2. (We count our real wedding day as August 4, though – and it’s the date engraved in our rings). We got ready at our place and Tobi’s wonderful friend Rebecca did my hair and makeup. Then Tante Hannah drove us to the courthouse so we didn’t have to walk and so we could be there early to hand in our passports (and our witnesses’ passports). Weddings take about 20 minutes, and there were several couples there before us. Our friends and family were waiting outside and Tobias and I got a chance to meet & greet a bit before our 11:20 a.m. ceremony at the Rathaus Altona.

Tobias and I, just having gotten out of the car

My sister-in-law Jaimie and my niece Abby (cute pigtails!!) looking at my bouquet

me, with my mom and brother in the background/foreground

surrounded by family and friends

Finally, our time came and we were ushered inside for the ceremony. Funny story: our Standesbeamterin (the lady who did the ceremony) was there when we were picking up my parents from the airport! I don’t remember having seen her before at the registry office, but when we were at the airport waiting for their flight to arrive, I pointed her out to Tobias, saying, “I KNOW I’ve seen that lady before!” I was so surprised when we walked into the courthouse and saw her!

Our guests filed in as we took our seats in front of a large, ornately carved desk with two equally ornate high-backed chairs. There were chairs on either side of the table for our witnesses – the equivalent of a maid of honor and best man here in Germany. Tobi’s cousin Christoph and my good friend Ariane were there to act as witnesses for us, and even though it is no longer mandatory to have witnesses, we liked the tradition and went along with it. They also had chairs for the parents to sit in.

The room was bigger than I expected!

My family didn’t understand the ceremony, but that’s how it goes….My mom looks like she’s about to cry!

So we sat in our chairs and the court was called to order! Just kidding, it wasn’t all that serious. The lady began her spiel, reading out the information we had provided them (place of birth, address, nationality, etc.) but then made the whole audience laugh when she told us she was legally obligated to ask us if our circumstances had changed since we submitted our documents and she had to make sure we hadn’t gotten married to anyone else in the meantime. I was extremely joyful but also so nervous my hands were sweating, but that comment brought some much-needed levity. She then proceeded on with the ceremony and talked on and on about the meaning of what we we were doing that day and what the path together as man and wife will look like in the years to come. I actually don’t remember much of what she said, but only that she spoke very slowly and clearly, enunciating every syllable of her prepared speech with careful precision. I remember looking down at her notes and seeing the text she read pretty much written out, in her own handwriting, on the top page of her notebook. I don’t remember her ever looking down, though, and I am sure knows that speech like the back of her hand.

my witness, the beautiful Ariane (she’s the one who did the illustrations on our wedding invitation, by the way!)

Tobias signing the document that says all of our information is correct. I then signed Sarah Gilmour for the last time. Then she gave us another document and we signed it again – this time, as Sarah Stäbler.

We exchanged rings (his ring is a bit tight, so I had a hard time getting his on his finger!) and then the Standesbeamterin pronounced us husband and wife!

We sealed the deal with a kiss!

And then we were married! Yahoo!

Tobi shows off his new bling!

Tobi hugging his brother, Achim

The ceremony was short and sweet, and we made our way outside to make room for the next couple. (I swear, courthouse weddings are a bit like an assembly line!) Before going back home, we spent some time standing outside of the courthouse and receiving lots of hugs, congratulations and well wishes from our guests. It was really lovely!


Happy Fourth

4 07 2012

Today I dressed up in red, white and blue and wore my Maryland necklace to show pride for my home country (and state!). As I think about my [church] wedding just one month from today (!!!!), I am a little bit more introspective about this year’s Independence Day. Of course no one knows exactly what the future may hold, but I am faced with the decision that I have made, that I am making, that Germany is the place where I will be setting up residence for the long haul. We may decide to live in the States at some point, for a few years, but I think Germany will be the place we’ll keep coming back to.

Germany has changed me in many ways, of course. I think I certainly would have been a bit different had I stayed in the States. Not bad, but…different. But I will always cherish my American upbringing. That feeling of independence that we so celebrate today, that pride for our country and for our nation and the values it stands for. A lot of people ask me if I’ll get “my German citizenship” when I get married, which is not really such an obvious assumption. As far as I know, the only way for me to get a German passport is to give up my American nationality, and there is no way in hell I would do such a thing. (Sorry, Germany. It’s not you, it’s me.)

Of course America is not perfect, and neither is Germany. There are good things and bad things about both countries, and I would be happy living in either one! But luckily Germany feels enough like home to me that I feel well here.

I think most of the reason I feel so at home here because I’ve got a man who loves and appreciates me for who I am, who takes cultural differences in stride and has never once made me feel bad for being an American. (Although he does joke lightheartedly about the fact that I like to eat cereal as a meal…)

And my guy really made today special. I came in to get dressed after my shower this morning and Tobias, still in bed, immediately started whistling the Star-Spangled Banner. Made me laugh. And then he wished me a happy Fourth as I was leaving for work. For lunch, he crafted this beautiful yogurt and fruit snack, but not before putting on a YouTube recording of the US national anthem to accompany as background music. (The anthem generally puts tears to my eyes, but today even more because of Tobias’s sweet soul!) And then he pulled out the yogurt and presented me with this very patriotic dessert.

So thank you, my love, for making me feel special today and for bringing a little bit of America to my Fourth of July here in Germany.

Now I’ll just have to go watch some fireworks (online!) to finish off a perfect Independence Day…not quite like the real thing, but Fourth of July without fireworks is a bit like Christmas without a Christmas tree. Happy Fourth!

T-1 month

2 07 2012

Exactly one month from today, Tobias and I will be legally married. Our courthouse ceremony is at 11:20 a.m. at the Altona Rathaus. (It’s our local courthouse -isn’t it just gorgeous? We’re lucky to have such a photogenic building!)

If the weather’s nice, we’ll have a casual lunch party afterward in the backyard of our apartment building. If not, we’ll just move everyone inside!

I’m very much looking forward to it all. But man oh man, there is still so much to do! Tobi’s aunt has volunteered to make a bonafide Schwäbische Maultaschensuppe and some pies. And some friends of ours may bring a few things to contribute too. I’ve been browsing Pinterest for recipes and have had quite a lot of luck – there are a lot of summery recipes (this, for example!) out there that look perfect for a party! Our mint crop on our balcony is growing quite nicely, so I may also have to incorporate that into the menu somewhere.

Three more weeks (and 17 work days) until my family comes…33 days until the church wedding…4 weekends to get everything done! These numbers just keep getting smaller and smaller!


Hochzeit survival kit

8 06 2012

So, my friends threw me a wonderful bachelorette party last weekend. They took me to Brasserie La Provence – a fancy little French restaurant in our neighborhood.

Ariane and Diane planned it early because Diane is going back to France soon (though she’s coming back for our wedding weekend!). I thought I would just be going out to dinner with them, but was pleasantly surprised when our other two friends Tanja and Susanne were there too! The five of us started off with an apéritif on the house, and then we enjoyed a delicious three-course meal complete with crème brûlée for dessert! The food was amazing. And the girl talk was so much fun. *wink wink!*

AND…they know me so well…they didn’t embarrass me with the typical German bachelorette party of going out dressed up in a strange costume and having to sell things like condoms or handcuffs to random strangers on the street. Whew! Thank goodness!

And they gave me this awesome present…a wedding survival kit! Ariane embellished the map she drew for our wedding invitation with all of the things that could possibly go wrong on our way to the wedding, and then there was a gift to go along with each thing. What an awesome idea! (I also LOVE the mix of English and German – that’s pretty much the way I talk nowadays too!)

More pictures after the jump!


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The Name Game – or Why I Decided to Take His Last Name.

2 05 2012

One of the things that has popped up while wedding planning has been the name game. Who takes whose last name?

(The above phrase seems to be pretty popular on Pinterest,  and it made me laugh when I saw it!)

First of all, disclaimer: I support the right to choose. Whether you’ve taken his last name, hyphenated, kept your maiden name, he’s taken your name, you combine your name into one, or you end up with a completely different last name altogether, I think that’s great! These are modern times, and all of the old traditions don’t really apply anymore these days. It’s not as important to carry on a family name as it was in the past, and most of us aren’t royalty who don’t really have a choice in the matter. (Although who really knows any royalty’s last names, anyway!?)

Here in Germany, there isn’t quite as much freedom with the name choices as there is in the US. There’s no Princess Consuela Bananahammock, as Phoebe in Friends decided on, faced with wonder at all of the possibilities when the man at the registrar’s office told her she could choose any name she wanted. On a similar note, even naming newborn babies is regulated here, and you won’t end up with any names like Peaches Honeyblossom, Tallulah Pine, Sage Moonblood, or Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. None of that here. In fact, baby names must be gender-specific and on a list of approved names! But I digress.

So for German law, you’ve got four easy choices when you get married. 1) Both of you keep your own names, 2) she takes his name, 3) he takes her name, 4) or you can hyphenate both names, but only the woman has a hyphenated name, and then the children get only the husband’s last name, as hyphenation cannot be passed down.

With those choices available, the current trend is to keep your own names, which in my opinion is great when both partners have a professional life in which their name is essentially their brand. That’s probably why celebrities often keep their own names. I don’t know anything about their real choice, but can you imagine Angelina Pitt or even Brad Jolie? Not likely. And in Germany, keeping your maiden name seems to be the cool thing to do, though it is also practical because most couples who get married are already in their mid- to late-thirties and already have an identity built up around their names.

Enter my decision: I have decided to take his name. There are definitely pros and cons for me, which I plan to explain here. Let’s start with the cons, since for me, the pros outweighed the cons enough to make the change.

Cons of giving up Gilmour

  1. Gilmour is a nice name, and I can’t help but smile every time people compare it to the Gilmore Girls. Plus, Sarah Gilmour is also the name of a model whose famous father, David Gilmour, is a member of Pink Floyd, so it will probably drive down my blog hits when I change my name. (Kidding!)
  2. It’s higher up in the alphabet, and my new last name will move me down to S, the 19th letter of the alphabet. It’s not a big deal, though, but it probably means we’ll be waiting a bit longer to watch our kids graduate from school, as those kinds of things are usually done in alphabetical order.
  3. After I got engaged, I started to feel nostalgic about my maiden name. It is kind of a weird feeling to give it up…
  4. My new initials will be SMS, which is what Germans say for text messages. They’ve even made a verb out of it: simsen. “Ich hab dich gesimst!” I once heard a German friend of mine say. And if you shorten it to just the first name and last name, SS is not really a great letter combination here, considering German history…
  5. Everybody knows my heritage. They can automatically see that I’m not German, and though 9 times out of 10, people guess I’m from England (God knows why…), at least they can see that I’m not from around here before I even open my mouth.
  6. Paperwork. I am soooo not looking forward to that. Especially changing the American stuff, where they won’t know what an umlaut is or how to use it, and I will likely have the same problems as Tobi has had with different versions of his name floating around out there – Stäbler, Staebler, Stabler. People without umlauts in their alphabet just don’t understand how it works.
  7. Gilmour is easier to pronounce than Stäbler. As hard as I try, I just can’t get that ä without sounding Schwäbisch (a dialect from Stuttgart, where his family comes from). And my mother told me the other day that she also has trouble with it and could use some pronunciation lessons on my soon-to-be new last name. Ha!

Pros of choosing Stäbler

  1. Growing up, I always assumed I’d take my husband’s name. Yes, that’s the traditional thing to do, and that’s likely  why I dreamed of it as a kid. But for me it’s a nice idea to have a family with one name, where it’s clear to people that we belong together. And we won’t have any difficult decisions later on on what to name the kids.
  2. Sarah Stäbler acutally sounds really nice. I pronounce my first name the American way, and Stäbler the German way. It just has a nice ring to it!
  3. It will fit in my passport. Since I am not hyphenating my last name, I won’t end up with something ridiculously long to fill out on forms, like Sarah Michelle Gilmour-Stäbler. My fingers got tired just from typing that!
  4. Tobi is already really well-known in his business with his own last name, and even though he thought Tobias Gilmour sounded really cool (by the way, it’s pronounced Toe-BEE-us, not Toe-BYE-us), it’s good for him not to have to change his name. Although I think he would have been willing to, had I insisted, and that is really cool of you, Tobi!
  5. Okay, so the language nerd in me comes out: I freaking LOVE the idea of having an umlaut in my name! Apart from the stress of it when dealing with non-German speakers (see #7 above), I just think it’s so awesome to have a character in my name that doesn’t exist in my own language. Besides, it could be worse – saying “it’s like an ‘a’ with two dots over it” is easier than trying to explain the Eszett (ß)…”it’s like a capital B with a long tail, and it’s pronounced like an S”… One of my friends saw the address on my wedding invitations and thought it was actually a “p”. Peter, my best friend and fellow language nerd, took great pains in writing a beautiful Eszett in my street address on a recent card he sent me, and he pointed it out to me so I could admire his handiwork. So anyway, yes. Ä is cool!

So even though I have a few more cons than pros, the point that carries the most weight is having the same family name. And for me, it’s a nice way of combining our cultures and accepting that Germany is a really big part of my life right now and, with a German spouse, will be in the future.

What is your personal preference about changing your name? Did you run into any initials trouble like my SMS, or my mom whose maiden name Susan Arlene Wood had her initials change from SAW to SAG when she got married…? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


5 years ago today

29 04 2012

5 years ago, it was a Sunday morning in Paris, and I had gone, as usual, to the German church on Rue Blanche. It was there that a thin, reddish-blonde-haired guy sat near me and was outgoing enough to strike up a conversation after the service. He was really nice, funny and sweet, and we exchanged phone numbers afterward before he ran off to the banlieue (suburbs) for a photo shoot. I spent the entire rest of the day thinking about him, and was excited when we talked later and set up a date for the following Tuesday, where we ended up talking for hours, until 3 a.m. the next morning.

Thank you, Tobias, for making that first step and saying hi to me all those years ago. I had no idea then, in 2007, that you’d end up being my perfect match, the love of my life, and that we’d choose to spend our lives together in 2012. I am so grateful to know you and am so very excited to to be your wife soon.

I love you so much!


Paper straws – YES!

23 04 2012

I’m SUPER psyched…100 of these paper straws are coming my way! I got them on Etsy from Hey YoYo. They’ve got all the colors you could think of! We’re planning on using them for lunch at our apartment after our courthouse wedding.

Paper straws just make everything more fancy & fun!  Like this Riesling strawberry slushy recipe from With Style and Grace. YUM!

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

Also…my littlest cousin turns 18 today! I can’t believe it!  Happy birthday, James!


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