An Austrian Castle Wedding

DSC07071Reini and I had been planning up a storm and it truly paid off! The ladies and I started the day (September 9) at the Chaos hair salon. We had fun getting our make up and hair done together, and even got to sip some champagne! They did an awesome job on us, making us look like a bridal party! Once glam, we went over to our hotel at the base of the castle, the Auracher Löchl Träumerei. Let me tell you, this hotel was really cool! Each room had a special theme. Reinhard and I stayed in the Las Vegas room. My brother said his room had a Transylvanian/Dracula theme. Kate loved her Hawaiian destination room. It was all great fun. And they have an amazing breakfast which everyone loved even in their hungover state the next morning. I have some friends in the area that say they want to go back to Kufstein for a weekend stay just to check out a different themed room in the hotel!

_MG_6438On our way over to the hotel we picked up a party pretzel to munch upon. The men (not allowed to see the bride, of course) were given some pretzel sandwich pieces which they had to eat in their own room. The bridal party got dressed and then went to the castle! We turned quite a few heads as we marched through the Kufstein Old Town and up to the Festung lift. I found the photographer (the amazing Christina Ehammer – all the good photos on this post are her’s) and ran off with her, Kate, and my dad to take a few pre-ceremony glamor shots. I was maybe 5 minutes late getting to the ceremony site and they sent the Festung manager out to find me. Apparently they were afraid I had changed my mind and ran away! Nope – just having some “me time”!

DSC06582Then we got to the ceremony. Wedding ceremonies are definitely different from what Americans are used to. We have a rehearsal so everyone knows exactly how to march in and where to stand. Not with this one. Reini assured me that it would all work itself out… So I did my grand entrance but my family stood there like deer in the headlights, not taking the seats in the front row saved for them but standing in the back. Oh well! The ceremony was really beautiful. Sister Kathrin and good friend Teresa beautifully played our entrance song, ‘Let It Be’, on the guitar and flute. DSC06528Then Kathrin got up to the front and did all the English translations with the Kufstein city representative. She did a great job, for sure. Reinhard (guitar) and Suzanne (voice) performed ‘A Thousand Years’, leaving nearly everyone (especially me) in tears. It was such a sweet moment! We eventually got the rings on each other and sealed the deal with a kiss. A little brass ensemble played our closing song.

DSC07006.jpgThen we greeted all our guests before they headed out to the courtyard for cocktails and we went to take some more pictures. The cocktail hour was a ton of fun. One of Reinhard’s music ensembles played for us. Reini even played with them for a bit! Beer and flavored champagne were served and people got to sit under the big trees in the middle of the castle.

DSC06967It seemed like people were so happy sitting in the courtyard visiting one another that they didn’t want to move over to the dinner reception site! But eventually we got everyone to go up into the Kaiserturm and find their tables, labeled with countries that Reini and I have visited together. The room was so beautiful. Reinhard’s good friend and fellow band member Maria was our florist and chief decorator. She and I had fun shopping for ribbon and picking out flowers, but I had no idea how beautiful it would all turn out. Two words: cannon flowers. SHE DECORATED THE ANCIENT CANNONS WITH FLOWERS. Oh I was in love!! Dinner was so delicious. We had beef filets and fish as main courses. The dessert selection was wild. We had friends and family bake cakes for us! So we had tiramisu, Sachertorte, apple cupcakes, and a gorgeous vegan cake. My good friend Selina is a vegan and offered to make a cake for us right away. I had no idea that it was going to be so extravagant! She made it three tiers and crafted edible roses too. Wow!

After dinner we headed down to the first floor of the castle where we had our ceremony. Music was very important to Reinhard so we splurged for a live band, Impressed, for the end of the reception. They were great fun! They played a waltz for our first song and then played a couple traditional dancing songs before moving to modern hits. My friends commented on how great the castle staff was. At the reception bar, the workers kept our friends’ wine and beer glasses full! We had to have a midnight snack, but we chose a less traditional Weisswurst (white sausage) with Semmelbrot. We had a makeshift photo booth in the corner (made from my iPad and a tripod). We had so much fun looking at the silly photos that people took! Young and old got into it!

All in all, the wedding was awesome, coming to an end at 3am. I’m so thankful that we had so much help to put on a great event. All the musicians, bakers, and decorators truly made it special!

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A Tale of Two Weddings (in Two Cities)

My oh my, have the last few months been wild! My best friends and family flew all the way to Austria to help us celebrate our wedding in Kufstein. We had an awesome time but were so very busy (and jet lagged). I wish we had more time just to hang out a bit, but we visited some highlights in the region. We ate cake atop the Bergisel, rode the roller coaster tram in the Schwaz silver mines, and even experienced a bit of Oktoberfest with the Rosenheim Herbstfest. I’m so thankful I had them during the final push of wedding excitement. They were so helpful in setting up the castle and keeping me (relatively) calm as my stress level soared. More on the weddings to come!

Wedding planning abroad: logistics

Once the wedding location was chosen, the real work started. The first struggle was with the invitations. We decided to have two ceremonies, one in the castle and one in my hometown church. People had to be given Save the Dates and invites to both or one of the locations and in a language they understood. So that led us to making 3 different Save the Date designs, 2 different invitations and 3 styles of RSVP cards. For anyone who has planned a wedding before, you’d know how difficult it is to even pick one design! Thanks to our design and print companies in the US and in Austria, they turned out great.

One thing I am struggling with is my need to involve Reinhard in everything. I know it’s getting old for him too. My German knowledge doesn’t contain the necessary negotiation vocabulary involved in wedding planning. So the poor guy even has to call around at the hairdresser to see who can fit in a “large” group of women (there are only 4 of us, but that’s apparently too many for Tirolean shops to handle). I still don’t have one as of today, so if you have any suggestions for a Kufstein Friseur, let me know!

And don’t even get me started about the wedding dress. I really shouldn’t complain, but of course I will. My parents bought my dress for me in the US when I went to visit in February. It was perfect and beautiful and just had to have it. The shop had to order it, which meant it had to be shipped to Austria from the US. Let me tell you that DHL charges an absolutely crazy amount to ship a dress and charges whatever INSANELY high customs fees they feel like. The dress didn’t even leave the US and they were already demanding customs fees – so clearly they were making them up. A tip for you international brides – don’t use DHL unless you like throwing away money. But I got the dress and then I had to be brave enough to go alone to the seamstress for some alterations. Of course bridal dress alterations is not a vocab lesson in German class, so I was struggling there. Fun fact, a train is called a Schleppe in German, as in ‘to schlep around fabric’. I forgot about the need to have the dress bustled for the reception, though I’m sure the seamstress asked me. I was just afraid she wanted to shorten my Schleppe so I kept saying no! So I had to go back a week and a half later (with a German-speaking girlfriend this time!) to describe what I needed. Let’s hope it turns out alright!

There are some pretty funny Austrian wedding customs that I’m not so sure how we will follow. Reini went suit shopping with his Best Man and sister. He said he thought it was so funny how all the grooms’ suits were so shiny! But he wasn’t tempted by the shine – he got a regular one. Furthermore, from what my groom said, it sounds like suit rentals aren’t really a thing here. So once you buy your shiny suit – you’re stuck with it! (kinda like with a wedding dress though….) Another funny tradition in the stealing of the bride. This one I know Reini does want, so we might take it but with some rules… The friends of the groom steal the bride away during the couple’s first dance. And the girlfriends of the bride are supposed to steal the groom away too. Then they go away from the wedding site and get drinks at a bar somewhere for like an hour. I’d much rather stay at the very expensive event I had planned for a year than go to a bar, so we’ll see what happens with this one…

Food plays a big role in any wedding, but it definitely does here too. I saw in one of Reini’s friends’ weddings that the bridal couple breaks a huge pretzel during the ceremony. The person who gets the larger piece (usually turns out to be the bride) is said to have the dominant position in the marriage. Goulash seems to be a topic of conversation. Austrian weddings last super late into the night/morning so a midnight snack is expected. All the castles have talked about their goulash… but I’m just not impressed. It’s hard to eat and messy. So we have an alternative planned that I was told our Bavarian guests will find really funny.

Language and customs differences are definitely providing extra challenges to the wedding planning experience, but at least I have an excellent partner who is willing to learn about wedding hair trials and corsage styles just to make me have the most special day.

Wedding planning abroad: Venue shopping

Wedding planning is no easy task, couple that with a mega language barrier and you’ve got quite a challenge! More about that in another post. After our engagement in Portugal, Reini and I have been planning for not one but two weddings. We decided to have two events so that we would be able to celebrate with both sets of families and friends. As a girl who grew up watching Disney princess movies, I, of course, wanted to have a castle wedding. Luckily enough, Austria has a bunch! Reinhard and I went castle venue shopping this past fall after setting up some appointments. We saw some pretty awesome ones! One must consider that as castles are really old buildings, their layouts are not designed for weddings. These real castles are designed to keep bad guys out and not so much for Cinderella-esque balls. But with a little creativity, a modern bride can see the absolute beauty in these structures. Abundant candle lighting is all an authentic castle needs to create an utterly romantic atmosphere.

viewIMG_1998cyIMG_1972The first castle we visited was Schloss Friedberg. I’m not 100% sure, but I think this castle has some relation to the Von Trapp family… This fact alone almost had me sold before we even got there. It has the most beautiful views of the mountains and is just about a half hour from Innsbruck. They had a really cool cellar/crypt space where I could imagine the guys partaking in a few drinks. The layout of the rooms for the reception did not quite fit in with what we had envisioned, so we had to pass on this gem.

DSCN4770The next castle we toured was Schloss Mittersill and is fit for a queen! (Literally – royalty has stayed there!) I have raved about this place before, and it was high on my wedding choice list too. We were guided around the property and were shown their outdoor ceremony garden and their little chapel. They had a large room converted for a reception space. After our tour we had an excellent lunch and then got to spend some time at their spa. Such a treat!! Unfortunately, the space for an indoor ceremony (must have a rain plan!) and the party room for dancing and merriment were just too small for the guests we were planning to invite. I did think for a bit about inviting less people so we could fit in here!

We went to another castle that was just outside the fairytale town of Kitzbühel. Schloss Münchinau is located in down in the valley. It dates back to the 15th Century, though its series of conquerers over the years have forced it to be rebuilt a few times. This castle features a large outdoor garden area which would have made for an excellent ceremony cite. They have a nice restaurant and boast that their chef can make almost anything. The downside to this place was something that they were very proud of. We were told that this was a hunting castle. And therefore, there were little skulls and antlers everywhere. I wish I had taken a picture! But as “hunting” was not to be the theme of my wedding, we decided to look elsewhere.

CanonIMG_2023This brings us to the last castle and the one we ultimately chose – Festung Kufstein. So technically it is not a castle but a fortress, but who’s counting? We knew it would be an awesome place to host our wedding, as we had visited before and snuck peeks into the Kaiser Turm (King Tower) that they use for such events. This place has it all – awesome views of the valley below and surrounding mountains, a lovely garden with ceremony potential, plenty of space for all our friends, an awesome courtyard for cocktail hour, and endless places for guests to explore. We really loved the space for the after dinner party. There is great antique lounge furniture and plenty of space for Reini’s bands to perform!

We hope our guests will like what we have chosen! But I have no doubts that it will be a magical wedding!

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Here’s a photo from my first visit to the festung in 2013

Starting 2017 strong

img_0484It’s been a while since I’ve written, but that’s only because I had a ton of stuff going on! January Reinhard had a surgery that put him in the hospital for a whole week. He definitely required extra attention with all that! I also finished all my Master’s classes in January. Now I’m just in the thesis writing portion of the program. In February I went home to work on wedding planning and festivities. And yes, I said ‘yes’ to the dress! February was also the month that I started an internship that will take me all the way through August, just before wedding activities take over!

But in with all that busyness, we have been able to have lots of fun. Once Reinhard got better enough to walk a bit, we’ve been going on loads of nature walks. I just had to keep reminding him that he should be more careful when walking on the snow and ice! Despite the ice, the scenery has been beautiful. But the snow is in the clearing stage now – so it’s more just brown slush.

This last week Kelchsau celebrated Mardi Gras. They call it Fasching. Austrians like to dress up in silly costumes, kind of like Americans do on Halloween. Every other year the village hosts a big parade with a few floats. Kathrin rode on one with some friends and dressed up as the manager of the village’s one restaurant. They acted out a little skit once they got to where the crowd was waiting for them. The parade participants didn’t throw out beaded necklaces but they did throw plenty of candy that sent the children running!

Here’s a little video of the village’s costumed marching band.

 

Holiday traditions

I’m in Austria for another Christmas season. They certainly do have lots of interesting traditions. The Krampus is one that I don’t know if I’ll every really understand, but nonetheless, the village of Kelchsau embraces the beasts. Santa comes a bit earlier to the Austrian children than he does to the American children. And the children that he doesn’t bless get snatched up by the krampuses. Reinhard and a few other musicians welcomed in Santa’s horse driven sleigh with flugelhorns, trumpets, and baritones. Santa read a story from his sleigh to the families as the adults drank glühwein and ate bröderkrapfen. Because Santa was so appreciative of Reinhard’s cheerful flugelhorn playing, he rewarded Reini with some presents of his own!

img_0382Of course, I’m celebrating Christmas in my own way too. Austrians do the ultra traditional Christmas tree only up on Christmas Eve thing – but not me! I had mine up the day after Thanksgiving. And we did do Thanksgiving again this year. I didn’t have as many left overs last year as I had hoped, so I made 2 turkeys! That was a bit much, but it was a bunch of fun. We enjoyed the evening with a few bottles of wine and telling stories about different holiday traditions.

Almabtrieb

Autumn in the Alps would simply be amiss if it did not include an Almabtrieb – or as I like to call it, the cow parade! Farming is a very important piece of culture for Tyroleans, so naturally they love to put on a big show when it comes to their precious cows. I’ve written before about the trek the cows make, but I’ve never gotten to witness the big day firsthand. During late spring we (me too!) walked the Fohringer cows through the village and up into the mountains where they would be spending their summer at the family Alm. There they get to meet up with some other cow families, graze outside all day long, and enjoy the cool mountain breezes. But during the fall season, the cow ladies must make the journey back to their home farms. The farmers make this ‘homecoming’ into a huge celebration. The cows get huge floral headdresses and wear signature bells. They proudly march through the village. If you happen to know one of the farmers, they’ll offer you some schnapps that they keep with them! After the farmers drop off their cows in the farms, they come back and enjoy the village party!