Polterabend is the term for a German wedding custom in which the couple to be married breaks porcelain to bring luck to their marriage. The belief in the effectiveness is expressed by the old adage: "Shards bring luck". The expression is derived from a time when the word "shard" referred to the unbroken clay pots of pottery makers, and not just the broken pieces. It was said that a full jar was a lucky thing to have, therefore the expression "shards bring luck".


The Polterabend normally takes place in front of the house of the bride (or that of her parents), although exceptions are made for space considerations, for example. The couple generally announces the occasion but does not specifically send out individual invitations. Word spreads via word of mouth, and those with a desire to show up may do so. Many couples use this as a way of including people whom they are not able to invite to the wedding itself. Something to eat and/or drink is arranged (either provided for or requested of the guests).

The actual high point of the custom is the throwing onto the ground of porcelain that has been brought. However, stoneware, flowerpots or ceramics such as tiles, sinks and toilet bowls are also happily-thrown items. Metal objects such as tin cans and bottle tops are brought along to the festivities. Forbidden are glasses (glass stands for happiness that should not be broken) and especially mirrors (as a broken mirror will bring seven years of bad luck). The couple must thereafter take care of cleaning up the pile of shards. This is supposed to make the couple aware that it will have to work together through difficult conditions and situations in life.

Relatively new is the so-called Polter-wedding. In this case, the wedding is combined with the Polterabend, and the smashing occurs in conjunction with the wedding reception.


The origin of the Polterabend is not precisely known. Some believe the Germanic tribes who threw shards to drive off evil spirits to be the origin. Others believe the heathen ritual of the shattering of clay sacrifice altars after a sacrifice to the gods to be responsible.It is possible that the Polterabend has a psychological motive: suitors who may have wished to have this bride for themselves have the opportunity to "let the steam out" in a socially appropriate manner, so that peace in the village could better be maintained.


The Polterabend is most often celebrated on the Friday evening before the church ceremony, even in some regions on the Thursday or Saturday evening before. If the Polterabend occurs on the eve of the wedding, the couple is permitted to leave the fest early (i.e. around midnight), so as to be fresh and without hangover on the next morning - the Polterabend is traditionally celebrated with more gusto and frolicking than the actual wedding festivities.

This is only the case in Germany. In Austria and Switzerland, the Polterabend is the equivalent of the German bachelor/ette party.

Some regions additionally celebrate the so-called custom of "Paube": the Paube can also be celebrated days or weeks before the wedding. On one hand, it is meant as a sort of engagement party; on the other hand, it is often coupled with the housewarming of a new shared dwelling for the couple and expresses the joy of future life together. The Paube is less raucous than the Polterabend. Normally, the father of the bride grills by the Paube. In some areas of Hesse the traditional green sauce from seven herbs is prepared; here the color green and the number seven stand for lucky charms for the couple.


*Martin P. Richter: "Gelungene Überraschungen für Polterabend und Junggesellenabschied", Freiburg, Urania, 2005. ISBN 3332016121

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