As a girl growing up in Oklahoma, I was raised by my fiercely proud German grandmother. Back in those days, I would have never imagined having the occasion to ride on a float in the annual German-American Steuben Parade in New York City. Named for the great Revolutionary General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, this is one of many such German-American celebrations happening around the country—all part of Oktoberfest.
Beyond riding on a float, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conduct a wedding ceremony as part of the festivities! It all happened this way: I live in the Yorkville section of the Upper East Side in Manhattan. For many years, this was one of the important German neighborhoods in the City, called “Little Germany,” at one point, I understand. There are remnants of those days in the St. Joseph’s German Catholic Church, as well as a number of local retailers, including the Schaller & Weber food shop—“Masters of Charcuterie.” Opened in the 1930’s this remains a strong family business. In addition to the local store front, they have a factory producing their specialty food products, in Astoria. In recent years, Jeremy Schaller, a third-generation member of the family who works in all facets of the business, has taken on the responsibility of organizing the the Schaller & Weber float in the annual Steuben parade. Recently engaged to the lovely New Zealander Kata Greaney, he came upon an innovative and fanciful idea of staging their wedding on the company float. Jeremy and Kata are lively, adventurous, and effervescent, and in short order they were planning this affair. Happily they found me, and I jumped at the chance to officiate their wedding.
The float had a wedding theme, including wedding arch and cake, and plenty of room for their appropriately festooned friends and family members to partake in the special day. And so, as we inched up Fifth Avenue, I conducted a “traditional” wedding ceremony. I must admit that I customized the script with a few special details including readings by German writers Theodor Storm and Goethe, plus a few German proverbs and light references to the unusual backdrop of the parade. The couple wore their wedding bands on their right hands, as is the German custom, and I think they even planned to saw the traditional German log, at their reception after the parade! The couple had arranged for dozens of their friends to secure tickets to sit at the grandstand around 79th street intersection. We carefully arranged the “I Dos” to culminate as their friends looked on. We were delighted to see some members of the press covering the day, including the NY Times, German language television, and Der Speigel magazine.
It was just a perfect day. The sun was shining and spirits were high. And for a moment I felt part of my German ancestral heritage. I thank my kind Kata and Jeremy for giving me a chance to honor German-Americans and their new marriage. Peace and all good things to you!
Below you will find some of my casual snapshots of the wedding along with other photos from the parade.