Barossa weddings – a chance to celebrate.

Sporn wedding veil 1904

Who doesn’t love a wedding?

We all love a happy event, and a reason to celebrate. And the Barossa Germans certainly loved to celebrate a wedding. Back in the 1800’s, weddings were usually held on a Thursday to allow for three days of celebrations to be held (what an excellent idea!). It was a great time for gathering, for feasting, for merriment and parties and general high jinks.

Weddings were great family and community affairs. Naturally in the lead-up, the family would be cleaning and cooking for days. In the days before the wedding, the women held a bridal shower, with cake and refreshments. Meanwhile the men would gather at night and hold a noisy and rambunctious tin-kettling. Often people played pranks on the groom, for example they set his horse loose or something similarly inconvenient. Another common tradition before the wedding was called Federschleißen; the friends and relatives of the betrothed couple gathered to make feather beds for the young couple from goose down.

To church in the wagon

Off to church in the wagon

On the day of the wedding, the relatives and friend of the bride would gather at the bride’s home before the ceremony, and as the bride and her family left for the church in the horse and buggy, all the rest would follow on behind in a long procession. As was the case in Germany, in the 19th century, many German brides in Australia did not wear a white wedding dress, but a black one, with a white veil. Dark colours were much more serviceable and able to be worn again! However, some brides wore white – a colour which received royal approval when worn by Queen Victoria at her wedding in 1840.

A black wedding dress worn by a Barossa bride.

One of the Sporn family brides wore a black dress.

Anna Luhrs married in a white dress in 1900

Anna Luhrs wore white for her marriage to Alexander Mill in 1900

After the ceremony, as the bride & groom left the church the church bells would ring. At this signal, the schoolchildren were allowed out of the classroom to see the happy couple and would hold a rope across the roadway to stop the buggy. The groom would toss out ‘conversation lollies’, and there was a mad scramble to find them all by the children. Wine was concealed in the buggy to be handed out to adults (usually the young couple’s friends) when they stopped the buggy in the same manner, further down the road.  This tradition was still carried out in the late 1900’s.

Many onlookers would gather at the church to see the bridal couple, and after the young pair had departed the family of the bride would hand around drinks and kuchen outside the church for the many onlookers. A big reception was then held for the guests back at the house. A 3-course meal was provided, followed by supper and then further refreshments early in the morning. There were many speeches, and the feasting and dancing often went all night. A wonderful beginning to married life!

pioneer family wedding photo outside house

The double wedding of Louisa Dittrich to Arther Herman Liebich & Elizabeth Pauline Dittrich to Johann Carl Christian Goesch -1895.

Given the cost of the celebrations, double weddings must have seemed like a good idea, and were not uncommon at Light Pass. on 13th May 1852, Gottfried Schilling married Louise Klemm and his sister Rosina married Louise’s brother, Samuel. Gottfried was a farmer at Light Pass and later at Melrose. Samuel Klemm was a framer and carrier in the district and later went prospecting to the Victorian Goldfields. In 1895, two sisters had a double wedding. – Louisa Dittrich to Arther Herman Liebich & Elizabeth Pauline Dittrich to Johann Carl Christian Goesch.

Another double wedding was celebrated in the 1920’s when two brides from Germany arrived to meet their grooms at the Mission Home prior to accompanying them back to the New Guinea Mission Field. For this occasion, a youth was given a £5 note to buy 5lbs of ‘Streusel-Kuchen’ to supplement the supply. That’s a lot of kuchen! The kuchen had to be sourced from various bakers around the area, but he succeeded in returning with the 5 lbs of kuchen. How must it have been for these young brides, so far from home and in a very different landscape, about to embark on married life in an even more foreign land, with husbands they had only just met. The traditions of the German marriage customs and ceremonies must have provided a comforting and familiar link with home.

1936 Wedding certificate

1936 of Marriage certificate of Paul Friedrich Bartsch and Estha Frieda Hilsenitz.

The Barossa Germans maintained their traditions over a long period. Take a quick listen to Tom Reuther’s memories of Light Pass weddings in the 1930’s – very similar to the traditions of the 1800’s.

Tom Reuther recordings – Light Pass in the 30’s and 40’s – Rechner Cottage Conservation Association







A scene from the ABC movie The Pipes of Para

A scene from the ABC movie The Pipes of Para

Pipes of Para – a short film made by the ABC in 1963.

Have you seen “The Pipes of Para”? It’s a short b&w film made by the ABC in 1963.

It gives a picture of the Barossa in the 60’s, and also takes you back to the Barossa at the turn of the century. It features some of the old churches and pipe organs, and shows farming, viticulture, and weddings. At the very end it re-enacts a wedding from 1890. And it has glorious organ music. All done in the charming manner of 1960’s films!
A number of scenes for this movie were filmed at Light Pass, Moculta and Gruenberg Church . The story is of an elderly man, born in the Barossa but not having been back for forty years, who has accepted an invitation to play the organ at a wedding at Light Pass Strait Gate Church. As he travels by train to the wedding he reminisces about the past and wonder whether there have been many changes to the Valley since he played, as a young man, the old pipe organs in various churches. For the film, the wedding is a re-enactment of a wedding held at Strait Gate Church between Joyleen Klinger and Less Hample. During the service the old man’s memories take him back to other churches where he has played the organs. In remembering the Gruenberg Church, he sees the stars and doves painted on the ceiling. He plays again the Lemke organs and another wedding, held in 1890, takes place.
Many local people dressed up for the occasion to take part in this scene. The men wore long black coats, double breasted, white silk cravats, and top hats. The bride wore the original navy wedding dress worn by her grandmother with a white veil. One bridesmaid wore her grandmothers wedding dress which was black. The other was brown taffeta and was also a wedding dress of years gone by.

Watch the film on YouTube

(3) The Pipes of Para (1963) – YouTube


Thanks to Darlene Cooper, of Luhrs Cottage, Light Pass for supplying information and photos from their collection for this article.