Geek Trivia

Which Annual Event Started Out As A Wedding Reception?

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An engraving of the first Oktoberfest celebrations
Peter von Hess/Public Domain

Answer: Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is a folk festival held in the German city of Munich. Although Oktoberfest implies the festivities take place in October, the fun actually starts in mid-to-late September and runs until the first Sunday in October. The fair runs 16-18 days (depending on how the dates fall on any given year) and features live music, games, amusement rides, side stalls, traditional food, and, of course, beer.

While it would be easy to assume that Oktoberfest is a party for the sake of a party, that’s only half the story. The original Oktoberfest (long before it had such a designation) was actually a massive wedding reception thrown by the German royal family to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (who would later become King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The reception was held in enormous tents set up in fields outside the city of Munich and lasted for days—some of the festivities were captured in the engraving seen here.

The event was so much fun and so well received by the citizens of Munich that the next year they threw an even bigger party. Once you establish a tradition that involves good food and beer, horse races, and a welcome break from work, it tends to stick. Ever since then, Germans (and many happy tourists) have enjoyed the continuation of a rocking 19th century wedding reception.