Photo by Spindle Photography
It began, as so many wedding stories do, with Pinterest. We’d decided to get married at our friend’s German biergarten, so I looked for German-themed weddings to see which ideas we could use: Lederhosen was a clear no, but those decorate-your-own-pretzel bars — well, that was an idea that really clicked for me.
Making pretzels, however, did not. I reached out to my foodie friends about it, and they spun tales involving lye and complex dough formations. This excites people like my foodie friends, but it to me, it sounded like a recipe for frustration (and maybe for chemical burns).
Enter Hayley Sugg. Hayley was a new copywriter on my staff at work, and she’d come from Cooking Light, where she sometimes handled the food tastings. When she heard about my pretzel conundrum, she had a solution: There was a pretzel at Aldi, she said, that beat out all other frozen pretzels in Cooking Light’s Oktoberfest taste test. It was so perfect that the foodies and chefs thought she’d baked it at home and brought it in to fool the testers. Not only was this a tasty pretzel, it was easy to make (about five minutes in the oven to reheat), and it was priced perfectly — six pretzels for $3. I was sold! But there was a catch — Aldi only reliably carries the pretzels during Oktoberfest. Hayley said she’d seen them pop up at other times around the year, but that was rare. Our wedding was planned for September 16, a week before Oktoberfest officially begins. Right in the sweet spot.
So I started Googling. I scoured the Internet for information about these pretzels until I found old sale fliers for Aldi confirming that the pretzels were usually released a couple of weeks before Oktoberfest. That meant they’d, theoretically, be available one week before our wedding. I tried to talk myself out of this plan: One week is not much time. I’d never tried these pretzels and had no idea if they were really good. Aldi doesn’t release any official information about when they bring out products, and they don’t order in specifically or hold products for you the way another grocery store might. It didn’t seem wise to build an entire wedding menu around a single item that might not even taste good.
Enter Katie Kelly. Our friend Katie was shopping at Aldi one day last June and spotted the elusive pretzels — she picked up a couple of boxes so we could taste them for ourselves. We quickly baked up a batch and confirmed they were easy. We tasted and confirmed that yes, they were very good — comparable to a very tasty mall pretzel. Then, my family and I baked a few and left them some out for half a day, because they’d be sitting on tables for a bit at the wedding. Resounding success! We loved these pretzels.
The timeline was still a problem, in more ways than one. Since the pretzels only came out the week before the wedding, I couldn’t rely on having them. But we also couldn’t buy them the day of or the day before the wedding, like we could the rest of the wedding food, because we couldn’t risk Aldi selling out. We needed to store them, and for that, we needed someone with a freezer big enough to hold them. I do know a few people with a chest freezer, but, this being Alabama, those freezers were already full of venison, with no room for a couple hundred pretzels.
Enter Pam Sanderson. At work, Pam’s the woman most likely to save the day in an impossible situation, and this was no different. She didn’t have a freezer, but she wanted one. In fact, she’d had one on her wish list for Christmas, but that never materialized. Pam said this sounded like a perfect opportunity to get her freezer, and since she didn’t have anything frozen for it yet, she could store the pretzels inside. Yes, you’re reading this story correctly — Pam BOUGHT a chest freezer for our wedding. For pretzels I still wasn’t 100% sure we could even get.
By this point, with our friends out buying appliances, I was pretty invested in this pretzel plan. So it was time to build some infrastructure to display them. I’d planned to copy those pictures from Pinterest, where the pretzels were hanging from little S hooks so they looked all cute and pretzel-y. Josh, my wedding food czar, pointed out that those cease to look cute after the first three people took their pretzels, and then they’d just look like lonely S hooks on a pipe. He sketched a different plan, designing the pretzel boards we ended up using. These still turned the pretzels into a centerpiece, but it was a centerpiece that still worked when people grabbed their pretzels. But where to find a custom-made pretzel board that didn’t cost more than the pretzels themselves?
Enter Mike and Susan Rollwagen, my parents. I showed them Josh’s sketches, and they turned them into a reality. I have a feeling there’s lots more trial and error involved in making these boards functional, but it’s a time-honored wedding tradition to undervalue the contributions of your parents, and also I don’t understand much about woodworking, so I’ll skip over all that. Suffice it to say they worked very hard to make our dream a reality, and they succeeded.
In September, I started watching the Aldi sales fliers like a hawk (a hawk with a pretzel craving). Finally, about a week before the wedding, they appeared in the flier. I had a date! But I had no idea how many boxes each Aldi would stock. I did some math to find out how many we’d need, and then I planned out a route to all the Aldis in town. On The Day of the Pretzel, I’d planned to head to my closest Aldi during work and grab as many as I could.
When Pretzel Day arrived, it was storming — and I drive a Vespa. Obviously, the wisest thing would have been to wait until the weather cleared up. I did not do the wise thing. I headed out as soon as Aldi was open, I guess in case there was a huge morning run on pretzels? Who knows what I was thinking, but I ended up getting to Aldi so early that they didn’t even have the pretzels out yet; they were still shrink wrapped onto a wooden pallet. The Aldi staff had mercy on me (I was drenched and looking pretty desperate, so it’s possible they just wanted me out of their store) and opened the pallet. Together, we loaded some of the pretzel boxes into their deep freezer and about 30 more boxes into my cart.
Everyone, including me, thought I was crazy. I had to pull my cart to the side after the checkout to try to fit as many boxes of pretzels as possible into a huge army bag, then strap the rest onto the back rack of my scooter. Remember, it was still raining at this point. I thought I might die on the way home, a bride killed with hundreds of pretzels. Well, I’m writing this post, so you know that, despite the odds, the pretzels and I both survived.
Once I got the pretzels to Pam, my personal pretzel journey was over. It was just beginning for my family, who got up at dawn on the wedding day, fired up the oven at their AirBNB, and started an assembly line of baking, salting, wrapping and transporting trays of pretzels to the wedding venue. (One additional benefit of those pretzel boards: They’re an efficient method of pretzel transport.)
As much work it took to get these pretzels to our wedding, I still think it was worth it. They were tasty, they were the heart of our menu, and they looked really fun on the tables. And even though the journey to get them was pretty over the top, I think it’s ridiculous in a good way. If you’re throwing a budget wedding, there’s going to be something like this that’s going to spin out of control before it ultimately works out. And when I see pictures of the pretzel bars from our wedding, I’m filled with gratitude for all our friends and family who came together to make them possible. Oh, and in case anyone is interested — my dad has a couple pretzel boards he’d like to sell you.
Carrie Rollwagen married Russell Marbut in September of 2018. She’s the author of The Localist, a book about buying independent, and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she’s Director of Strategic Planning at Infomedia, a Birmingham-based web development company. Find her on social media as @crollwagen: Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Russell is a web developer and jiu jitsu instructor who isn’t much into wedding blogs or website bios. He’s on Instagram as @russellg9.