Last week I went to my first Swedish wedding!
Attending weddings from different places is a huge insight into the cultures, traditions, and beliefs of the country and people. Having already researched Swedish weddings for my own wedding here in Sweden last year, I knew what to expect but was excited to see if we did it “right.”
1. The Church vs Civil Marriage: (Kyrkbröllop vs. Borgerligt) Despite being a secular country, where most Swedes don’t attend church on a regular basis, many Swedes choose to have a church wedding. Many Swedes have their weddings in church because of strong long standing traditions and/or to have a higher power present at such an important moment. Civil marriages are also very popular and common because many weddings in Sweden are more casual and small. Civil marriages are often done outside of city hall, on a beach, in a field, in the garden, at the family’s summer cottage.
Our friends had their wedding in a picturesque church with red and white wooden exterior. It was beautiful and quaint, with a view of the ocean. Their ceremony was surrounded by old paintings, stained glass, and candles. Our civil wedding was outside surrounded by nature, in the grass and sun, under a tent with birch trees. To me both locations/styles seemed perfectly Swedish.
2. Vows & Ceremony: It is not common to write and say your own vows in Sweden, especially when you get married in a church. Although, that tradition has been catching on and is becoming more popular recently. The “I do” I’m so familiar with is replaced with “Ja,” the Swedish word for “Yes.” The legal rights are the same between church and civil marriages, but the ceremony is not. The “long” version of the civil ceremony is two minutes. Our officiant was nice enough to extend and alter the short civil ceremony to include both English and Swedish, our own vows, a poem, and a sand ceremony.
3. Seating: The most common way to arrange the table at a wedding in Sweden is in the shape of a “U.” All the tables are connected and everyone is together. There is a “head table” but it is not separate than the others, just in the center. I think this is a great way to seat all the guests, easier to mingle and meet new people. We sat families and friends together, basically creating an English side and a Swedish side. At our friends wedding they decided to make it fun and mix it up by seating new people next to each other (even couples are slightly separated) with information about each guest in the program, this is apparently a very common thing to do at Swedish weddings.
4. Wedding Favors: It is not common to give out wedding favors in Sweden, unlike in the U.S.. Wanting to bring the two cultures together at our wedding, I decided to give wedding favors anyway since it is a pretty big part of American tradition. I was not surprised to see no wedding favors at the wedding we attended.
5. Presents: A different tradition that I was looking forward to seeing is the opening of the wedding presents at the wedding in front of the guests. We did not do this at our Swedish wedding because we thought it might make American guests uncomfortable.
6. Toastmaster: In Sweden each wedding has a person especially appointed to handling the organization of toasts, games, and events. Anybody and everybody gives toasts at a Swedish weddings so it is a big deal and commonly takes up a large part of the reception (Making the meal last a long time!), the toastmaster makes sure this goes smoothly by being notified of all speeches beforehand and timely introducing each toaster throughout the party. The toastmaster is commonly the best man or maid of honor, but not always.
7. Games & Songs: Unlike an American wedding, most Swedish weddings have a variety of entertainment planned by the toastmaster – usually at the expense of the bride and groom. The games are often “tricks” or quizzes that the newlywed couple need to play. This is something we did not include, so I was thrilled to see it at our friends wedding. The first game was for the blindfolded bride to pick her husband by feeling the legs of the groom and three other men. The second game was for the groom to pick the bride by being kissed (on the lips) by her and three other women. Except that the when the blindfold went on, the women were switched with men!
8. Bridal Party: In Sweden it is uncommon to have the large entourage of people involved in the wedding like in America. Instead of five or six bridesmaids/groomsmen it is usually only one or two.
Some More Traditions:
- “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” holds true for both American and Swedish weddings.
- In this gender-equal society the father of the bride never “gives the bride away” at the ceremony, instead the couple walk into the wedding together- hand in hand, as equals.
- When the groom leaves the room at the reception it is common for people to jump up and kiss the bride (on the cheek) while he is away. Same goes for when she leaves.
- Some Swedish brides wear a bridal crown of flowers, ribbons, and/or myrtle leaves.
- Swedish brides traditionally have a silver coin in the left shoe from her father and a gold coin in the right shoe from her mother. This is so she will ‘never go without.’
- It is said that whoever steps inside the church first or says “Ja” (I do) the loudest will ‘wear the pants’ in the marriage.
- Throwing the bouquet and garter belt is not a tradition in Sweden.
- The cake cutting does not typically involve smashing cake in each others faces.
Swedish Wedding Trivia:
- Try not to wear a red dress to the wedding – some might think that you slept with the groom.
- The bouquet used to be made of the foulest smelling weeds to ward off trolls, thankfully this is no longer tradition.
- The verb for “Married” in Swedish is “Gift” [yift]. If read as a noun “Gift” means “Poison.”
- Civil weddings were introduced to Sweden in 1908
- Sweden was the 7th country to allow same sex marriages. In May 2009 civil marriages were allowed, in April 2009 all marriages are gender-neutral, and in November 2009 same sex marriages are allowed in churches.
- The bride usually wears three bands, one for engagement, one for marriage, and a third for motherhood.
- Midsummer is an extremely popular time to get married in Sweden, but according to a poll in 2010 August has the most registered weddings in Sweden.
- The Bride is called “Brud” and the groom is “Brudgum” (Bridegroom) and the two together are “Brudparat” (Bride pair).
GRATTIS PÅ BRÖLLOPET!
August 2, 2012 at 1:58 am
Welcome back, Meghan! Missed you. This post was very nostalgic for today,
our 59th wedding anniversary!
August 4, 2012 at 10:47 am
Wow, what incredible timing! Happy Anniversary!!
August 5, 2012 at 6:54 am
WOW MEG VERY INTERESTING BLOG. I LIKE THE GAMES THE COUPLE HAD TO PLAY, SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS FUN. TALK TO YOU SOON. SAY HI TO ESBO!
August 5, 2012 at 10:51 am
Thanks!! It was a lot of fun and cool to experience something different! Will do!
August 5, 2012 at 1:14 pm
It sounds similar to a Norwegian wedding!
August 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm
This was fun to read. We recently were invited to attend a wedding here in Moldova,which had some very interesting customs.
I am Dutch and saw how similar the Swedish and Dutch words were: bruiloft, kerkbruiloft, bruidspaar, bruid, bruidegom 😉
August 16, 2012 at 3:03 am
Hi Meg — Is it also a Swedish custom for couples to renew their vows at milestone anniversaries? If so, I really hope we get to play those games at your next wedding celebration : )
August 16, 2012 at 11:37 am
I’m not sure but we can make it a custom! 🙂
July 22, 2013 at 9:46 pm
Thank you for this info. We are going to the island of Marstrand for my Swedish sister’s (1994 exchange student) wedding on Sept 7th and her friend recently asked if we were going to give a toast. I of course said yes but found your blog when Googling Swedish wedding toasts. I appreciate if you think of anything else useful for us in this exciting adventure of experiencing a Swedish marriage!!
August 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm
Sorry for such a delayed response! How exciting! I wish I could honestly offer more advice, but until I attend more Swedish weddings, or ask around, I can’t think of a huge difference in toasts aside from them being a bit more scheduled by the toast master. As for the content, a toast is a toast, in any language or country. Good luck and have fun! No matter what you say will be perfect!
August 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm
Very useful information! I am getting married in Uppsala in October and wondered if you had an example of what to put on the program cover. The ceremony and the reception are at the same place and we will have programs with the menu and the guest information as you described. I have been told that the cover should have the names of the brifde and groom as well as the toastmaster(s) listed. I have googled for examples, which is how I came across your blog, but cannot seem to find any.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
August 20, 2013 at 8:15 pm
Hi Uppsala Bride!
Congrats on your upcoming Swedish wedding! Honestly, don’t worry too much about what “should” be on the cover. It’s YOUR program, and no one will judge you if you do it a little different – less stress the better. For our program we went wordless and used a decorative “&” symbol to represent our union, then our names on the first inside page (Which is where you can also list toastmasters) Glad you stumbled upon the blog and some of the info helped, I hope this helps as well – even though it’s not a real answer! Everyone does it differently, there is no right or wrong way – just common cultural differences. Good luck!!
August 27, 2013 at 4:21 pm
One more question on the program. 🙂 What sorts of information is included for each guest? Is it a simple “John’s cousin from California who is an author” or something more detailed and/or humorous?
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April 20, 2016 at 5:42 pm
In America, it is an old (and mostly forgotten) tradition to follow a gift list on anniversaries (i.e. 1st year paper, second year cotton, etc) Do Swedes do this?
April 21, 2016 at 6:05 pm
I was wondering if there are any traditional Swedish toasts given at a wedding. My neice is getting married and my sisters and I would like to give a toast, in Swedish, to represent our heritage. (Our family is originally from Oestersund.) We’ve been asking relatives, and doing google searches, but haven’t come up with anything.
April 23, 2019 at 8:51 am
Can anyone help me to an English translation of the weeding song Brudgummen ooh Bruden? Or if not at least the lyrics to the original one.