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!