Something Swedish


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Finding Sweden in New York City

The Big Apple is known for being the most culturally diverse place in the world, so there is no wonder that you’d be able to find a taste (literately) of Sweden and it’s Nordic neighbors there. This post is for those of you who have moved from Sweden,  Denmark, or Norway to NYC and are feeling homesick or those of you who live in, or are visiting, NYC and are curious about the culture, history, and food…most importantly the food.

20+ Scandinavian ‘Somethings’ in NYC

TO DO (yearly)

1) Battery Park Swedish Midsummer Celebration (mid-late June)- There’s nothing more Swedish than celebrating Midsummer. It’s a mix of everything you need to satiate home sickness or curiosity about a country you have never been to. Traditional Swedish food, music, and dancing around the maypole – all while being surrounded by other Swedes (Swedish Americans, at least). Besides, who wouldn’t want to wear a crown of flowers in the middle of Manhattan?

2) Bay Ridge Norwegian Parade (May): This part of Brooklyn has Scandinavian roots, here is your chance to see some of it in action. Everyone is welcome to watch the festivities – get a glimpse of traditional Norwegian clothing, eat the food, hear the language, listen to the music and make some new Norwegian-American friends.

3) Crayfish party (August) – Fishing Crayfish during the early summer months in Sweden is not permitted, so come mid-August to mid-September it is Crayfish season! This is a beloved tradition of sitting around the table, drinking snaps (after singing), and chowing down on pounds of tasty crustaceans while wearing a colorful bib and hat, of course. While in Sweden this would be celebrated with friends and family, in NYC you have two main options: Ikea’s Crayfish_Party [Limited tickets, buffet style, August 16, $12.99] or Aquavit’s Crayfish Festival [Formal meals and dessert, August 17 – September 11, $52.00]

4) Nordic Food Festival (September) – For three years in a row  Nordicfoodfestival has been bringing Nordic cuisine (One day dedicated to each Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark) to the front lines for five full days with top chefs speakers, cooking classes, gourmet pop-up dinners and other (free & ticketed) events.

TO DO (whenever)

5) The Scandinavian East Coast Museum – A museum in Bay Ridge that focuses on the historical and cultural link between Scandinavia and America’s East Coast (specifically New York City) They host events and meetings for groups, cultural societies, and the Scandinavian community.

6) Scandinavian House This is an all-in-one stop Nordic Center you can’t miss: exhibits, films, music, performances and lectures, or simply stroll through the museum to brush up on your knowledge or to learn some history. Best yet, there is a restaurant with a selection of Scandinavian foods (Smörgås Chef, see next)

TO EAT

7) Smörgås Chef Known for it’s new Nordic cuisine, ranging from fine dining to open faced sandwiches, this is the first restaurant people think of when asked about Scandinavian food in NYC. With one location downtown, and the other midtown (Scandinavian House, where there is sometimes Dinner and a film) – you are never far from some Swedish food.

8) Fika – This little coffee shop/café/restaurant (depending on location) is sweeping Manhattan with almost 20 Manhattan locations. Named after the Swedish tradition of drinking coffee and eating something sweet with friends, why not have a Swedish pastry or piece of chocolate? If you are looking for a meal, their menu is made up of Swedish specialties.

9) Konditori – With seven locations in Brooklyn, this seems to be Brooklyn’s version of Fika. Meaning “bakery” in Swedish, Konditori focuses more on the “strong Swedish roast” coffee and Swedish pastries with light food options such as bagels and sandwiches.

10) Aquavit –  A midtown restaurant with two Michelin stars that focuses on modern Nordic cuisine and Swedish culinary traditions where you can find both formal and casual meals created by executive chef, Marcus Samuelsson, who went to the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, guest lectures at Umeå University, has published multiple cookbooks, has his own television show, has cooked at the White House, and has hosted a fundraising dinner for the president at his own restaurant (See next).

11) Red Rooster – This might seem but a long shot, but if you are looking for Swedish flare or fusion but not in the mood for Swedish food (though they do have classics like gravlax (smoked salmon) and Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce), this is the place to go. The Ethiopen-born, Swedish-raised award winning chef that put Aquavit on the map opened up this restaurant in 2010 in the heart of Harlem and is a hot spot for tourists and locals alike.

12) Danish Athletic Club – Located in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, the Scandinavian Center of NYC, this is a much more homely option for food and socializing. The kind of food you will find here is the comfort food made in Danish kitchens, and costs less than 20 bucks a plate. On the same street you’ll find the Norwegian Sporting Gjøa Club and the Swedish football club – but this is the only one with a restaurant.

13) Copenhagen Street dog – All throughout Denmark, and even making an occasional appearance in Sweden (and I assume other Scandinavian countries), you’ll find the long, smokey, bright red Danish hot dog – pølse. If you are a hot dog fan but want to try something different, something Scandinavian – look no further.

TO SHOP

14) Sockerbit – Surely you’ve heard about Swedes’ everlasting sweet tooth and affinity for loose candy? All candy is not created equally, come pick out a selection of Swedish candy and get addicted. Yes, that black stuff is liquorice.  The store’s white interior mirrors Swedish minimalist design and the wall of candy is exactly what you would find in any Swedish supermarket – even including each candy’s Swedish name and translation. There’s also a wide selection of Swedish food and merchandise if candy isn’t enough.

15) Nordic Delicacies Have a craving or want to impress your friends with an authentic home-cooked smörgåsbord? Looking to stock your fridge with real Scandinavian food?  Make your way to Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge to go shopping for authentic Scandinavian foods and brands you can’t find in other stores like Abba sill, knackerbröd, tubes of cheese and Kalles cavier, lingonberry, and more.

16) Ikea Brooklyn – A trip to Ikea is both practical and cultural (kind of). It is certainly the one thing people associate with Sweden, and Ikea furniture is actually a feature of Swedish home decor. It doesn’t hurt that the big blue bags make amazing laundry bags, the food is probably the cheapest Swedish meal you’ll find in the city, and you can find a few food items to buy for your kitchen. It might seem out of the way, but Ikea Brooklyn has it’s own 20 minute ferry from Wall Street Pier 11 – it’s $5 ticket price is deducted from your Ikea purchase and completely free on weekends.

17) Fjällräven: Be Swedish sleek with these classic Swedish backpacks, originally designed with the durability for camping, 50 years later these bags have a much wider assortment and are fashionable and hip – both in and out of Sweden.

18) The largest H&M in the world: That’s right, H&M is Swedish(it stands for Hennes & Mauritz, and is pronounced “Ho-Em” in Swedish) and it’s largest store ever (4 floors, 63,000 square feet/ 5,800 square meters) just opened up in 2015 in NYC, Herald Square. So if you want to dress like a Swede, you know where to shop.

TO VISIT

19) The Swedish Cottage – An authentic piece of architecture from Sweden in the heart of the Big Apple. Built in Sweden 1875, imported to the United States in 1876 for an exhibit, moved to NYC in 1877 and now a marionette theatre in Central park.

20) “Seamen’s Churches” Svenskakyrkan (Swedish), Sjømannskirken (Norwegian), Sømandskirke (Danish): A church might feel like a strange place to “visit,” but it is a place for community, social gatherings and cultural events. A great way to meet people or practice the language. Plus, there’s usually a café.

21) The Swedish Consulate: If you are planning on moving to Sweden, it’s good to know you can find this building on Park Avenue – a few blocks from the Swedish Church. The people were friendly and helpful when I went there and there were pamphlets for additional guidance. The website is a good source of information and local Swedish events.

2015 exclusives:

See Mamma Mia on Broadway (After 14 years on Broadway Mamma Mia will be closing SEPTEMBER 12th – go now before it’s too late!) While the story line of a daughter looking for her father to give her away at her wedding in Greece has nothing to do with Sweden – the music sure does. The one thing all Americans associate with Sweden is the music of Abba, so this broadway-play-turned-movie that was written based on two dozen Abba songs doesn’t get much more Swedish.

Nääämen: A comedian from New Zealand that moved to Sweden 6 years ago, Al Pitcher, is known for poking fun at Sweden’s culture, people, and traditions from the perspective of an outsider. Catch his performance on SEPTEMBER 22nd at Scandinavia House (first bit will be in Swedish – rest is in English).

Ingrid Bergman: A Centennial Celebration – If you stop by the Museum of Modern Art before SEPTEMBER 10th, you will find an exhibition dedicated to Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, showcasing a selection of her films, to celebrate her birth 100 years ago.

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How Swedish are you?

As a follow up to my last post about becoming Swedish and getting Swedish citizenship – I’ve compiled a list of 40 things that can help determine how Swedish you are!

(Yes, some of these are exaggerated, generalizations, stereotypes, might not apply to all Swedes, or has nothing to do with being Swedish – but they are all things that I have either noticed or experienced since moving to Sweden and are meant to be read for fun)

Don’t forget to keep track of how many you answer “yes” to to find out how Swedish you are at the end of the test!

So, how Swedish are you?

1. Do you pick wild flowers, mushrooms, or berries at least once a year?
Allemansrätten, Mushroom Picking
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2. Do you looove lösgodis (loose candy)?
Lösgodis
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3. Do you regularly eat open faced sandwiches for breakfast or mellanmål (snack)?

4. Do you put butter on all said open sandwiches?

5. Have you spent at least one winter in Thailand?
Snowfall

6. Did you grow up watching the same snippets of classic Disney movies every Christmas?
Swedish Cartoons
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7. Is it true that you have never painted any of your walls any color but white (not counting wall paper)?

8. Do you bike to work, school, and/or to go food shopping?
Biking

9. Is pasta incomplete without ketchup?
When in Rome
Pasta Ketchup

10. Do you wear socks with your sandals?

11. Is your preferred way of confrontation writing angry or passive aggressive notes towards your neighbors?

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“Remove your time slot, you fucker, if you aren’t doing laundry!” (Found this in our laundry room last week)

12. Do you believe there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing?
Lessons Learned

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Swedish saying: “Det finns ingen dåligt väder, bara dåligt kläder”

13. Have you ever slept with flowers under your pillow?
Midsummer

14. Have you ever traveled long distances to buy booze (say out of the country, to Denmark or Germany for example) to save money?
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15. Have you ever dressed up as a witch for Easter or Santa for Christmas?
Glad Påsk, Witches in Sweden,
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16. Do you and your friends always have a few drinks at home before going out to the bar (förfest)?
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17. Have you ever worn a crown of flowers on your head?
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18. Do you enjoy fika (social coffee break with sweet pastries) at least once a day during work hours and sometimes again afterwards with friends?
First Fika, Cinnamon Rolls, Working in Sweden
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19. Have you ever danced like a frog?
Midsummer
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20. Do you smash words together to create new words that you wouldn’t find in the dictionary, but everyone understands you anyway? (AKA do you speak Swedish?)
Language Mishap

21. Have you ever had to cancel plans because you had a laundry time booked or used laundry time as an excuse to get out of plans?

22. Does the idea of buying pre-sliced cheese when you can cut it yourself perplex you?

23. Have you ever worn a reflective vest at some point as an adult?
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24. Do you dread winter, not because of the darkness or cold, but the fear of getting the inevitable “vinterkräksjuka” (winter puking)?

25. Do you eat burgers and/or pizza with a fork and knife?
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26. Do you proudly shop at loppis (flea markets) and show off your finds to all of your friends?
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27. Have you ever eaten Swedish meatballs? (Maybe at IKEA?)
kottbullar

28. Is there nothing you look forward to more than the first semla of the year?
Semlor Galore, February, Cooking Semlor
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29. Do you occasionally look at the time, panic, and rush out the door to buy a bottle of wine for the upcoming weekend?
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30. Have you ever painted furniture white?

31. Do you sharply inhale to say ‘yes’, agree, or to acknowledge that someone is speaking?

32. Do you always, always, always take your shoes off when you enter a (any) house or apartment?

33. Do you go food shopping at least four times a week instead of in bulk?
Swedish Supermarkets
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34. Is locating the number machine to queue in line the first thing you do when you enter a store?
Nummerlapp

35. Can you eat knäkebröd (hard bread) without getting crumbs everywhere?
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36. Have you ever sang in unison with your friends or family before taking a shot of snaps?
Cheers! Skål!
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37. Is it true that you have never met your neighbors and you like it better that way?
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38. Does your name have a birthday (namnsdag)?

39. Can you read the words ‘slut’ (end) and ‘fart’ (speed) without giggling?

40. Are you really good at recycling?
swedenrecycle

If you answered yes to:

36 – 40: You are extremely Swedish! You are a Swede that loves Swedish traditions and culture!
31 – 35: You were born, raised, and have lived in Sweden your whole life!
26 – 30: You are a born Swede living abroad or you moved to Sweden 10+ years ago!
21 – 25: You were born in Sweden and moved away when you were young, but have spent every summer there!
16 – 20: You moved to Sweden within the past 5 years!
11 – 15: You have Swedish relatives or are dating/close with someone Swedish!
06 – 10: You have visited Sweden!
00 – 05: You have no Swedish friends or relatives and have never visited Sweden.

Leave a comment with your result and how accurate it was! (Keep in mind this is for FUN!)


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Glad Påsk! Happy Easter!

Sitting on the train heading up to Värnamo to spend the holiday with my in-laws we were approached by a little girl. Being accustomed to panhandling on the subway in NYC, I averted my eyes, hoping my husband would deal with it and send her away. When a meek gentle voice wished us “Glad Påsk” I saw that the girl was dressed as an Easter Witch with a green apron and scarf, covered in painted-on freckles. She was the daughter of the train conductor, handing out free chocolate Easter egg candies to all the passengers.

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Easter in Sweden is all about the candy, eggs, and witches. Instead of Easter baskets, candy is kept in large paper Easter eggs:

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The three main decorations of Easter are these oversized decorated Easter eggs, colorful feathers, and witches on broomsticks.

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Wondering why Easter in Sweden has so many witches? Easter was believed to be the day when the witches would fly to the blue mountain and dance with the devil. It was common to  close the windows and light fires so the witches wouldn’t land on near your house. Nowadays, Swedish Easter witches are kids walking from house to house dressed in scarfs and rags with a copper teapot collecting treats from neighbors in exchange for drawings.

This year I even found devil chickens to accompany my Easter witch:

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Freaky. Thankfully the cute type are still around:

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And then we have the edible type that my husband expertly crafted:

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Behind the scenes, making of:

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As with every Swedish Holiday, the smörgåsbord is beautiful and delicious:

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With a little extra eggs (Hard and soft boiled)  on the table, Påskmust (Easter soda) and schnaps. it is an Easter meal.

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We rounded the night off with some monopoly…guess who won!?

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Hope everyone had a great holiday!!

Read about last years Easter Here!


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My First Birthday in Sweden – Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah Hurrah

Celebrating my first birthday in Sweden couldn’t have been better. First, I was happy to get phone calls, Skype calls, messages, and photos from friends and family back home. When you live abroad you get a little scared that your friends and family back home will forget you.

I was a bit nervous about my first birthday in a new country: What will it be like? What are the cultural differences?

Last weekend we celebrated my birthday with my husband’s family. They bought me a cake, gave me presents, and sung happy birthday to me:

The Swedish Birthday Song:

Ja, må hon leva, Ja, må hon leva, Ja, må hon leva uti hundrade år.
Ja, visst ska hon leva, Ja, visst ska hon leva, Ja, visst ska hon leva uti hundrade år.
(x2)

“Ett fyraldigt leve… leve hon. HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH.”

English Translation

Yes, may she live, Yes, may she live, Yes, may she live for a hundred years.
Oh sure, she will live, Oh sure, she will live, Oh sure, she will live for a hundred years.

“A four fold cheer … cheer for her. HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH.”

Listen to it here:

Some Common Swedish Birthday Customs

  • Breakfast in bed- unfortunately this is usually only for children. The family comes into the room with breakfast (sometimes with cake) and sings for the birthday boy/girl.
  • Some Swedes enjoy Smörgåstårta (Sandwich cake) on their birthdays. Read more about that in a previous post. Hubby bought me a shrimp sandwich this morning, which was close enough…this time.
  •  A popular birthday cake is Prinsesstårta (Princess Cake)- a sponge cake with lots of cream inside and a shell of marzipan. Read more about that in a previous post.
  • Swedish flags are often used to decorate the birthday cake.
  • Bring your own birthday cake to work to celebrate yourself with your workmates.
  • Surprise parties are not common in Sweden, instead you plan your own festivities if you want.

Vocabulary

Grattis på födelsedagen: Happy Birthday!

Grattis: Congratulations

Tårta: Cake


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Swedish Wedding: “Svenskt Bröllop”

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!