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Swedish wedding traditions: customs and culture

 

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Are you planning a Swedish wedding? Or perhaps you’re attending one? In part 2 of our three part series on Swedish wedding traditions, we examine the most typical Swedish wedding customs and talk with insiders about what characterizes weddings in Sweden.

When spring and summer come around, it’s no wonder that the time of year sprouts tantalizing thoughts of matrimony for couples everywhere. But once the initial thrill of being newly engaged wears off, the planning period begins. Getting married in Sweden is about as overwhelming as anywhere else, but if you’re not a native Swede this event can seem even more daunting. The typical Swedish wedding ceremony is of course influenced by unique Swedish customs. So whether you’re planning a Swedish wedding or simply attending one, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some of the most common wedding customs in Sweden.




First, let’s take a look at some of the most common Swedish traditions that have been passed down through the generations…

1.       The Swedish wedding day: Swedish weddings, or bröllop, typically take place in an afternoon ceremony. As a common Swedish custom, the couple usually walks down the aisle together.  It’s quite rare that the father of the bride gives his daughter away, after all, that would be a very patriarchal gesture for this rather egalitarian society.

2.       The bridal crown: This is an age-old tradition for Swedish brides, although not as common today and often substituted with a modern tiara or veil. However, traditionally the bride would wear a garland of myrtle leaves on her head (a symbol of innocence) often accompanied with the traditional Swedish wedding folk costume.

3.       Simplistic wedding entourage:  Swedes, in general, tend to have a very minimalistic approach to weddings. Rather than selecting a Maid of Honor with four or five bridesmaids and a Best Man with a couple of ushers, Swedes keep it simple. The Swedish bride and groom will normally have one bridesmaid and one best man. After the ceremony, the couple is greeted by their family and friends who kindly throw ‘uncooked’ rice on the couple.

4.       An old Swedish wedding custom:  Swedes have an adorable tradition where the bride, on her wedding day, carries coins in her shoes. ‘One silver coin in her left shoe from her father, and one gold coin in her right from her mother are used to ensure that she will never go without.

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5.       Swedish wedding rings:  Traditionally a Swedish bride will wear three bands, one for her engagement, one for marriage, and one for motherhood.

6.       The Swedish bridal bouquet:  In Sweden the lucky bride gets to keep her bouquet – Swedish wedding customs don’t have a history of tossing it away!

7.      Swedish wedding speeches:  During the reception, the normally subdued Swedish persona is thrown out the door, as any guest that wishes to give a speech is allowed to at any time. Although this part is often planned (no one wants a drunken relative taking over), expect the speeches to stretch out over the whole dinner!

8.       The kissing tradition: No, not just between the bride and groom, in fact as a guest you might just be lucky enough to plant a kiss on the bride or groom yourself! Tradition has it that if the groom leaves the room for any reason, then the other men at the wedding are allowed to kiss the bride! And vice versa! A unique Swedish tradition without a doubt 😉 Nowadays the bride and groom may also ring a bell. If it is the groom doing it, he will be announcing that it’s time for all men in the party to stand up and dash over to kiss the bride on the cheek or if it’s the bride who rang it, then all women in the party shall stand up and hurry to kiss the groom. This causes quite a commotion as 50% of the wedding guests suddenly get up and stream towards the groom or bride.

9.      “Snapsvisor”:  Traditional Swedish wedding folk songs of course! As is common practice in just about every Swedish celebration, the custom of drinking a snaps (vodka heavenly flavoured with things like anis/elderberry/cumin) and belting out silly songs is of course ever present at the Swedish wedding dinner.  Don’t stress out if you don’t know the Swedish songs, each table will usually have a printout of the lyrics (or, if you’re lucky, a tipsy Swede who is happy to teach you). Plus, after a couple of shots of snaps you’ll be fluent 😉

But if you’re really keen on learning the “Bröllopsfest” songs, then this link will help prepare you.



10.   The games:  The one who really wears the pants in the marriage will say, ‘I do!’ the loudest and raise his or her own shoe, the other will say ‘she does’ or ‘he does’ and raise the partner’s shoe

A Swedish wedding, like any other around the world, is a mix of traditions – old and new. For an inside perspective on Swedish wedding customs we spoke with Stockholm based wedding photographer, Karen Lundquist, who shared her impressions from behind the lens.

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Wedding at Stadshuset. Photo by Karen Lundquist

 

“I have seen different games being played at weddings, but one of my favourites is the ‘shoe game’. The couple sits on chairs with their backs against each other, so they cannot see one another. There is a moderator who will start reading questions to the couple such as: Who does the laundry at home? Who snores the worst? Whose family is the nosiest? Then the couple would respond to each question by raising their own or the other’s shoe depending on who is the one to blame for the answer to the question. Let’s say the bride has the nosiest family, then both groom and bride should have to raise her shoe. It gets very funny if both groom and bride, or bride and bride, or groom and groom raise the opposite person’s shoe. Then everybody laughs and most likely they would try to explain themselves as to why they think that the other person has the nosiest family!”

 

What do you think is unique about weddings in Sweden?

I notice, in my work, that a lot of couples in Sweden want to find “their own” style for their wedding day. Some like to plan it small, to go abroad on a vacation and then maybe plan a small party for their family and friends at home in the garden. Many Swedes also choose to say “yes” outside and in nature (on a beach, or in a garden) and many people are choosing to use an officiator instead of getting married in a church.

However, Swede’s can still be very traditional and take great pride in the customs and cultures passed down to them. A traditional Swedish wedding would be held in a church, followed by a big party and many guests. On the flipside, I’ve noticed some couples wanting to hold their receptions in a more “American way”; weddings over 3 days, with rehearsal dinner and so on.

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Where do Swedish weddings generally take place?

At a place important to the wedding couple or a place close to home or family. The choice of church, where to host the reception, the party and accommodation for the guests are also important when choosing a place to be married.

What is important to a Swede?

The weather I guess!  Just kidding, but all Swedes know that it can be freezing cold and rainy even if you choose to hold your wedding in the middle of the summer. This forces you to have all sorts of backup plans if the weather isn’t cooperating with you.

 

If you’ve had a personal experience you want to share or have anything to add about Swedish wedding customs and traditions please leave a comment below!

 

Photography by KAREN LUNDQUIST / 1 WAY TICKET VIDEO & PHOTOGRAPHY

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YLC Stockholm
YLC is THE online lifestyle magazine for the international community of Stockholm. We keep a finger on the pulse of the city’s heartbeat - just for YOU. With the style of a glossy, the substance of a journal and the eye of an event planner – we have it all. For your one-stop guide to living in Stockholm, visit www.yourlivingcity.com/stockholm

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22 comments

  1. Katalina Annika

    Hej:) I’m planning a Swedish wedding with my fiancé Ulf Erlandsson and was wondering about the traditions:) He was born and raised in Stockholm and I’m part Swedish myself. I would love to make this wedding very special: Any information on planning? We are talking about making our home in Stockholm:) I was there these past three months and I Love Sweden! Any help will be appreciated:)

  2. im doing a research paper on Cultural Wedding traditions and its on Swedish wedding traditions. I was wondering what would be best to describe for the body part of the assignment. Wedding day? , wedding entourage, the kissing tradition, etc. I need some input on this. Also if u have any other information on this topic

  3. Lion dances, weed bouquets and henna tattoos — a look back at some of the most interesting cultural wedding traditions from Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Swedish and Moroccan history.

  4. We have been invited to attend a wedding in Sweden and want to ask, if, like in the UK, there is generally a wedding gift list. Do guests take along a gift, make a donation etc?

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  10. Hi! Im Swedish, and I’m a wedding planner in Barcelona, Spain.. 🙂 Just wanted to add that its not super heavy tradition with the three rings. I would say its most common that the bride only has 2 rings. And even though its getting more and more common with so called “push gifts” after giving birth, its not always a ring.. it could be any type of jewelry which I actually think is more common (necklace or earrings). And wearing three rings on one finger could’t be very comfortable (imo), so if the woman received a ring as a push gift, then she I think it would be more likely that she wouldn’t wear it on the same finger as the other rings…

    The common Swedish way with the rings is this:

    ENGAGEMENT
    The couple will exchange rings, so both the bride and groom to be will have one ring each. Traditionally it has been very plain gold wedding bands without any detailing, but this has started to change now due to the influences from the US, so nowadays many brides to be have a diamond ring as an engagement ring and the groom to be has a plain wedding band. In Sweden we wear the ring on the left hand ring finger. By the way, in Sweden its very common for couples to get engaged, but it doesn’t always mean that they will get married anytime soon. In fact, it’s quite common practice that couples don’t get married at all (!), they just continue being engaged or they break up, it sounds weird, I know. But it is quite common. This means that in Sweden there is “no stress” to get married within 1 year from the proposal.

    WEDDING
    Bride: The bride will be wearing her engagement ring, and will receive a wedding ring so in total she will now have 2 rings.
    Groom:
    Traditional way – He keeps his engagement ring on in church, and the ring will be blessed during the ceremony, but he will not receive another ring, so in total he will only wear one ring, however it’s common to add a new engraving with the wedding date afterwards to his ring.
    Other options for the groom are: He also received a wedding ring on the wedding day, and both bride and groom will wear two rings. This is quite common practice, and many swedes want to wear two rings because then it is very clear that your status is married since only a married man would wear two rings 🙂

    Hope this helps 🙂

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