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.
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.
“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.
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