While we are all very well versed in the traditions surrounding a British wedding —the cutting of the cake, for example, or the first dance — not so many of us are aware of the wedding traditions of other countries.
There are some fascinating traditions around the world that differ hugely from our own, offering a unique insight into and appreciation of the cultures of other nations.
For this reason, our new Luxe series explores what a typical wedding in other countries around the world might look like.
We’re starting this series by delving into the wedding customs of Sweden.
Before a Swedish wedding
What happens in the lead-up to a Swedish wedding?
For a wedding guest, the wedding begins with the invite. While ‘plus ones’ are standard in the UK, invites in Sweden are usually for one person only unless for a married or established couple.
The happy couple
While engaged British individuals often help to plan their own hen and stag dos, Swedish people get ‘kidnapped’ by friends at random for a day or weekend of fun before the wedding! Of course, plans are made in secret with the individual’s partner beforehand regarding their work, where they will be at a certain time, and so on.
Couples in the UK tend to choose a large wedding entourage for their big day, but Swedes opt for just one bridesmaid and one best man — or go without altogether.
Swedish wedding ring tradition differs largely from other European countries, too. When it comes to the engagement ring, both partners wear one, but it is a plain gold band. These gold bands are often engraved with the proposal date and the name of the partner — with the bride-to-be’s ring featuring the groom-to-be’s name, and vice versa. Sometimes the date of the wedding is added at a later date, too.
Traditionally, on the wedding day, only the bride receives a wedding ring — and this is the diamond ring we would think of as a typical engagement ring. At a later date, if the couple has children, the husband gifts his wife a further ring called a ‘motherhood ring,’ which is worn on the same finger as the others. These three rings are often bought at the same time, pre-proposal, to make sure they sit well together on the finger.
During a Swedish wedding
What happens during a Swedish wedding?
A Swedish wedding day begins with a wealth blessing from the parents of the bride to symbolise that she will never go without. The father of the bride gifts the bride a silver coin, which is placed in her left shoe; the mother of the bride offers a gold coin, which the bride then wears in her right shoe.
When it comes to clothing, Swedish wedding dress codes tend to be more relaxed than here in the UK. Each wedding is unique, but overall, anything goes except casualwear. All colours are welcome too, except red, which, in days gone by, was a colour that suggested you had been intimate with the bride or groom.
Modern brides in Sweden wear a tiara or veil on their wedding day, but more traditional brides would wear a crown woven from myrtle leaves. This was said to signify the bride’s innocence and purity.
Additionally, a Swedish bride’s floral bouquet is always made up of strongly-scented flowers to ward off any evil spirits, and doesn’t get tossed for others to catch as it does in British tradition.
A Swedish bride’s father doesn’t give her away; instead, the couple walks down the aisle together, showing that they are marrying out of choice and reflecting the nation’s forward-thinking on equality.
Once the couple has said their vows in front of their friends and family, they kiss as British couples do. However, this is where things get a little bizarre in comparison to our customs!
After the kiss, wedding guests are encouraged to kiss the newlyweds when one of them leaves the room. For example, male wedding guests are encouraged to kiss the bride if the groom leaves the room, and female wedding guests often form a line to kiss the groom when the bride is out of sight!
Brits and Swedes both enjoy a round of speeches at the wedding reception. However, while we traditionally have the father-of-the-bride, the groom, and the best man taking to the microphone, Swedish wedding guests tend to sit through around 8-12 speeches at a standard wedding!
For this reason, they have to nominate a ‘toast-master’ to organise all of the speech requests and make sure everything runs smoothly.
The first speech is usually enjoyed with a welcome drink, while the rest take place throughout dinner. This means that the wedding dinner usually lasts at least 3.5 hours, but often much longer.
After dinner, ‘snapsvisor’ are sung by the guests — drinking songs, accompanied by snaps, which is a Scandinavian vodka. You’ll hear many cries of “skål!” throughout, which translates to “cheers!”
Finally, whoever crosses the threshold of the marital home first on the wedding day is declared the head of the household. Depending on the couple, they may make a point of crossing the threshold together, a man may step back and ensure the woman crosses first, or the woman may hold back for the man to pass if she’s more traditional. If you’re lucky as a guest, you may witness a playful scuffle at the front door of the house as the couple pushes each other out of the way to cross the threshold first!
After a Swedish wedding
The morning after the big day, is it a tradition in Sweden for the groom to gift his wife with a morgongåva (morning gift). This is typically a piece of jewellery and is seen as something of value to sell should she outlive her husband.
Please note: This article refers to a ‘bride and groom’ as it talks of traditions set out when a bride and groom were the only legal option; however, it’s important to note that same-sex marriage is legal in Sweden and has been since 2007. In fact, the country was the seventh in the world to legalise marriage nationally between two people of the same gender. With that in mind, many of the traditions mentioned above will be followed by LGBT+ couples also.