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Swedish wedding customs Posted by on Feb 22, 2010 in Culture

As Gabriel pointed out here, you can learn a lot about a country by studying the customs (seder) and traditions surrounding big moments in life such as child births and weddings (bröllop). I’m not about to either give birth or get hitched, but there are a lot of weddings in the air at the moment. First and foremost, because both Sweden’s princesses are getting married this summer and every magazine/tv-program/radio show in Sweden are already discussing dresses (klänningar), cakes, gifts and guest lists. But also because this is the time of the year when you – if you are lucky – are starting to get invitations this summer’s weddings.

A lot of Swedish weddings are taking place in May-September but the most popular month for weddings are without a doubt August – mainly because of the weather. May is also a big wedding month – but since 2005, when the Swedes lost one of their May public holidays (in order to make our national day in June a public holiday), the number of May weddings dropped dramatically.

In average, 39 000 couples get married in Sweden per year and the number increases steadily every year. During 2008, 50 332 Swedish couples exchanged vows (löften), more than half of those choose a civil ceremony and roughly 400 were gay marriages. In short, weddings are popular up there and what Swede does not like a good party?

If there are 50 000 weddings every year in Sweden, there are also 50 000 ways of doing it. On a cliff, in a church, on a boat, in a hotel, on a castle, with no guests, with 300 guests, with traditions, with a bling bling theme… Anything goes and as with everything, it’s the personal taste, family traditions and the money that decides. But there are a few customs that lots of people sticks to that can be useful – or just fun – to know.

Wedding ceremonies take place in the afternoon and the couple normally walks in together, it’s very rare that the father of the bride gives her away. One bridesmaid (brudtärna) and one best man is the standard. Normally, it’s only the bride (brud) that gets a ring during the ceremony; the groom (brudgum) gets his when the couple get engaged. After the ceremony, the couple are greeted by their family and friends who kindly throws rice (not cooked…) or more common today, blow soap bubbles (a special blend that doesn’t stain…) on the couple. The reception follows straight after the ceremony.

Wedding receptions normally contains of a three course meal or a buffét. It’s rare with a separate day and night reception. If you are invited to a wedding, you are normally invited to the whole shebang. During the dinner, a toastmaster coordinates the speeches – which normally goes on throughout the whole dinner. If you want to hold a speech, you should let the toastmaster know this and he/she makes a list and announces every speaker. It’s custom that the father of the bride holds the first one. The best man and the bridesmaid normally say something as well, but apart from that, anyone that feel compelled can say something, propose a toast, sing a song or just start tapping the glass with your knife. If someone starts doing this, all the guests will soon follow and this means that the newlyweds most kiss. Also, it the bride leaves the room to powder her nose, all the girls can run up to the groom and steal a kiss. Same thing for the boys, when the groom leaves the room. The bride normally keeps her bouquet, Swede’s don’t have a history of throwing it.

Anyway, this is turning into a minor novel, so I better stop. But I reckon there will be time  to get back to this subject in a few months time, when there will be nothing but wedding-this and wedding-that talk in Sweden. But in the meantime, please share your customs/thoughts/experiences/takes on bröllop! Thumbs up or a big no no?

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Comments:

  1. Scott:

    Hi mate,

    Thanks for this really interesting overview of the Swedish wedding ceremony/reception. I’ve just been asked to be Toastmaster at a friend’s Swedish wedding so this was a great source of information for my initial research!

  2. Joy:

    I had the pleasure of going to a Swedish wedding a little over a year ago. It was a wonderful experience. I was a little panicked because it is insulting to wear black to a Swedish wedding. Everyone in the US wears black to weddings. I was also told red and white were also out. White for the same reason it’s inappropriate here and red because it symbolizes you were with the groom. I found something in brown and it worked out fine. There were NO black dresses, so I was glad I found that out ahead of time.

  3. Karina:

    awesome post! and now that you have reminded me, I need to find out as much as possible about the princess weddings… can we get a post on this topic too???

  4. Minty:

    You didn’t mention two of the things that shocked me most in relation to Swedes and weddings. First, as it has already been mentioned on this blog I think, many people never bother to get marrried. They just stay as a de facto couple, living together- sambo! Which is practically the same as married here. They get all the same rights and responsibilities.

    Second thing is that in America England and Australia the woman both the woman and the man get an engagement and a wedding ring, which you briefly touched on, but the most interesting part is that in Sweden the woman’s engagement ring is just a gold band, no diamond! The diamond ring is what you recieve for your wedding! Completely opposite to the english speakign countries! I have to say it worries me a bit too, I’d actually liked the idea of getting a nice diamond ring first…hahaha 😉

  5. Marta:

    Hej! Very interesting. I thougth that, generally speaking, Swedes didn’t marry, but had a sambo. We have this idea that Swedes are very modern, not traditional people. Very interesting that particular lack of diamond commented by Minty, too:)

  6. Luke (Sydney):

    Did I read it right? It’s man and only man instead of woman get an engagement ring, is it? If so, this is gold! Pre-patriarchal practice?

  7. Jennie:

    @scott: Thank you and congrats to that honourable task! I’m also going to “toastmaster” my friends wedding, so I am researching like mad. Just shout if there’s anything you would like to know more about.

    @Joy: You are absolutely right! No black dresses (and no white of course) but I think this dresscode is getting a bit less strict – since almost everyone loves their black dresses nowadays. It’s the same here in UK, people don’t mind a black dress and I love it. The red dress no no is a funny one, yes in some way it should symbolise that you have a thing for the groom. I’m not sure who much people care about this one nowadays, I acctually went to a wedding with an all red theme, where everyone wore red, including the bride!
    Cheers for your input!

    @Karina: Thank you! Of Course there will be princess wedding post, Atleast five if I can decide 🙂

    @Minty: Yes, thst’s very true. Most people stay “sambo” – a useful word (means to live together) but I think it’s an interesting fact that marriages actually increase – and increase quite a lot. But thanks for a great idea to a sambo-post.
    And yes, the diamond is saved for the wedding. Totally agree, that’s why I decided to get an English boyfirend, where the diamond comes first! 🙂

    @Marta: Thank you! Swedes are probbably quite modern, but as I wrote to Minty, I think it’s interesting that the number of marriages increases instead of decreases. And yes, you can definitely call it “Lack of damond” 🙂

    @Luke: Don’t get your hopes up mate! 🙂 No, the woman gets two tings, one engagement ring and one wedding ring, while the man just get one ring .- either when the couple got engaged or before the wedding or during the weddding – depending on the couple.
    This made me think alot yesterday, how it actually works if the man wants to surprise his woman and propose (many people just agree on getting engagded and buy the rings togehter) Does he buy his own ring too? Need to research more amongst my married Swedish friends!

  8. Kenia:

    HI Jenny,
    That is exactly what i was wondering. Is the man supposed to buy his own ring? Or should the woman buy it some time after he proposed? Please, do your research and tell us =). Great post!

  9. BM:

    When one of my Swedish friends got married,he proposed to her, and then they bought the rings together later on.

  10. Letícia:

    This is very interesting! While we’re at it, in which hand is the ring worn while you’re engaged in Sweden? In some countries, both the man and the woman wear it on the right hand until the wedding ceremony. After that, they wear it on the left had.

  11. Olof:

    The ring/-s are always worn on the left hand.

  12. Ulrika:

    A lot of Swedish people discuss engagement and weddings and then set a date for both events. They then go out and shop for the rings together. I can’t think of many friends (or anyone actually) who has had the surprise with the man getting down on one knee…

  13. Jennie:

    @Kenia: As Ulrika wrote above, lots of Swedish couple discuss the engagement and buy the rings togehter. And as BM also pinted out, the proposal might happen without rings and the couple will buy them togehter later. Or, if she is surprised with a ring, they buy his together later…Or… Lot’s of ways of doing this, apparently! 🙂

    @Ulrika: Very true, but I do know quite a few lucky sods that had the whole surprise proposal! But as you say, it’s often a planned event. Well, I wont give up the hope yet! 🙂

  14. Natasha:

    I was wondering, after the ceremony, does the bride take her husband’s last name, or keep her own? I live in Canada, and in the province I live in, we are not given the choice: women keep their maiden name for life. But in the rest of Canada, most, not all, take their husband’s last name.

  15. jennie:

    @Natasha: That’s all up to the couple to decide. I think it’s most common that the woman takes the man’s name, but it varies from couple to couple. Some women keep their maiden name, some couples take the woman’s name and some couple even make up a new name, to mark a fresh start. Also, some women keep their own name but add the man’s name as well, for example Sara Andersson Widell.
    Interesting that you are not given the choice. Do you have any idea why it is like that?

  16. Ulrika:

    Ha ha do you know what Jennie, I CAN actually think of one person who had the surprise proposal-ME!
    But it might not count as my husband is English….:-)
    And who knows, might be some more friends to add to that list soon…;-)

  17. Natasha:

    It all goes back to the French Revolution, actually. Quebec (where I live) used French law, as opposed to the rest of the country, which was under English law. Until 1981, women could choose to use their husband’s name, although for anything really official the birth name was still commonly used, but since the passing of a law in that year, we no longer are allowed to. It makes it very difficult for immigrants and other Canadians who move here from other parts of Canada who have already legally changed their last name. You always wonder “who you really are!”

  18. Amy Broberg:

    Thank you for this great post! I am Swedish American and would like to add a Swedish custom to the ceremony or reception…is there a traditional reading, song or toast that is always made? Thanks for your help! -Amy in MA.

  19. Tiffy:

    I think its nice that there is no diamond. I think it proves that the marriage is about the people involved and not material things. I’d rather a man know I want to marry him because he rocks and not have to wonder if it’s because he gave me a rock.

  20. Shondene:

    I am also Swedish American looking for a traditional Swedish blessing or reading for my July wedding. Thanks ~ Shondene

  21. jennie:

    Amy and Shondene! Please let me look into this so I don’t pass on any wrong information! 😉
    But I’ll let you know as soon as I know.

  22. Jasmine:

    Halo, my Swedish finance bought his and my rings in advance and suprised me for the proposal when we re having a holiday, the ring of cos not fit for my size (but still very sweet, hehe…)and we will buy my wedding ring together, hope this help 😉

  23. Jasmine:

    Halo, my Swedish finance bought his and my rings in advance and suprised me for the proposal when we re having a holiday, the ring of cos not fit for my size (but still very sweet, hehe…)and we will buy my wedding ring together, n our wedding planned to be next year

  24. David:

    My nephew is getting married to a Swedish girl in Sweden… bride’s family is very important and affluent. Does the groom’s family give a pre-wedding -aka rehearsal dinner as in the US?
    What other responsibilities does the grooms family have, if any?
    THANKS!!!!

    • jennie:

      @David Hi David!
      Rehersal dinners are rare in Sweden, so I would be surprised if your nephew’s family will have one. There are no particualr responsibilites for the Groom’s family, but keep in mind that anyone can hold a speech during the dinner, so it would probably be appraciated if someone on your nephew’s side said a few words. Good luck and enjoy!!

  25. rikki:

    This has all been so wonderful to read. I just recently got engaged to a Swede and planning a wedding is going to be a task! I’m from California but we will marry there. Him and I have matching gold bands with each others names inside. We will soon put the date of the engagement inside, and date of the wedding inside the diamond wedding band. Really love their traditions!

  26. balklänningar:

    Thanks for sharing nice overview of Swedish wedding customs…

  27. Sandra Thatcher:

    Hi There, I found this very interesting as I am looking at different cultures for an assignement. I am studying international floristry and would be grateful if you could give me any contacts about wedding floristry and funeral florisrty 9 both modern and traditional) is Swedden.
    Thanks
    San

  28. festklänningar:

    Custom is very nice….

  29. Jackie:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this as my son is soon to marry his Swedish fiancé in Sweden. Whilst they have very set ideas about how they will organise things it’s been fun winding them up that some people might have other ideas!

  30. Kerry Dalgleish:

    We will be married in June or July this year. Do we need witnesses at the ceremony or can it just be us and the pastor?

  31. Sarah Martin:

    Thanks for everyone’s comments, I wish I had found this string before I married my Swedish husband. I have a question that I hope someone can help me me with. Is the wedding tradition “Something borrowed, something blue…” common in Sweden / is it followed at all? My Swedish sister-in-law is getting married and I don’t know whether I should give her something small, to follow this tradition or not? Many thanks in advance!

  32. Becky Walkden:

    Det var underbra information. Since my mean Swedish teacher in Uppsala made me write about a frictional wedding, I used your article as a template for how a wedding is conducted! Tusan tack!

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