Cozy and Crazy Norwegian wedding traditions

As you read this I’m in Norway visiting family so naturally I’m thinking about Nordic style weddings! I know a bit about it, after all, my son has lived in Norway for over 10 years, and I’ve been visiting for as long. Of course like any country there is lots of variation within its borders and the north of Norway is certainly very different than cosmopolitan Oslo.

But in general, weddings are much smaller than in the U.S and they have a cozy feeling – cozy being a highly prized adjective in Norway. You might expect that in the land of mountains, glaciers and fjords, but perhaps not of these Vikings!

Traditional music is often included in the ceremony, and a small processional might be led by a fiddler or accordion. Folk songs are popular, and people have lots of fun writing their own lyrics about the couple, set to the traditional melodies, and sing them at the reception.

A fiddler plays.

Instead of dancing and partying, speeches and toasting make up most the party. Someone oversees this – a sort of ‘toastmaster’ and it can go on for hours. It’s really quite lovely because everything is focused on stories and good wishes for the couple. They usually sit at long tables, which is gaining popularity here, but as in most of the world, customs are changing and weddings are becoming more ‘Americanized.’

Cake overall is a big feature of Norwegian weddings and it’s an accepted custom for guests to be asked to bring along additional cakes so that the wedding tables are full! Norwegians do love their cake. And they love strong drink as well. Akvavit is popular, and its distinctive flavor is from spices and herbs, and it is 40% alcohol by volume. I can’t handle it at all! Luckily they also have great beer.

Bringing cake - cake is king.

Having a national costume, called a bunad, is expensive, but many people do own one and wear them for their National Day (their Independence Day), a big celebration on the 17th of May. These striking outfits can also be worn for a wedding, for the couple and guests alike! The man’s bunadis a woolen suit with a white silk shirt, short pants with calf-length stockings, a vest and topcoat. It’s quite elaborate. A woman’s dress has a bodice of silk, but is otherwise made of wool, embroidered with traditional Norwegian patterns, and includes buckles on the vest or waist along with other elaborate accessories of silver or gold. Sometimes a shawl is added. There is an enormous variety to these outfits and they are really stunning!

More elaborate than usual!

Weddings take place in the church or at a town hall. Ancient Norway followed a form of paganism, but was Christianized in the 11th century. The country is mostly Lutheran, and up until recently it was the official religion of Norway. The Church of Norway was decoupled form the country on May 21, 2012 through a constitutional amendment, but they still require the reigning monarch to be Lutheran. While they are a country based in Christian practices there is a strong humanist strain. By the way, same sex marriage has been legal in Norway since 2009.

Some lovely women showing off their outfits.

The Sami are the indigenous people of the arctic, who followed a shamanistic religion until they were forced to convert by missionaries in the 18th century. Recently there has been a renewed appreciated for the Sami which has led to a revival of their religion. In a winter Sami wedding both the bride and groom wear decorated traditional pants made of reindeer fur and footwear made of reindeer skin. Wow!

Greeting from Norway – I’ll be back real soon!




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