Welcome to the latest in our series of articles based on wedding traditions around the world.
This month, we are looking at Norwegian wedding traditions — customs that you can expect to see as a guest at a Norwegian wedding or potentially include in your day if you are planning a wedding in Norway yourself.
At first glance, a Norwegian wedding may look like any other European wedding — with modern brides often in long white gowns and grooms in black tuxedos.
However, when you take a closer look, many unique events and customs make a Norwegian wedding stand out from those of its neighbouring countries.
In this article, we’ll explore what typically happens during and after a wedding in Norway.
During a Norwegian wedding
Weddings in Norway tend to occur in church, with civil ceremonies taking place in town and city halls.
Norwegian weddings are small events with just the closest family and friends being invited, and children are often not included — unless they are the children of the couple getting married.
Norwegian wedding clothing
As mentioned above, brides and grooms often wear similar outfits to couples in the UK. However, a groom may sometimes choose to wear a ‘bunad’ — a traditional Norwegian folk costume that has become increasingly popular on formal occasions in modern times.
Brides in Norway traditionally wear a wedding crown; a treasured family heirloom passed down through the generations and said to represent the bride’s purity.
Usually made from silver, a Norwegian wedding crown features gold spoon-shaped droplets designed to make music when the bride moves and dances. The theory is that this music wards off evil spirits and ensures a happy day.
The Norwegian wedding procession
One of the most noticeable wedding traditions in Norway is the wedding procession.
Norwegians traditionally have a wedding procession to the church or town hall headed by fiddle or violin players.
Sometimes the procession is on foot, sometimes on horseback, and occasionally by carriage or boat. Whatever the transport method, the procession members must arrive in the correct order.
Behind the fiddle players are the soon-to-be bride and groom (or bride and bride or groom and groom), followed in order by their parents, the bridesmaid (there is only one), the groomsman (again, there is only one), the flower girl, the ring bearer, and then other guests.
On arrival at the church or town hall, the fiddle or violin players then lead the couple down the aisle.
Wedding rings in Norway
Norwegian newlyweds usually wear wedding rings; unlike in the UK, though, the wedding rings are worn on the ring finger of the right hand.
When it comes to style, Norwegian wedding rings vary from simple to intricate, and wedding band engravings of traditional sayings are a popular option.
As the newlyweds leave the church or town hall, their guests throw rye, rice, or barley grains over them — much like the confetti favoured by UK wedding guests.
However, this Norwegian wedding tradition involves the bride trying to catch as much grain in her hands as possible; it is said that the more grain she catches, the happier she and her partner will be in their marriage.
The wedding reception
After the ceremony, it’s time for the wedding reception, which is as full of laughter and tears as it is anywhere in the world.
The wedding party sits down together and, either dinner is served to them, or they can help themselves to a smorgasbord (buffet).
The dinner — orchestrated by a toastmaster — often lasts for many hours as it is full of toasts and songs to the happy couple. Traditionally, the bride’s father gives the first speech and it is followed by many more.
After dinner, a cake is cut by the newlyweds — much like in the UK. However, it is more common in Norway for the couple to ask guests to contribute cakes to the cake table, so there is often a wide range of desserts available.
Once everyone has eaten, the newlyweds have the first dance, and then the rest of the wedding party joins in.
Folk music is popular for after-dinner dancing, and some guests even write custom lyrics and perform them to music at the ceremony.
Guests have often worked up an appetite after a session on the dancefloor, so a second meal is usually supplied a little later in the evening, which is usually soup with bread, sandwiches, or sausages.
Each guest is sent home at the end of the evening with something known as ‘bride’s cheese’; a slice of cheese soaked in honey and then dipped in nuts.
After a Norwegian wedding
The morning after the wedding, it is customary for the groom to gift his bride a piece of jewellery, known as ‘morgengave’ — this translates to ‘morning gift’. In same-sex couples, a discussion might be had about this beforehand to decide if this tradition will be followed and, if so, who will do the gifting.
Then, when the newlyweds arrive home together, they often plant a fir tree on either side of the front door of their home. This act is said to be symbolic of the children they wish to raise together in the future.
If you are interested in learning more about the wedding customs in various locations worldwide, take a look at our article on Mexican wedding traditions next.