Like most cultures, there are certain wedding traditions that couples expect before, during, and after the ceremony. These customs allow the couple to experience their heritage as well as to support a healthy and binding relationship between the newly married couple.
Norwegian wedding traditions are no exception as they, too, have a variety of interesting customs to celebrate the special day.
Norwegian wedding traditions
1. Norwegian wedding ceremony
The couple can choose to have their Norwegian wedding ceremony in a church or at city hall. Both are considered to be civil ceremonies.
Some things you can expect to see at the ceremony include music supplied by violinists and fiddle musicians as they lead the couple to the altar. Parents of both the bride and groom, along with the bridesmaids, the person designated to carry the ring, and the flower girls dispensing flowers follow in that order. Behind the procession, guests then enter.
2. Bridal attire
For a Norwegian wedding dress, the bride may choose a gown of white, or silver accessorized with a bridal crown.
Unlike other cultures where the bridesmaids wear significantly different styles and colors than the bride’s gown, her bridesmaids will often dress in gowns similar to hers. The reason for this is that by dressing like the bride, the bridesmaids are protecting her from any evil spirits lurking around, which will cause them to become confused and leave the area.
The bride may choose to wear a traditional bridal dress, which is handmade using black or blue wool. The dress is then embroidered with traditional Norwegian symbols and decor. Like the Scottish tartan denoting different clans, traditional handmade Norwegian dress designs will differ from city to city and region to region.
3. Norwegian wedding crown
The bridal crown (brudekrone) is an important Norwegian wedding tradition, being a key part of the ceremony. It is usually a family heirloom passed down within the family for the bride to use on her special day.
Attached to the crown is a long delicate veil. The symbolism of the veil, usually made from silver metal, is to represent the bride’s purity.
The Norwegian wedding crown may also be decorated with delicate bangles that move freely and make lighthearted tinkling sounds whenever the bride’s head moves. The melodic sounds of the bangles are also seen as a way for the bride to ward off any evil spirits that may interfere with her happiness.
4. Groom’s attire
The traditional attire for the groom is a Norwegian bunad, which consists of a stylish and decorative woolen suit featuring a silk shirt and vest and a pair of short silk pants.
While styles can vary, the folk-style suit is accessorized with a pair of men’s stockings, calf-high boots or shoes, and a topcoat. The suit is elegant and comparable to a tuxedo in its importance.
(Want some proof? Here’s Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivju – better known as Tormund from Game of Thrones – in his wedding bunad.)
The traditional outfit is also worn by the men participating in the ceremony. Guests at the wedding and the reception may also honor the tradition by wearing the customary outfit. It is not unusual for the bride to also come attired in a bridal gown depicting the customary attire, with many Norwegian brands tailor making these for weddings.
5. Wedding rings
Norwegian wedding rings aren’t so different from what we see in much of the rest of the world. That is, the bride and groom will each wear either a silver or gold round wedding ring.
The round ring symbolizes the couple’s ongoing love for each other and seals their relationship.
6. Norwegian wedding cake
There are several choices for a traditional Norwegian wedding cake. These include the kransekake, which consists of multiple almond rings, and the flour-based brudlauskling cake with sweet cream, cheese, and syrup topping.
Wedding guests may contribute to the reception by bringing a variety of cakes to share along with the wedding cake.
7. Traditional Norwegian wedding music
Music plays an important role in establishing a happy, lighthearted, and carefree atmosphere for the couple and guests to enjoy.
As mentioned earlier, musicians are part of the beginning of the marriage ceremony. After the couple is married and ready to leave the church, the couple is escorted out of the building to the sounds of music, which may be supplied by a musician playing the accordion.
One of the pieces of music that is popular as the couple exits the church is “Come to the Wedding”. Music commences, again, at the wedding reception once the dancing begins.
8. Wedding reception
The Norwegian wedding reception is an opportunity for the couple, family members, and guests to take part in the celebration. A toastmaster is appointed to acknowledge anyone who wants to make a toast, share a story about the couple, or offer good wishes and share a heartfelt story. The speeches and toasts take place throughout the reception from start to finish.
The tradition involving speeches includes emotional words from the bride’s father, the groom’s father, and an individual speech by the groom and the bride. The best man and a designated bridesmaid will also provide a speech. Singing songs is also a traditional part of a Norwegian wedding reception.
9. Official wedding dance
Once the wedding dinner is over, which can be late into the night, the official wedding dance commences.
This Norwegian wedding tradition is much like many other parts of the world, in that the bride and groom take to the dance floor in their first dance as a married couple.
10. Kisses and more kisses!
The kiss shared between the bride and groom is a tradition shared by many cultures. However, a Norwegian wedding takes the tradition to another level of fun for the guests and the newlyweds.
During the reception, if the groom leaves the room, this is a signal that the bride is available for kisses from the male guests. If the bride leaves the room, the ladies can take the opportunity to share a smooch with the groom.
Wedding guests can request the couple to kiss at any time during the reception by taking a piece of silverware and gently clinking it against the side of a wine glass. When this signal is initiated, the bride and groom know they must kiss while standing on their chairs.
11. Norwegian wedding food
The wedding reception is a food fest for the guests. Along with the wedding cake(s), other food items to enjoy include fresh herring, smoked salmon highlighted with dill, red cabbage, potatoes, and rye bread.
Since the reception may go on for hours until the wee hours of the morning, a late-night snack, known as the nattmat, is offered so guests don’t go home hungry.
The menu can include soups and sandwiches, sausages, bread, assorted meat boards, and a variety of drinks, including beer and the traditional Scandinavian libation known as aquavit. Because if there’s one Norwegian stereotype that’s true, it’s that Norwegians do love the occasional drink!
12. Barley and rye for the couple
One of the traditional customs at a Norwegian wedding is for guests to throw barley and rye grains at the couple once they’ve tied the knot. The grains represent positivity for the couple as they embark on their life together.
As part of the custom, the bride attempts to catch as many of the grains as possible to ensure a bright and happy future.
13. Wedding spoons
This is one of the older Norwegian wedding traditions out there and isn’t one you see as much anymore. However, back in the day, it was custom for the bride and groom to eat together on the third day of wedding festivities using spoons connected by a chain.
The spoons were carved from wood, with the chain being symbolic of the bond between the couple. After the wedding, the chain with the spoons was then hung over their door to bring luck to the couple.
As wood carvings drop in popularity, this Norwegian wedding tradition has also dropped somewhat out of favor. That said, if you’re looking for one of the more traditional Norwegian wedding gifts – including to give to someone who’s a bit of a Scandophile – this could be a great choice.
14. Fir trees
This is probably my favorite Norwegian wedding tradition – well, perhaps apart from that amazing crown the brides get to wear.
Custom says that when the couple return home after being married (or move to their home together if they didn’t cohabit before), they should each plant a fir tree on each side of their front door. It’s meant to signify the children they plan to have.
But whether or not they do end up having children, I think we can all agree that the idea of the trees growing as your relationship does too is a beautiful image!