Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Norwegian Wedding & Engagement Traditions

Capture the Essence! of Norwegian Tradition with this Platinum Designer Wedding Ring with Millgrain Details. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Norway, the land of "magnificent glaciers, flowing waterfalls, and mountain peaks dipping their toes in the fjords," which inspired Disney's magical icy fairy tale Frozen, is a prime source for medieval wedding inspiration.{1} If you love Viking boats, exquisite craftsmanship, and traditions rooted in storytelling and superstition, then look no further than the Norwegians, whose wedding customs continue to evoke bygone eras.

According to tradition, Norwegian couples begin preparing for marriage once the families approve of their engagement. Traditionally, engagement rings are not exchanged in Norway, though these days couples will wear their wedding rings, plain gold bands, on their left hands in the months leading up to the ceremony.

However, in lieu of the private proposal, a huge feast is given in honor of the couple. Following this public announcement, the groom then showers his bride with gifts to display his continued intention to make her his bride. During this season of engagement, the traditional Norwegian bride knits socks and mittens for each of her fiancĂ©'s relatives. Norwegians place a high value on their daughters, so this offering of personal items was the only dowry offered to the groom's family.

On the morning of the appointed wedding day, the groom, dressed in his bunad (a woolen suit), white silk shirt, short pants, calf-length stockings, a vest, and a top coat, arrive with his clan at his intended's home. He is greeted by the woman's father, who offers him a cup of beer. After taking a sip, the groom must again ask, not only her father, but all of her relatives in attendance for permission to marry his sweetheart.

Once consent is granted, the bride is allowed to make her appearance on the doorstep. Though some devoutly traditional brides wear the traditional bridal bunad (a handmade dress of dark blue or black wool embroidered in traditional Norwegian decor), most modern Norwegian brides wear a bridal gown in white or silver. Atop her head, every Norwegian bride wears a crown of gold or silver laced with spoon-like bangles which produce a melodic sound as the bride moves about, a way for her to ward off evil spirits.

To further ward off evil spirits, the front door of the house is slammed three times just after the playing of the lur announces the official start of the wedding festivities. Side by side, the couple sets off down the path toward the church with a fiddler and their closest friends and family members trailing behind. Their remaining relatives remain at the bride's home until after the ceremony.

During the ceremony, the bride and groom exchange their wedding rings. As is customary in many European countries, the rings are placed on their right ring fingers. A traditional kiss is exchanged, symbolic of the endless exchange of their souls one with the other. After the ceremony, the wedding party returns to the bride's home for the reception and feast, a party which extends well into the wee hours of the morning.

Many toasts are made, including a speech in honor of the chefs and servers, and then the cake is cut. One type of traditional Norwegian wedding cake, the Brudlaupskling, is made from flour and is drizzled in a mixture of cheese, cream, and syrup. Another type (Kransekake) is made from macaroon rings stacked upon each other in descending sizes, forming a fluted pyramid. These are decorated with candy, flowers, and the Norwegian flag. Some brides choose to engage in the custom of lifting the top ring off the pyramid. The number of rings she pulls off with it are said to represent the number of children with which the couple will be blessed.

The dancing commences shortly after the cakes are served, and during the dance the bride and groom are encouraged by shouting to stand upon a chair and kiss. Traditionally, the guests could extend the length of these kisses by giving lavish wedding gifts. The more expensive the gift, the longer the kiss! Beer is served in abundance, and the revelers enjoy the festivities until around midnight.

This night of revelry ends with the presentation of the Bride's Cheese. The bride serves a slice of cheese soaked in honey and sprinkled with nuts to each of her guests from a tray. This served as a hint to the guests that the sweetness of the night was only just beginning for the happy couple, so once the bride's tray was empty, the guests would soon after begin leaving. The bride and groom are then free to enjoy their Sweet Night together in the privacy of their bedroom, and in the morning the groom lavishes his bride with further gifts, typically diamond and gold jewelry.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. Ingebretsen's. "Norwegian Wedding Traditions." Accessed May 5, 2014.
  2. Norwegian Dating. "Wedding Traditions in Norway." Accessed May 5, 2014.
  3. O'Leary, Margaret Hayford.Culture and Customs of Norway. ABC-CLIO, 2010.
  4. Otnes, Cele C. and Tina M. Lowrey. Contemporary Consumption Rituals: A Research Anthology. Taylor & Francis, 2004.
  5. Rogers, Abby. "15 Unique Wedding Customs From Around the World," Business Insider, October 18, 2011.

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