Saturday, October 9, 2010

The end of the Wedding Season

So, it's official. The wedding season is over. I have just attended my fifth and final wedding of the year. And now it's time to put away my party shoes until next summer when inevitably the next round of weddings will begin. Although I don't think that next year will bring as many weddings as this year did.

 Five weddings is a lot - especially since I'm a single gal and none of these weddings are obligatory partner friends weddings. I was invited to these weddings all on my lonesome (unfortunately).

A quick recap:

  • Wedding number one was a Swedish wedding outside of Stockholm where I made out with a young hot boy
  • Wedding number two was in Western Mass and I had a nice time catching up with old friends
  • Wedding number three was in San Fransisco where we partied like crazy and the Best Man who I used to baby-sit for had turned into a total hotty Mathew McConaughey look-alike
  • Wedding number four was a beautiful and traditional wedding on Nantucket
  • Wedding number five was in Swedish wedding outside of Stockholm that I went to just this past weekend.
I am honored to have watched my good friends get married this summer. All of the weddings were lovely and lots of fun!

This past weekend, I witnessed another beautiful wedding in Stockholm. My friend's J and S said their 'Yah's' at a lovely church an hour outside of Stockholm. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day - although a bit cold. The bride was stunning. The groom handsome. The dinner and reception were held in a lovely castle (as that's how it's done in Europe). We danced and partied the night away and celebrated the union of these two friends until the wee hours of the morning. A fun time was had by all. It was a beautiful and memorable wedding. I was so glad to take part in the festivities.

Grattis J and S!* Thanks for a lovely evening! I wish you the best of luck and hope that you are having a wonderful time on your honeymoon in Bali and I can't wait to hear all about it. Hope to see you soon - you are always welcome in Boston!

After this past weekend's wedding activities, I've been doing some reflecting on the differences between Swedish and American weddings. So, I will employ my favorite "list" format to highlight:

Why Swedish Weddings are Different From American Ones

The bride and groom walk down the aisle together - It's Swedish tradition that the bride and the groom walk down the aisle together. In general, gender equality-friendly Swedes frown upon the idea of the father "giving away" the bride. In fact when the Swedish Princess Victoria was married this summer and was walked down the aisle by her father, it was a source of controversy.

Generally there are just one or two bridesmaids and groomsmen - The Swedes don't generally do the big groups of bridesmaids and groomsmen. One or two is common.

Black, red and white dresses are not to be worn - In the US we obviously don't wear white dresses, but red and black are perfectly acceptable. In fact, it seems to be the trend these days for bridesmaids to wear black dresses. And I have to say I was surprised this summer to see how many guests favored a black dress over some color. But in Sweden, it's not ok - personally, I find this very hard especially in the winter.

There are many variations of dress code - The dress code is clearly stated on the invitation - there are different variations from casual summer dress to 'smoking' which means long dresses for the women and tuxedos with tails for men.

Swedish weddings tend to be small - A wedding of 80 people is considered a big wedding. Swedish weddings also tend to focus much more on the friends of the bride and groom rather than the family members or the parent's friends as American weddings often do.

The dinner seating chart is very special - At a Swedish wedding dinner you do not sit with your date. In fact, all guests are seated around the room guy-girl-guy-girl and you are placed strategically by the bride and groom next to guests they think you will get along with and you are expected to make conversation with them throughout the long dinner. For me as a single gal, this means that I'm usually seated next to another single guy. This worked out well for the first Swedish wedding I went to this summer! And although my single dinner partner this past weekend was not only fabulous but also such a gentleman, alas we were not a love match.

There is one or two people who act as Toast Masters - these are the Masters of Ceremony so to speak. They coordinate all the speeches (see below) with the timing of the kitchen and try to make sure that the night keeps its pace. The Toast Masters usually employ some type of noise maker like a horn to get everyone's attention.

There are LOTS of speeches throughout the dinner - I'm not talking about a small Best Man and Maid of Honor speech here... I'm talking about ANYONE can give a speech at the wedding as long as they tell the Toast Master beforehand that they want to give a speech. It is also common for guests who are absent to send a 'telegram' with a message for the bride and groom - these are read out loud by the Toast Masters. In the wedding this past weekend, the girls and I did a fun speech for the bride where we re-enacted a game we played in the summer

Don't Forget to look at everyone when you drink for the toast - When taking a sip of your drink during a toast, it's Swedish tradition to raise your glass then make eye contact with everyone at your table (and if you are standing and not sitting at a table, you should make eye contact with everyone in the room - yes, this is hard), then you take a sip of your drink, continue to keep your glass raised and then look at everyone again. This is a subtle movement (you obviously don't really look every single person in the eye but you do attempt to make eye contact with as many as possible) - you shouldn't swing your head around and get whiplash - I tried to teach this to an American friend once and she almost broke her neck.**

The dinner is often very long - Due to the speeches, the dinner takes a long time. Luckily this being the heavy drinking culture of Sweden, the waiters and waitresses are experts in keeping the wine glasses full - which can bring about interesting results (especially as you are sitting guy-girl throughout the room). The first Swedish wedding I went to, the dinner lasted over 6 hours. The other two Swedish weddings I have been to lasted around 4 hours. It makes for a long evening. But it's very nice.

Traditional Swedish wedding food is often deer or reindeer - A traditional wedding dinner is usually a 3 course meal usually starting with fish, then a meat dish, then desert (which is traditionally a cheese plate). Each course is pared with a different wine carefully selected to compliment the food. You do not pre-select your choice (although you can send word to the toastmaster if there are any allergies or dietary requirements - but if you don't like the food served, tough luck). Traditional Swedish wedding food is often deer or reindeer (local cuisine).

Singing might be part of dinner - Swedes love their drinking songs. Drinking songs or 'snaps' songs are sung at most festive occasions (like Midsommer or work holiday parties). The snaps songs are usually printed (in this case in the wedding book - see below) and sung all together - and at the end of course you are supposed to DRINK!

The wedding activities start early and go to the wee hours of the morning - Swedish weddings are not for the faint-hearted. The ceremony usually starts around 15:00 and the evening festivities will run until the last person standing goes to bed (usually somewhere around 6 in the morning). I love this about Swedish weddings! I always feel that American weddings end just as they are starting to get good! Swedes know how to party (and apparently there are less noise regulations) and they will keep going until the wee hours of the morning - often changing the venue to another place or another room on the grounds of the castle for the "efter-fest" as they call it.

Around 1 am there is a "vickning," or second dinner - this second dinner usually consists of hot dogs, or sausages as they are called in Sweden.*** Swedes want to party all night and they realize that to do so, you need more substance! I love this tradition. It's perfect to have something to eat after some hours of dancing and drinking to keep your energy up for more hours of dancing and drinking.

There is a printed wedding book for each guest - the wedding book might contain information about the bride and groom (for example how they met) or a history of the venue (as this is Europe, the venue is often a castle with an interesting history). And it also includes a list of all the guests and where they are sitting at the table. Each guest is briefly described and it is mentioned how they know the couple. For example my description in the wedding book for this past Saturday mentioned such highlights about me such as "Lives in London but is moving back to Boston. Works and travels a lot. Is a party girl. Loves Swedish men..." Yup... that does kind of sound like me.

There are lots of small games that might or might not be part of the dinner - A fun game I witnessed at the last wedding was when the bride and groom took off their shoes and exchanged one shoe with their partner and then stood on their chairs with their back to each other. So, both the bride and the groom have one of their shoes and one of their partners in each hand. Then the Toastmasters ask different questions like "which one of you is smarter? Or "which one of you is cleaner?" And the bride  and groom should raise the shoe of the person who they feel answers the question. It's a very cute game - especially when they disagree.

Everyone gets to kiss the bride and groom - If the bride or groom leaves the room for any reason all those of the opposite sex get to run up and kiss the remaining person on the cheek. It's very funny to watch as all the men circle around the room to kiss the bride!

Gifts don't need to be expensive - Friends often chip in to buy gifts together (this is very common) and while you are welcome to spend more... 300 - 400 SEK (about $50 - $70) is fine.

*Grattis means Congratulations in Swedish
**That was 'I'm attractive' single friend C - I'm sure you will be hearing lots more about her in the future as she lives in Boston and is going to be my new BFF - she's funny as hell, so you all are going to love her
***Vikning translates to "food eaten late at night."


Anonymous said...

How fun is that!? I have never been to a Swedish wedding but I have been to a Greek wedding. My goodness. Long ceremony, lots of Greek dancing, and shockingly no plate breaking. I'm Greek and it still is a lot to handle.
Irish weddings...usually leads to lots of drinking and fights. I saw a T-shirt at the rehearsal dinner of the wedding I was just in that said, "I'm tired of Irish stereotypes. As soon as I'm done this beer I'm going to hit somebody." haha.
Looks like I have to make a trip to Sweden. Sounds like a great time.
If you want to read about my wedding drama go to
Parts 1 and 2 are up...more to come.
I'm just as glad wedding season is over!!! :-)

Julianna said...

Really interesting. We are leaving the toasting open to all, as the night goes on since none of our boys want to say anything. And, our wedding is small (22). We will also be arriving together, approaching the JP together as well. Looks like I'm more into my Sweedish roots than I thought. :) -J

International Woman of Mystery said...

It is fun to participate in weddings of other cultures. Swedish weddings are beautiful. Seriously, I want to get married in Sweden. I'm just waiting to meet my future Swedish husband. As I didn't find him in Sweden, perhaps he's waiting for me in Boston? Ha ha... probably not, but I'm gonna hold on to that ridiculous hope!

@Jewels - have been reading your wedding adventures. Can't wait for the final post

@Julianna - your wedding sounds lovely (and your dress too) can't wait to read more about it!

Average Girl said...

Well thanks for the lowdown girl! Considering I am part Swedish, I can tell you that I had absolutely no idea about all of... In fact the only Swedish thing I know, is a good friend of mine who was born and raised there, I call him my Swedish Meatball, and how to say the numbers six and seven in Swedish!

Cheers darlin xxoo

Sara Louise said...

In France they don't even have bridesmaids! Can you imagine, never having the pressure of having to be a bridesmaid!
(and I got married in Lenox)

Elanie said...

Seems a lot of fun there in Sweden. It really is interesting to know other cultures' wedding practices. Thanks.