May 31st 2008 was a big day in my family. It was the wedding day of my wonderful father to his girlfriend Sanne. In the article below you get an idea about what a traditional Danish wedding entails in terms of customs and traditions.
Traditionally the man proposes to his girlfriend, but they buy the wedding rings together (and usually share the cost). The preparation and cost of the wedding is also shared between the bride and groom.
As for the wedding dress, it is bought by the bride and is not to be seen by the man before the wedding. The bride needs to wear four things: something new, old, borrowed and blue. And if the bride is young the guests of the wedding may insist on seeing that she is wearing all four things (typical pervert Danish humour :-)).
It is the job of the groom to purchase the bridal bouquet.
The night before the wedding the bride and groom are supposed to sleep separately. In Denmark most couples live together for several years before they get married and therefore the separation for one night is to make a distinction between the wedding day and other days.
On the day of the wedding itself the groom arrives at the church 30 min before the wedding and the bride arrives 5 min before and is led by her father. However, many couples in Denmark prefer a secular wedding at the city hall with a party afterwards.
Once the church wedding ceremony (or city hall) is finished the couple leaves the church together and is greeted outside by friends throwing rice (not cooked) at them. It is a way of symbolically wishing the new couple fertility.
Danish weddings are typically kept quite small in terms of the number of guests. We usually only invite close family and friends so on average we may invite somewhere from 25 – 80 guests (usually not more).
After the church the couple often has their pictures taken, or some kind of reception, or something like at my father’s wedding where we went on a boat trip on Silkeborg lake. After this event there is a beautiful dinner with lots of speeches, songs, fun games, and dancing. There is a special order in which to conduct the speeches: 1. Bride’s father, 2. Groom, 3. Bride, 4. Family (hereunder the groom’s parents), 5. Friends.
The following two customs are always played out during the wedding: 1. while the bride is absent (e.g. using the ladies room during dinner) all the ladies (guests) run over to kiss the groom and vice versa – while the groom is absent all the men run to kiss the bride. 2. All the guests knock on the plates or glasses (many times during the wedding) until the bride and groom climb onto their chairs and kiss each other in front of everyone.
Last but not least, the wedding waltz is to be danced before twelve a clock midnight and after that the male guests lifts up the groom and cuts the tip of his socks on both feet. It apparently symbolises that now he should no longer walk in the footsteps of other women (not that we would ever tolerate that he did :-)).
The night ends with lots of dancing, drinking and Danish hygge.