An American Bachelorette in Sweden

I’m not one to talk about my life as though it’s the most exciting thing around but I’M GETTING MARRIED IN TWO WEEKS so, you know, it is. At least for the moment. (At least for me.)

From what I’ve seen so far, one of the biggest differences between a Swedish wedding and an American wedding has nothing to do with the wedding itself—it’s the way Swedes take on the all-important bachelor and bachelorette party.

First of all, the biggest and most important part of a Swedish bachelor/bachelorette party is that it’s a surprise. The bride-to-be has no say at all in the party planning, and she’s often even kidnapped by their friends. All of you future Bridezillas in Sweden, you’ve  been warned: you are not in control of your bachelorette party. Just cross your fingers and hope your friends know you well.

After the kidnapping, you usually have a full day of activities and games with your friends. It’s a lot like having a children’s birthday party, but as an adult. Sometimes you travel to another city, other people take cooking classes or do yoga, and one of my friends was even at a bachelorette party where they started off the day with a laughing class. They sat in a circle with an instructor who made them imitate different kinds of laughs and do different breathing exercises. She said that it was pretty strange at first, but by the end they were all cracking up for real. Fun!

As in the United States, a steady supply of champagne plays a strong supporting role throughout the day and night, as the activities usually turn into a girls’ night out.

My own bachelorette party started with a fake-out, of course. Sofie, Anna, and I had plans to go to Gekås Ullared, some sort of shopping mecca out in the Swedish hinterlands. As far as I can tell, it combines the size and low prices of Walmart with the novelty attraction of Cabela’s—people go there during the summer and camp out for a week while they buy everything from food and household supplies to clothing and Christmas gifts for the coming year. There’s even a reality TV series that follows the people there.

We were going to leave around 9 am, so Sofie drove by my apartment first and then we went together to Anna’s apartment to pick her up.

SURPRISE! Anna invited us in for breakfast and coffee before we got going, and just as I started taking off my coat, a bunch of girls jumped out from inside the kitchen! Inside was a huge spread for all of us—a delicious brunch of American pancakes, real maple syrup, bagels, juice, coffee, and champagne. Totally and completely fabulous.

Champagne, bagels, and American pancakes? What more could a girl ask for? Photos: Kate Wiseman

Then came the embarrassing part. A common thing to do at a bachelorette party in Sweden (and throughout Europe) is to make the bride go up to strangers and sell hugs or ask for relationship tips. Sure enough, I got a t-shirt that said “Blivande Brud” (“bride to be”), a shiny pink tiara, and a book for collecting marriage advice.

Sadly, this task didn’t work out so well for me. I must have asked about ten people for marriage advice, and all of them except for one said that I had to ask someone else. The one who did give me advice told me that marriage doesn’t work. So that was lovely.

I think the real lesson there is that people with good marriage advice are still in bed on a Saturday morning. So there. Operation Marriage Tips accomplished.

Bachelorettes on the loose. Photos: Kate Wiseman, Anna Bylander

From there, it was off to Malmö.

In the week before, I had had some suspicion that I might be getting a bachelorette party, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much and be disappointed if I was wrong. All the same, my suspicions did not prepare me in the slightest for the activities we did.

Once we got to Malmö, we took the bus out towards Limhamn, a suburb by the beach. I was thinking maybe we were going to have a spa day or a restaurant lunch. Instead, we ended up at “Utmaningarnas Hus,” or “The House of Challenges!”

I’ve never even heard of a place like this, but it was really fun. Basically, it’s a big activity complex made up of a lot of rooms with different puzzles. You have to figure out what you’re supposed to do and complete the challenge—some physical, some based on logical thinking, and some that were like trivia games.

Our group of nine was divided into two teams, and we raced around the different rooms trying to solve as many challenges as we could in our allotted two hours. You opened each door with a special code, and as soon as you beat the challenge, your points would be automatically added to your team score—a lot like how Laser Tag places automatically update your points on a big computer screen.

The house of challenges! Photos: Kate Wiseman

My team won, and then it was back to Lund. For some reason, I had to be blindfolded for part of the journey, but eventually we ended up at my friend Sofie’s house, where we drank punch, played card games, and got ready for a night out.

This may have actually been my favorite part of the day. Everything was really fun, and the best surprise was on its way, but I had forgotten how fun it is to hang out with a bunch of girls and get ready to go out for the night. It reminded me of college and living with my friend Lara. Going out meant trying on far too many clothes, weighing in on each other’s accessories, listening to music and just hanging out. It was fun and kind of nostalgic to have that feeling again.

After a while, it was time to head out into the night. So we bundled up and headed towards the bus station, a bunch of tipsy, giggling girls leading one blind-folded, defenseless bride-to-be on an extraordinarily long walk to the bus.

Quality girl time. Photos: Anna Bylander, Kate Wiseman

When they took the blindfold off, though, I saw an open door and a hallway. Inside was my boyfriend fiancé (hee hee!) along with all of his friends.

The surprise? A giant party with all of our friends together at the same place. Simon had also had his bachelor party on the same day, and the two groups had coordinated the grand finale to be dinner, music, and drinks with everyone all in one place. They had also planned some quizzes that we had to take about each other’s countries, and then we had to answer questions about each other in front of the group.

I think Sweden’s tradition of making the bachelor and bachelorette parties a surprise is a great one. Honestly, I couldn’t have planned a more fun day myself, and the anticipation leading up to the next activity of the day made it more exciting. If this was any indication of how our wedding is going to go, we’re going to have an amazing day.

  • Carys Egan-Wyer

    Sounds magical. Lovely pictures too :-)

    • Kate

      Something for you to look forward to! :D

  • Monica-USA

    Sounds like so much fun!!! I like the idea it sounds way better than usual parties we have here for the bachelor and bachelorette. Love the pictures also what a great memory for you all. :o )

    • Kate

      I think it’s a really cool tradition that might be popular in the US if people had the idea. Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on in 20 years or so. Thanks a lot for reading :)

  • Lizardek

    SO awesome! They were really nice to you, all things considered. :) I’ve been to Utmaningarnas Hus, it’s great!

    • Kate

      It’s true… no painfully embarrassing tasks, lots of fun. What a nice group of friends they were to me :)

  • Cecile Pham

    sounds like such an amazing time and what a great group of girls to plan such a special event for you!

    • Kate

      It was really fun. I’m missing you here, though!! Big hugs xoxo

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like a fabulous day and night. How did you do in the quizzes?

    • Kate

      It was so fun. We both did pretty badly in the geography/history quizzes… pretty embarrassing, since you would think after all this blogging I would know some good trivia like how many states Sweden has (25) or what the tallest mountain is (… still can’t remember … ). On the part with the “who is more spontaneous, who has the best taste in music, who makes the long term plans for the pair,” we did really well. The only thing we disagreed on was who cleans more… and I still maintain that it’s ME! :)

      • Anonymous

        I think the factual questions are tough. I recently took the ‘be a British citizen’ test online for a joke. (I’m from the UK but have lived abroad for over a decade.) Failed miserably!

        I can’t wait to read about the wedding.

  • Lee

    Congratulations, Kate! I’m so happy for you.

    Also, the house of challenges is the best thing I have ever heard of, and I plan on spending the rest of my day researching that. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    OK, I’m a little exhausted by that day and I wasn’t even there! Where do you find the energy?!

    • Kate

      No idea! Adrenaline, I think, plus I crashed pretty early. I nearly had to have my boyfriend carry me home around 1:30. :)

  • Anonymous

    Looks like a blast! Can someone have too much fun?! Congrats again.

    • Kate

      Tack tack tack!! :)

  • Quillan Smith

    Quite the sztory! Hope you have a great marriage and many comfortable winters! :)

    • Kate

      Thank you so much! I really appreciate it :)

  • Stephanie Sutton

    Kate- Sound’s like a blast! I am so happy for you! Much love to you both and it makes my heart so happy that you are this happy! Love ya Steph

    • Kate

      Aww thank you!! A long email is in order… and don’t worry, you’re not that out of the loop, this was a very quick decision! :) Miss you big time!! Love xoxo

  • flipside of a memory

    wow in a few days now…! Lycka till!!

    • Kate

      I know!!! I’m dying of excitement… hope we pull it off! Tack :)

  • bachelorette party ideas

    Hope the wedding and marriage turned out as good