Love of planning and unhurried, deliberate journey to the altar be damned. The big day came and went, and my Swede and I tied the knot!
Since then, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the wedding: what it was like, what we did, and so on. It was a long, exciting, joyful day full of activities… and here’s what it looked like.
The Night Before…
I don’t know if this is Swedish tradition or not, but in the United States, it’s a big no-no to see your husband- or wife-to-be before the ceremony on the wedding day. My friend Elaine flew in from Vienna to be there, so I spent the night with her in our building’s guest apartment, talking her ear off and occasionally twitching with excitement.
The Morning of the Wedding…
I woke up without the alarm and lay as still as I could, trying not to wake up Elaine in the bed next to me. About 15 minutes later, the phone rang—it was my parents in Copenhagen, calling to let me know that their plane had landed and they were on their way to Sweden!
Elaine went on a breakfast expedition to retrieve food and coffee from Simon while I waited outside. My last morning as a single woman! It seemed very momentous at the time. When Simon left, the two of us moved back to the apartment so I could get dressed and fix my hair.
A few cough-inducing clouds of hairspray later, we were gathering the wedding dress and a bag of all the necessary accessories and hustling into a taxi towards the center, where we exchanged our stuff for my mom at my parents’ hotel and headed off to Make Up Store so I could have someone who understands how makeup works put it on my face.
We could only have about 15 people in the courthouse for our wedding ceremony, so I invited all the girls to come and hang out with me beforehand, support group style. One by one, they trickled in to help me wait out the hour before the ceremony.
Half an hour before, it was time for one last bathroom run and one last glass of champagne, then the earrings, the dress, and the veil. Coats on and out the door—8 women walking through the busiest section of Lund in the middle of the day in fancy dresses and winter coats like they were on a mission.
The Wedding Ceremony
A local politician officiated the ceremony in very fast-moving Swedish. If there were ever any doubt in my mind that it was worth learning Swedish, that ceremony is proof that it was. I understood about 95% of what was happening, with the exception of a question that was repeated to Simon and I several times throughout the ceremony.
Simon didn’t say anything, so I made what I hope was a neutral expression and kept quiet, too. Later, I found out that he was asking if we had any second thoughts or wanted out—imagine if I had tried to venture a more affirmative response!
The ceremony was brief but touching. We were told that it was no longer a question of my future or Simon’s future; from now on, it’s our future, and that we are building a life together. He also called on our friends and family as witnesses to support us and to celebrate us in good times and bad.
Before I realized that we were transitioning to the serious part of the service, I saw that the politician seemed to be directing his speech towards Simon a little more pointedly than before, and then I heard those words I had looked up a few days before the wedding—“i nöd och lust.” And then, yes, hilariously enough—we both said “Ja.”
Our first destination was a new restaurant close to the courthouse, where we had champagne and finger food with the friends who had been at the courthouse. Even though I hadn’t felt nervous before the wedding, afterwards I felt so much calmer and more relaxed—there was only happiness in the absence of the nervous energy that had crept up in the week before.
There were several hours before our dinner reception, so most people went home to relax, but a few diehards helped us drink another bottle of champagne while we waited out the break in the center. We collected my parents from their hotel and took a taxi out to Malmö’s city sauna, Ribbersborg Kallbadhus, where we had rented the reception hall.
The best part of a Swedish wedding, in my opinion, is the Toastmaster tradition. Our friend Josefin, who was part of our Perugia gang when it all began, was our Toastmaster and she did a fantastic job.
Simon’s dad made a speech before dinner and my dad made one in the middle. There were a lot of laughs and a few tears mixed in as I listened. After dinner, though, Josefin moved towards a video projector that had been set up. I got a little nervous because the videos I’ve seen from Perugia are, on the whole, incriminating.
Up popped my youngest sister’s face. She’s studying in Japan now, and she had assembled a group of friends to make a traditional Japanese toast. She translated and made more personal remarks. I could not believe that Josefin had arranged this, and I was so happy to see my sister’s face!
The surprises weren’t over, though… Throughout dessert, I got to see videos by my friend Katie from high school and our mutual friends Maura, Juliana, and Mike, all of whom we had met in Perugia. There were more toasts from our friends at the party as well.
The party lasted until two in the morning. Instead of having a first dance, we had a last, showing off the waltz we had taught ourselves from YouTube. Then it was time for us to go home, Elaine helping carry gifts and my bouquet and Simon helping carry me as I limped-hobbled across the boardwalk towards the waiting taxi again.
What was Swedish, what was not…
The Toastmaster tradition was Swedish, and the guest list was almost entirely Swedish, with the exception of my parents, a few expat friends, and Elaine.
I also altered a few American traditions. I wore the garter belt, but it definitely was not thrown—I think that people would have been a little freaked out by the sight of Simon rooting around under my dress! We cut the cake together, but we skipped feeding each other.
Because my sisters and my friends from the States couldn’t make it, we’re planning on having another shindig in the US in about 1.5 years. It’ll be fun to see what we come up with for the Big Fat Swedish Wedding Part 2!