Walking down the aisle
Two of STP’s employees got married this summer, and although their UK-based ceremonies diverged somewhat from traditional Nordic weddings, they naturally triggered discussions in the office on how our Nordic customs differ from Anglo-Saxon ways.
In the Nordic countries, it is taken for granted that both parties receive an engagement ring, which is usually an unadorned, plain band, often made of gold or white gold. In contrast to the custom in Anglo-Saxon countries, the groom-to-be is thus also “marked” as being engaged. It is not uncommon for both parties to have rings that are similar or even identical; nowadays though some women may prefer a diamond engagement ring.
When it comes to wedding rings, in Anglo-Saxon cultures both the bride and groom exchange rings during the wedding ceremony; the relatively simple wedding band is added to the bride’s gemstone engagement ring. In the Nordic ceremony, only the bride receives a wedding ring, which is often studded with diamonds or other stones. Thus, the end result is the same, but the order in which the rings are received differs in these two cultures.
Another aspect of the Nordic wedding ceremony received a lot of media attention this summer, when Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden was escorted down the aisle by her father, the King, rather than walking with her husband-to-be, which is the tradition for Swedish brides.
According to Nordic custom, the couple enters the church and walks down the aisle together, either holding hands or with the bride holding onto the groom’s arm. The Anglo-Saxon custom has the father, or another male family member or family friend, walk the bride down the aisle and give her away to the groom. In Scandinavia, the former is often portrayed as an expression of the equality between the parties (an important element of Nordic culture) whilst the latter has evoked strong feelings with commentators describing it as anything from a relic of sexist coercion to a display of life-long love and affection.
Archbishop Anders Wejryd, who conducted the Swedish Royal service in Stockholm in June, rebuked the bride and groom for adopting the Anglo-Saxon custom. However, he later relented and agreed to carry out the ceremony in accordance with the bride’s wishes. Whichever way you look at it, it matters who you walk down the aisle with!