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Finnish Wedding

 

How to Conduct a Traditional Finnish Wedding

Modernity has disrupted many traditional wedding procedures, making wedding ceremonies rather dull and robotic. If your partner has a Finnish background, its best to opt for a Finnish wedding and do it the traditional way. This will make your wedding to be more lively and memorable.

Old Traditions, New Festivities

In Finland, it is common for both the bride and the groom to get golden rings during their engagement. The bride receives another ring at the wedding time. In some traditions, the groom is also given another ring at the wedding time. The rings given during the engagement time derive their roots in medieval times during which engagement and marriage had the same weight.

In those days, the groom's spokesman (puhemies) had to negotiate the marriage terms with the bride's father or guardian (holhooja) until they reached an amicable agreement. After the agreement, the couple got engaged, and after that, they could get married.

If the couple had a child before they got married, that child had the same rights as those born after the validation of the marriage. In those days, the blessings of a priest weren't necessary to validate a marriage. But as from the 17th C, it became a requirement that a priest has to conduct a wedding for it to be legal.

Preparations for the Wedding

Before you get married, a priest reads the banns in the bride's parish during a service. The purpose of the banns is to give room to anyone who has any objection to the marriage to come forward and stop it. It is a requirement that the couple listens to the reading of the banns, after which they can head to the home of the bride's parent to have some coffee.

The bride brings a dowry, also known as myötäjäiset, to the house she's getting married into. The dowry is part and parcel of the wedding. It comprises of personal property like a chest, a bed or tools. It can also consist of cash or animals like cows or sheep, depending on the location of the celebrations.

Apart from the dowry, the bride would bring kapiot (trousseau), which comprised of textile such as linen. She had to embroider the linen by herself, or a woman from her home would help her.

The husband is supposed to give huomenlahja (a dower) to his wife the morning following the wedding day. Traditionally, the dower was used by the husband as a sign of appreciation and to show the wealth of the new home the wife was getting into. Today, a dower comprises of jewelry, like necklaces or earrings. Upon the death of the wife, her children would inherit the dowry. However, if she died without an heir, the dowry would be taken back by her father.

Before the Wedding Ceremony

Traditional Finnish weddings used to take between2 to 4 days. But this has changed because many people are engaged in their working places. Today, a wedding ceremony can take even one day provided you meet all the requirements for a Finnish wedding. The bride and the groom are not supposed to see each other within 24 hours before their wedding ceremony.

For a couple that's already living in the same house, the bride will have to spend the last 24 hours either at a friend's place or with her parents. It's expected that, on the day of the wedding, the father of the bride should bring her to the church then walk her to meet the groom at the center of the church. The father lifts his daughter veil, then gives her away to the groom. The father then walks behind the couple as they move to the front of the church.

The father is supposed to sit on the bride's side (left-hand side) of the church and in the front row. Just before the wedding ceremony begins, the groom will lift the bride's veil. He can as well do this after the wedding ceremony but before they turn and face the congregation.

The Attire

Traditionally, the bride is supposed to be in a long white dress. The dress is supposed to cover the shoulders of the bride, so a short jacket or a shawl can be part of the dressing.

The groom is supposed to wear a black suit or a tailcoat. Formerly, the brides used to wear black dresses. You can try that out to have a real taste of traditional Finnish wedding, but it would look rather odd.

The guests are supposed to dress in fancy clothes, but not in evening gowns. Guests can ask from the wedding organizers the expected dressing code, so they don't look odd. The invitation cards can also indicate the guests' dressing code.

The Wedding Ceremony

Traditionally, the mother of the bride is supposed to pay for the wedding. The ceremony can be short or long. It begins the moment the couple enters the altar. Once they enter the altar, they receive a blessing from the priest who then reads from the Bible.

The priest proceeds to give a speech. What follows are the questions for the vows and a prayer for the rings. After that, the priest confirms the marriage then blesses the couple. To the whole congregation, the priest reads a psalm, followed by the Our Father prayer. The priest then blesses the gathering after which church attendants play relevant music.

The congregation is supposed to stand as the bride and groom enter the church, when they walk to the altar, when the priest delivers the Word of God, and when they finally leave the church.

Couples usually choose some specific marching music to play as they enter or leave the church, e.g. from Mendelssohn, Melartin, or Wagner. Many churches across the country have organs on which they play the music. As the couple leaves the church, they'll have rice thrown at them from up so they can walk in the "rain" of rice.

Reception, Food, And Drinks

The reception usually takes place at a place near the church. It can be at a rented hotel or restaurant. Before the couple moves to the reception venue, they have to present themselves for a photo session. They are supposed to arrive at the celebrations after the guests have settled down. As they arrive, they receive hearty greetings and congratulations accompanied by sparkling toasts.

The couple and their guests then join their hands at the dinner.  It usually comprises of pitopöytä fare - a combination of Karelian stew (or gravy), boiled potatoes, salads (mayo-based and green), cold cuts (fish and meat), some casseroles, meatballs, and rainbow trout. Practically, anything can appear at the dinner table; it depends on the taste of the couple and their guests. A lot of alcohol and some wine are also served at the ceremony.

Entertainment and Dancing

After dinner, the bride's father can give a speech followed by some dancing. Games can also be played, like "Robbing the Bride." The couple cut the cake at this stage. The couple preserves the top of the cake to eat during their first wedding anniversary (they can freeze it).

At the wedding reception, the women are supposed to blindfold the bride then dance around her. The bride will take her crown and place it on the head of a girl expected to marry next.

The bride and the groom sit at a designated table where the bride holds a shawl-covered sieve in which guests put their cash as gifts. In some instances, the groom's mother places a china plate on the head of the bride when the couple begin their wedding dance, called a waltz. The china plate eventually falls from the bride’s head and breaks into pieces. The number of pieces foretells the number of kids the couple would expect to have.

At the end of the celebration, there's the weaning waltz dance. In this dance, the women dance with the bride as the men dance with the groom. The children may also dance alongside adults.

After the dance, the couple leaves first as the congregation waves at them. Their car is usually well decorated at it's supposed to drag some cans and old shoes to make some noise. As the guests leave, they also honk their cars to the wedding car to add to the sound.

After the wedding, the bride is supposed to stay at the groom's home for some weeks, then return to her parents and spend between 3 to 4 weeks before returning to her husband. She is referred to as a bride until she gets the first child.

 

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