How to host a wedding like a Swede!
I recently became engaged and have weddings on my mind. To date, I have been to one wedding (bröllop) in Sweden and, although it was a Swedish-American wedding, some differences between wedding customs in each culture were clearly visible. And, as I think about my future wedding, there are some aspects of Swedish weddings that just make sense!
Let’s dive right into three main parts that Swedish weddings have that American weddings are missing out on!
Toast Madames and Toast Masters
In the US, we have bridesmaids (brudtärnor), groomsmen (marskalkar), flower girls, maids of honor, and so on. But one thing that Sweden has that we don’t are Toast Masters. The Toast Master, or Toast Madame if you are a female, are the ones who coordinate all of the wedding speeches. It is often two people who share the role and responsibility of ensuring the evening’s entertainment goes smoothly – no small feat!
The toastmadames och toastmasterns reach out in advance to the wedding guests and gather the names of anyone who would like to give a toast. Once they have this list in place, they coordinate the length of each speech, the timing, and how it flows around the dinner service and other party activities.
But the responsibilities can definitely grow from there. They can almost become a quasi cruise director, coordinating and hosting all of the entertainment for the evening. When everyone sits down for dinner, the Toast Masters will introduce themselves and kick-off the festivities, usually with some wedding games (more on that next!). Toast Masters might also be the ones leading the drinking songs, getting everyone out onto the dance floor, and answering any other questions, like were to put gifts or where the restrooms are located. They also might distribute rice, rose petals, sparklers, or any other goodies throughout the wedding or ceremony.
The Toast Master is often not in the bridal party as one will have plenty to do as a Toast Master already. If you are often described as the “life of the party” and “highly organized”, you’ll make a great Toast Master some day!
Weddings in the US typically follow the schedule: ceremony, post-ceremony / pre-reception drink while the bridal couples is photographed, dinner reception with toasts, and a night of dancing. The Swedish wedding adds in one more element – games!
The wedding shoe game seems to be a fan favorite and total classic. In it, the bridal couple (brudparat) stands back-to-back and each has one of their own shoe and one of their partner’s in each hand. The Toast Masters then begins asking questions to the bridal couple, which become progressively more personal, raunchy, and/or hilarious. Think “Who made the first move?” and “Who is the pickier eater?” to “Who will want kids first?” and “Who is more likely to fart in their sleep?” The bridal couple raise either their shoe or their partner’s shoe to answer the question. It is always fun to see where they agree and where they deviate! This is a nice one to play after dinner and before dessert and dancing, as it get everyone laughing and sets a fun tone.
Another popular game played is an audience guessing game. The bridal couple stood in front of a projector screen and behind them read instructions they could not see, such as, “Stand if you flew to be here” or “Stand if you studied with the bride“. The bridal couple then had to guess what the standing guests had in common and what the instructions must say. It is a great game to play before dinner as it really helps the guests get to know each other and offers some topics of conversation to be used later.
Another game of sorts is the kiss-on-the-cheek tradition. If the groom (brudgum) leaves the room for any reason, then the other men at the wedding are allowed to kiss the bride! And vice versa. There is also often a bell that can be rung by the bridal party, indicating that every one of the same sex should get up and kiss the bell-ringer’s partner. So suddenly the bride (brud) might ring then bell and you’ll see all of the female guests dash to give the groom a peck.
It was clear to me that games can be really fun and help set the tone for different parts of the reception. The key is to not overdo it. Two or three games is often the sweet spot – enough to get your guests comfortable and friendly with each other while still maintaining an elegant feel.
What is a Swedish event without drinking songs?! A wedding is no different, so be prepared to sing Helan Går at the top of your lungs! Weddings are a time when many Swedes cut loose from their reserved side and embrace the care-free attitude that alcohol can induce. And snapsvisor (drinking songs) are the perfect way to get everyone to do just that.
Since the wedding I attended was between my Swedish friend Rebecka and my American friend Bryan (you met Rebecka here!), there were many Americans at the wedding who did not speak any Swedish. To accommodate for this, the toastmadames printed out the lyrics with English words that sound similar to the Swedish words in Helan Går so everyone could sing along. It was such a brilliant idea to make everyone feel included in this Swedish tradition.
Read my full post on drinking songs, or snapsvisor, here.
- Toast Masters are also a part of Swedish birthday parties, especially if it is a big celebration with lots of people.
- Swedes love flower crowns (especially during Midsummer!) and the tradition was to wear a crown of myrtle leaves, a symbol of innocence, around the head before the more modern veil took over at Swedish weddings.
- Swedish brides keep their bridal bouquet. No tossing it here to see who will be next in line to marry!
- Since Sweden is such an egalitarian country, it is not typical to see the father of the bride “giving her away”. In fact, the bridal couple often walk down the aisle together in Sweden.
- While I have used the terms “bride” and “groom” a few times in this post as it is how my relationship is composed, the bridal couple can, of course, be made up of other compositions. Love is love, right? Right. To read more on Sweden and Pride, click here.
- Along with the menu, it is customary in Sweden to provide a little wedding booklet at each table setting. This booklet might have a schedule of the night ahead, song lyrics, details about the couple, and a handy note about every guest present at the wedding. This thoughtful detail is a great way to make all guests feel special.
- If you have a friend that has been an event planner in the past, they would make a perfect Toast Madame (I’m looking at you, Pilar! 😜).
- It is customary to avoid wearing white, black, or red to Swedish weddings. White and black as they are reserved for the bride and funerals, respectively, and red as it is the color of lust and can symbolize having had an affair with the groom. Scandalous!
- Swedish culture is all about keeping things simple, so keep your bridal party small, the guest list filled with loved ones, and give yourself opportunities to be present to soak in the moment.
Hope you learned some new Swedishness today and I’ll see you in the next post!
- Toastmadames och toastmasterns uppgifter
- This is how you succeed as toastmaster or toastmadame at the party in 2022
- The complete guide for you as a Toastmaster/Toastmadame
- The Shoe Game Is Still a Wedding Reception Favorite—Here’s How to Play
- Swedish wedding traditions: customs and culture
- Seven totally Swedish wedding traditions
- SWEDISH WEDDING TRADITIONS FOR YOUR BIG DAY
- Swedish Wedding: “Svenskt Bröllop”
- Quick guide to Swedish weddings