No matter where you were born or where you live, getting married is, for the most part, a huge life event that calls for much celebration!
Given Denmark is The Easiest Country in Europe for Foreign Couples to get Married, here at GMiD, we are constantly excited to see that this results in so many multicultural and multinational couples coming here to celebrate their love for each other! Each couple bringing with them their own requirements of ‘must have’ wedding day traditions.
We thought, because so many couples come to Denmark every year to get married, it would be great to explore some of the more common traditions that you’ll find surrounding a Danish wedding, so maybe you can decide for yourself if you’d like to integrate some of them into your Danish wedding adventure…. 🙂
What Happens in the Lead up to a Traditional Danish Wedding?
Prior to a traditional wedding in Denmark, there are a few customs that are likely to take place before the wedding goes ahead! 😉
Asking For Hand In Marriage
A very ‘old school’ / old fashioned Danish wedding custom, that goes back a long way, and is actually a tradition that spans many countries and cultures, is asking the father of the bride for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
This is often seen as a way of showing respect for your [hopefully] soon to be father-in-law! If he says yes, that is… In Danish it is called: Anmode om datterens hånd.
The Engagement Ring
So, if the proposal was a success, then you are officially engaged – Congratulations!
Danish tradition states that the engagement ring should be placed on the left ring finger. This is due to a vien that runs from the fourth finger on the left hand directly into the heart, thus earning itself the name ‘The Vein of Love’.
This is another custom that is not only seen as a Danish wedding tradition but a tradition of many other Western countries too.
The Night Before The Wedding
A very common Danish wedding custom is that the couple should not sleep together in the same bed, or even see each other for that matter, the night before the wedding.
This is not seen to be ‘proper’ and could even potentially be viewed as bad luck. In Denmark, the custom here states the brides stay with their bridesmaids and the grooms stay with their family or friends the night before the big day!
Æresport (or ‘Gate of Honour’ in English)
This is a very traditional Danish wedding custom (and is probably my favourite) whereby the family, friends, loved ones of the couple get together secretly the evening before the wedding and go to the soon-to-be-married couple’s house (although some decide to go to the wedding venue or place of the wedding reception).
They make a ‘port’ around the main door into the house of, traditionally, flowers and tree cuttings such as spruce, but can often include things personal to that couple. So, for example, if one of the couple is a teacher, the port would also include things like pencils or rulers!
It is designed to bring the couple luck in their married lives together but also to let the whole neighbourhood know that there is something to be celebrated.
There is an additional ‘fun’ twist to this tradition though, as after the couple’s friends have made the port, they go into the house and create a mess, or what is more affectionately known as a ‘gentle ravage’! This includes throwing of toilet paper around the house, messing up cutlery draws – silly things like this!GMiD’s Mie is still finding dried rice in her draws, 4 years after her wedding! 😉 Rather sweetly, the tradition of making the port around the couple’s doorway is repeated again on the couple’s 12.5 year anniversary (copper wedding), their 25th wedding anniversary (silver wedding) and 50 year anniversary (golden wedding)!
The Day of the Traditional Danish Wedding
The day of the wedding has arrived! It’s a very happy day indeed. There is a buzz in the air surrounding each half of the couple, getting ready, laughing with bridesmaids, hugs with family and friends. This is where in Denmark, the wedding traditions really start to get underway….
The Guests Wedding Clothes
There are actually a few unwritten rules that must be adhered to when it comes to what clothes you should wear when attendance at a Danish wedding.
Firstly, It would be considered really rather rude if any of the female guests in attendance at your wedding in Denmark arrived wearing white. This colour is reserved for the bride alone!
Also, customarily, it didn’t used be the done thing to wear black either, as black used to be very much associated with grief and being in a state of mourning – not very ‘weddingy’ at all!
However, these days, black is a very popular choice for outfits and it is said that if you want to wear black at a wedding, it would be courteous to check with the bride first – just to make sure it’s ok.
Lastly, gents, this one is for you… You absolutely must not attend the wedding as a guest in clothes that are ‘finer’ than the clothes the groom is wearing. So for example – if the groom is wearing a suit and tie, you should not show up in a top hat and tails! 😉
The Order in Which Everyone Arrives
It is customary at a Danish wedding that the groom must always arrive first.
Once he arrives, he must stand at the front of the room, before all the guests while he awaits his beloved!
Following on from this, the bride should arrive last. Last, but hopefully not late! 😉
So, let’s set the scene… it’s a windy autumnul day, the guests and the groom all patiently await the brides arrival.
A gust of wind blows the venue doors open, the groom turns around and there stands his bride, dress and veil blowing in the wind! Romantic huh?! Also, the sort of thing you only really see in films! 🙂
The Brides Father Accompanies Her Down The Aisle
This is another old tradition, one that is not only seen in Denmark, and is sometimes called ‘giving the bride away!
She is no longer to be looked after by her father, as he passes on this responsibility to his soon to be son-in-law.
In Denmark, the throwing of rice is a symbol of fertility and so ensuring the newlywed couple are showered in rice as they leave their wedding ceremony is a way of hopefully seeing them blessed with the gift of children.
The Ceremony is Over and it’s Time to Celebrate - Danish Style!
So the REAL Danish wedding traditions really start to shine at the post wedding ceremony celebrations, naturally! Let’s face it, the Danes know how to party!
Some of these traditions are firmly routed in Danish wedding celebrations and wouldn’t be considered a ‘proper’ Danish wedding without them!
The Cutting of the Wedding Cake
There are a few different styles of wedding cake that you might come across at a Danish wedding. One type is called ‘Kransekage’ (this translates as wreath cake) and is made up of almond paste rings.
Another choice though is a cornucopia shaped cake called ‘Overflødighedshorn’ (which translates as horn of plenty). This is also almond based!
The most popular though is the ‘classic’ style wedding cake which is tiered. In the case of the tiered cake, the couple will keep the top tier of their cake to eat together on either their first wedding anniversary, or in some cases the baptism of their first child.
Whichever cake is chosen by the couple, they should make sure it is cut before midnight on their wedding day and it is customary that every guest receives a piece – this is said to bring the newlyweds good luck in their lives together.
It’s pretty customary at most weddings that someone will make a speech. The Groom will nearly always make a speech at a Danish wedding, but it’s also becoming more popular for the Bride to make a speech also.
Then, if a close friend of the couple wishes, they can also stand up to make a speech.
Often the friends of the couple will pick a famous song and re-write the words, creating a song for the wedding couple! This is always such fun and will often get incorporated into the speeches, though not always.
The Many Many Kisses!!
This one is a sweet Danish wedding tradition, although not necessarily too hygienic in a post Covid world!!
At the wedding party, if the groom needs to leave the room for any reason, it is a MUST that all the men will go kiss the bride!
And the same if the bride leaves the room – all the women in the room will hurry to go and kiss the groom!
The guests are firmly in control of when and where kissing should happen! If the guests start to bang their knives and forks on the table, the newlyweds have to kiss each other – but they must do this standing on their chairs!
If the guests start to stamp their feet on the floor, the newlyweds must kiss, but this time under the table!!
Brudevals (Bridal Waltz) ie The First Dance
As per the cutting of the cake, the couple’s first dance or ‘bridal waltz’ must take place before midnight.
When it’s time, all the guests will stand in a circle around the newlyweds and clap as the couple begin to dance.
The music for this dance traditionally originates from August Bournonville’s ballet “Et folkesagn” (which translates as ‘A Folk Tale’) from 1854.
As the couple dance, the guests make the circle smaller and smaller and eventually the couple kiss (again!).
Then one of the more wonderful and very very Danish wedding customs is immediately carried out…
Cutting the Toes of the Groom Socks
Now this is one of those wedding traditions that you probably will never have heard of and then one day you’re invited to a Danish wedding and this happens in front of you! You might be left wondering what on earth just happend! And why?!
So let us explain… the men closest to the groom will pick up the groom at the end of the bridal waltz, take off his shoes and cut the toes off his socks.
This is a HUGE part of the Danish wedding for the groom and his friends, and symobilises the huge responsibility of the groom entering married life. He is no longer a young single boy. He is now a married man!
A less endearing part of this tradition is that then these torn socks can then sometimes be given to the bride for her to fix, almost as a test of her ability to ‘look after her husband’ in ways such as darning his worn or damaged socks!! Charming!
The Cutting of the Bride’s Veil
As the grooms socks are being cut off, the Bride’s Veil is also destroyed! This symbolises the woman’s exit from being a young girl who has now entered womanhood! She no longer has need for her bridal veil!
The Day After a Danish Wedding!
It’s not quite all over once midnight on the day of the actual wedding ceremony – there is one last ‘treat’ left in store for the bride….
The Morning Gift
It is customary for the groom to gift his bride with some kind of jewellery, commonly a necklace or ‘medalion’ of some kind, containing something extremely personal relating to him, such as a lock of his hair or his picture for example.
However, this tradition goes back a long long way and stems from the fact that should a husband die ‘early on’ in the marriage, his wife would inherit nothing, with all his inheritance being passed to his parents. The poor widow would be left with nothing!
So to ensure a newly bereaved wife would not be left totally destitute in the event of her husband’s death, a ‘morning’ gift was offered. In these old days, it would ususally be money or land or even sometimes property such as a small hut – somthing that would give her some kind of financial recompense or security, should her husband die before his parents.
Thank goodness times have moved on since these days and women don’t need to rely on men for this kind of thing anymore, right?!
But are these Traditions Outdated?
You may, while reading through some of these popular Danish wedding customs, have wondered if they still have a place in today’s society. We know we certainly have.
Things like asking for the father’s permission for a woman’s hand in marriage for example certainly feels extremely outdated. And it goes without saying that a woman’s worth as a life partner is so much more than her ability to darn a pair of socks!
So, take from these traditions what you will!
But if you’re getting married in Denmark, maybe there might be one or two you’d like to add your own take onto, and bring to your Danish wedding day, possibly even creating a new family wedding tradition of your own.