It's always so fascinating to find out new and interesting things about wedding culture around the world. In this business, we are able to connect with clients from around the globe, all with fascinating love stories to tell. With that in mind, we decided to delve deeper and start a brand new series on the Aide-Mémoire blog: Weddings Around the World. First up: Denmark!
Our friend, Caitlin Wick, an American freelance violist who has lived in Copenhagen, Denmark for the last 4.5 years, was kind enough to chat with us a bit about what life is like in this Scandinavian country, and what it's like when Danish couples wed:
On the differences between American and Danish weddings: "It seems that with most of my American friends, couples like to plan very far ahead when they are planning a wedding. In Denmark, the idea of planning ahead for even a year in advance is seen as ridiculous. Couples tend to plan about six months in advance, and even then keep planning very simple. The term "wedding industry" is not even used in Denmark, as most are small, intimate ceremonies. Some modern weddings in big cities are beginning to creep up in size due to the influence of television shows in the UK and America, but most tend to be modest affairs. My husband and I had about 85 to 90 guests at our wedding, and when our Danish friends hear that, they are extremely surprised that it would be considered 'small' by US standards.
Another interesting fact about weddings is that they aren't actually all that important in Danish culture. It's completely normal for a couple to co-habitate for many years and even have several children before deciding to get legally married. Usually these reasons involve the children's financial security or property. There is very little religious influence on weddings in Denmark."
On Danish wedding traditions: "For most Danish couples, a wedding ceremony would usually happen in a small church or a city hall, and generally would include family and very close friends, and be followed by a very nice meal. You would never feel pressure to invite all of your friends to your wedding. In fact, with only the closest relatives and friends attending, the couple will sometimes have a big, informal after-party at a bar or pub to celebrate with lots of friends.
The seating arrangements at Danish wedding dinners are fun--with all of the guests' tables arranged in a giant rectangle around the room so that everyone is able to see everyone else. Toasts and speeches are a huge part of Danish weddings, with nearly every guest getting a word or two in, not just the father-of-the-bride or best man. The speeches usually just follows the natural flow around the rectangle! There is lots of singing (traditional Danish songs), lots of drinking! Dancing or having a DJ are very modern ideas that are only recently starting to catch on. Also, children would never be excluded from a wedding. Since most people already have children when they get married, it's just assumed that there will be lots of kids running around!"
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On marriage equality: "Denmark was the first country to recognize legal same-sex civil unions (1989), and legalized same-sex marriage in 2012. It is one of the first countries to allow same-sex marriage in their national church, called The Church of Denmark. There is almost no negative stigma about same-sex marriage in Denmark whatsoever. Couples are allowed to have children, adopt, and marry just like heterosexual couples."
On women changing their name: "It's not normal for women to change their name when they get married to their spouse's name. It is easy to simply add the name on to their full name, but most don't. When couples have children, they can choose which name they'd like their child to be called. Because there are so many repetitive surnames in Denmark (like Nielsen or Hansen), couples will usually choose the most unusual last name for their children."
Some fun facts: "Because Danish weddings are traditionally so simple, couples would probably not partake in some of the customs that Americans do, like wedding favors or lots of bridesmaids or groomsmen. Their weddings are not usually extravagant, and would have limited photography compared to American standards. But--they do LOVE bachelor and bachelorette parties!"
Thanks so much for all of the lovely insight into Denmark's weddings, Caitlin! Plus--a bonus, take a look at some of Caitlin's friends in the Danish String Quartet playing traditional wedding songs, below: