Viking Wedding

An insight into Viking wedding and Norse wedding traditions

Have you ever wondered what happens at a Viking wedding? Today, we’re going to explore Viking wedding rituals and Norse wedding traditions, so let’s begin…

Throughout Scandinavia, Vikings are more than just a historical community, they’re a crucial part of the area’s culture. In fact, people still name their children based on Viking titles, host Viking celebrations, and even have their own Viking wedding ceremonies. 

Viking wedding traditions include:

  • Always setting the date on a Friday (Frigg or Frigga’s day).
  • The bride and groom exchanging swords. 
  • Thor’s hammer (Mjolnir).
  • Amazing drinks (including mead).
  • Massive feasts. 

Surprisingly complex in some ways, Viking weddings were all about joining families and lives in a ceremony of love, commitment, and strength. 

If you’re a lover of Viking history, then you’re in the right place, as we’re going to explore some of the most amazing Scandinavian wedding traditions…

Norse wedding traditions: Viking marriage customs

A Viking wedding celebrated the joining of two families, not just a man and woman. 

Viking families were built around alliances. This meant a lot of legal negotiation often happened before Viking wedding ceremonies could take place. Representatives from both sides would meet to discuss a price paid for the bride, called the mundr

Discussions were also held about potential peace treaties between groups, and inheritance. 

Another important component of Norse marriage, or a Viking wedding, was to set the date for a Friday. 

Friday was “Frigga’s Day” in the Nordic landscape. Frigga was the goddess of love and childbirth. She was the perfect patron for any wedding. 

Vikings would often attempt to choose the right date for the wedding based on the weather, to ensure that everyone could attend a huge outdoor event. There would also be a lot of preparations to make to ensure that the supplies were ready for feeding and lodging a lot of guests. 

Speaking of timing, weddings also had to account for the preparation of honeyed mead, which was a legal requirement for the bride and groom to drink during the wedding. Honey therefore needed to be available to create the mead for the honey moon (yes, like honeymoon). 

Since celebrations typically lasted a week, it was important to get the timing right to ensure the harvest was available, and the snows weren’t falling during the event. 

Just figuring out all the basics of Viking marriage customs could take years! If you’ve ever felt bad about your wedding planning take too long, just think about the complexity of a traditional Viking wedding. 

Viking Wedding

Traditional Viking wedding preparations

Though Vikings are often painted as brutes and warriors, Old Norse marriage customs are very detailed and complex. There would be plenty of preparation in advance to ensure that everyone had plenty of food to eat, drinks to enjoy. 

The bride even had to find a gift for her husband, called the morgedn-gifu

On the day before the wedding, Viking brides and their grooms would separate into groups based on gender. Norse wedding rituals were performed, sacred to each sex, and older men and women offered comfort and guidance to the soon-to-be married couple. 

Brides would usually go to a spring or bath house with the married females of her family and friends, though unwed couldn’t take part. At the bath house, the kransen (a circlet that showed virginity) would be removed and placed in a box to give to her future daughter. 

Perhaps a little worryingly, brides would often switch themselves with twigs, use steaming water to bathe, then jump into ice cold water to cleanse fully. 

The groom would also spend time with the same sex married members of his family for a little light grave robbing. Grooms would need to break into the grave of an ancestor to retrieve a sword. This symbolized the man emerging into a new life. 

Following this, the groom would also visit a bath house to take part in similar rituals to the bride. 

Norse wedding traditions: Clothing and hair

After thorough cleansing, the bride and groom would dress for their weddings. Unlike our ceremonies today, Nordic wedding traditions didn’t worry as much about the clothing. 

However, hair was very important. The bride’s hair would be a symbol of her sexuality. The longer, and more ornamental the hair, the better. 

Viking wedding traditions often included a bridal crown passed down from mother to daughter through the generations. Crowns could be made of any number of materials, like metal, wood, and crystals. 

For the men, clothing wasn’t as important as weapons. Men would carry a blade retrieved from the blade of his ancestors. He would also decorate his hair and wear a symbol of Thor. 

Speaking of Thor, the God often played a huge role in wedding ceremonies. The bride would have to ask Thor to bless the wedding and would place a hammer meant to represent Mjolnir on her lap. This would act as a request for stronger children too. 

Viking Wedding
Credit: Patrick Aguilera

Celebrating Viking wedding ceremonies

Since weddings were often exchanges of important property between families, the legal part would often take place before any religious Viking wedding rituals. The religious ceremonies differed depending on the region of Scandinavia

Religious ceremonies could frequently include blood and sacrifice. The Gothi (the person responsible for the wedding), would often sacrifice a sow (cow) to Freyja. 

The bride and groom would also exchange swords, as well as rings. For the groom, this would mean exchanging the sword removed from his ancestor’s grave with his bride. The bride would give an ancient sword from her own family, though it generally wouldn’t be taken from a grave. 

The exchange of swords represented the interlinking of the families. From that point on, one family would be responsible for protecting the others. The two groups became as close as blood kin. 

Usually, on the hilt of the sword, there would be a set of two simple metal rings, and these were another way for the couple to bind the marriage. 

Another interesting part of Viking wedding tradition included a race between the people attending the event. Everyone became family at the end of the ceremony, so they needed to choose someone who would be responsible for serving mead and ale. 

At the end of the ceremony, there would often be a foot race. Whichever family reached the feast hall first would be served beer and mead for the rest of the wedding by the other family. 

Many cultures would expect the bride to win the race in these events. She’d wait for her husband to arrive after her and carry her into the ceremony hall. 

The Viking wedding ceremony: Drinks and food

Drink and food were always a massive part of Viking culture. In fact, Scandinavian and Nordic locals still love their feasts today. One of the requirements for a wedding would be ensuring everyone had enough booze. 

The bride and groom would need plenty for after the wedding, and all of the attendees were expected to get drunk too. 

The first full moon cycle after the wedding was the time for the groom and bride to get to know each other after the wedding was complete. Often, Viking marriages were arranged, so the couple didn’t get a lot of time to speak to each other before the ceremony. 

The bride and groom were required to get drunk on mead as part of the celebration. 

The feast, which happened after the ceremony, was just as important as the drinking. It’s difficult to know exactly what each family chose for a feast, but we do know that most big feasts in the culture were brimming with fish, meats, and other delicious foods. 

Viking Wedding
Credit: Joshua Butler

Ready to plan your Viking wedding?

Viking weddings were an incredible experience, brimming with unique traditions and customs. If you’re interested in planning your own Viking wedding, here are some great products to get you started. 

Don’t forget to check out our other articles for more insights into the amazing world of the Vikings. 

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