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Traditional Viking SwordYour nuptial celebration can be a distinctive reflection of the love you and your sweetie share. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to personalize it to include your common interests or cultures. Whether you follow Norse Neopagan spiritual paths or just want to make your special day a bit more epic, the inclusion of Viking and Scandinavian elements may help you create a memorable wedding that your guests will be talking about long after you've said "I do."

Norse Marriages: Uniting Families, Honoring Gods

Norwegian medieval history scholar Gro Steinsland revealed in her book “Norrøn religion” that a marriage pact between two individuals in pagan Scandinavia involved a long, complex process with many rituals. Prior to the ceremony, the families of the bride and groom would negotiate inheritances, property transfers and dowries. These customs were considered critical for the marriage to be blessed by their deities.

The proceedings eventually culminated in a public wedding ceremony and feast, according to Steinsland. Between the vows, the banquet and the rest of the revelry, these nuptials typically lasted at least three days. While Steinsland discloses that she could not uncover much information about the religious aspect of these celebrations, she does tell readers that Vár, a Norse goddess associated with oaths and pledges, was believed to witness the couple reciting their vows. Petitions for blessings may have also been requested from Thor, their god of thunder and lightning, along with the fertility deity Freyr and his sister Freyja, a deity of love, beauty, war and death.

An Exchange of Swords and Rings

Christie Ward, the author of the Viking Answer Lady website, published an extensive article detailing Norse pagan nuptial practices. Weddings were held on Fridays as the day was considered sacred to Frigga, the wife of Odin. After the religious rituals, the bride and groom would exchange swords and rings. The husband-to-be presented his wife with his family’s ancestral sword, along with her wedding ring on its hilt. In turn, she would present her family’s ancestral sword with his ring placed upon its hilt. 

Last One to the Banquet Hall Serves the Ale!

After the vows, rings and swords were exchanged, both bride and groom would travel with their parties to the banquet hall. Ward explains that in pagan Scandinavia, their processions consisted of both groups racing on foot to the wedding feast. Whichever party reached the hall last was put in charge of serving the ale for the entire festivities. Moreover, the groom would lay his sword across the threshold of the hall, then pick it up and escort the bride into the hall after her arrival.

Viking-Influenced Customs in the Modern Age

Some couples today borrow from these older practices, rendering them in either modern versions or staying true to their ancient designs. Offbeat Bride contributor Catherine Clark published a photo spread showing a married pair from Washington State who infused Christian, pagan and Viking elements into their big day. True to Norse custom, the two exchanged swords. Offbeat Bride also profiled a Tennessee couple who took their Viking theme a step further with their 2016 nuptials by swapping swords, drinking mead and adding a blessing to the gods in their event. Some followers of Norse Neopaganism also elect to literally “tie the knot” by handfasting, which involves securing the couple’s hands together with a ribbon in addition to the recital of their vows.

You’ll probably forgo the Norse custom of carefully negotiating an arranged marriage. However, an exchange of swords, Viking-inspired attire and a delicious feast might be right up your alley. Whether you’re taking cues from your ancestral heritage or want an unforgettable celebration, it just takes a little effort to add some older Scandinavian traditions into your wedding planning.

Category: Wedding Materials Wedding Planning

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