Weddings in Norse Mythology & Viking Wedding Traditions

Vikings are often mentioned in stories today and we’ve probably heard of them. They had a sense of honor which they earned from their relentlessness to protect their families, since family was a pillar of Viking wedding traditions. Vikings had weddings, and their wedding traditions were complex and involved many rituals. Planning a wedding was not a simple task to start with and would consume several years! However, each ritual and tradition was deemed necessary. These traditions would earn one blessings from the gods, which would be instrumental in parenthood and preserving the Viking bloodline.

The complexity of these traditions and rituals, therefore, begs the question: how did Vikings get married? Well, even though these weddings were surrounded by many rituals, Vikings did marry for love. These marriages were meant to offer stability and also served as a way of controlling reproduction and sexual activity in the community. Marriage was not just the union of couples, but of families. This is why weddings were long and well-thought processes and also had severe legal implications in the Norse culture.

At the beginning of marriage negotiations, the groom’s family, together with legal delegates, met and decided the bride’s dowry and the financial assets of the groom. They also decided on the date of the wedding and negotiated the wedding gift to be given to the groom by the parents. Afterwards, the groom’s family, a counsel, and any other important local figures took the proposal to the bride’s family. During this visit, they would make a promise to assist and support the family and also agreed upon mutually beneficial conditions for the marriage.

Norse Wedding Traditions And Rituals

There were many traditions that were involved in planning a Viking wedding. All were necessary for appeasing the gods for a healthy and wealthy marriage, and none of them could be overlooked.

1. Setting The Wedding Date

This involved many considerations and could even delay the wedding for years. Traditionally, Viking weddings were held on a Friday, which was considered a sacred day for Frigga (goddess of marriage) in the Norse religion. These weddings lasted a week and it required that family and friends to travel to the wedding site. Due to the travel logistics, winter weddings were impossible. Traveling to Asgard could be especially tricky, but thanks to this website, it was always easy to find an Asgard wedding photographer.

Preparing for the wedding also involved other considerations such as planning for accommodation, getting enough food and drinks for guests, and brewing special ale for the bride and groom to drink as part of the wedding ceremony. All these considerations required a lot of time. Most wedding ceremonies took place within one, two or three years after the settling of the negotiations. This was especially influenced by the fact that Vikings made frequent trips to neighboring kingdoms and it would therefore be difficult to select the perfect date for everyone involved.

Viking bride with horns and extravagant hair.

2. Viking Brides’ Symbolic Virginity

Prior to the wedding, Norse grooms and brides were separated with the intention of stripping away their old selves. This was meant to prepare them to enter their new life together. Brides were stripped of their old clothing and the symbols of her old status, including her kransen, which was popularly worn by Scandinavian girls. It was a symbol of virginity and other values, and would be kept safe for the bride’s future daughter. On the wedding day, this kransen would be replaced with a bridal crown.

During this period of sequestration, the bride would also cleanse herself in a bathhouse. Tubs would have hot stones, and women would use birch twigs for increased perspiration. This was a symbol of washing away a bride’s maiden status. On finishing the hot bath, the bride would plunge in a cold bath to end the cleansing process by closing the pores. Throughout this process, brides would be attended to by their mother, married sisters, and any other married female relative or friend.

3. Grooms’ Symbolic Death And Rebirth

Grooms also underwent symbolic rituals before getting into marriage. They were attended to by their father, married brothers, and married male friends. Theirs was a symbolic sword ceremony which was meant to strip their bachelorhood. For this ritual, the groom-to-be would break into an ancestor’s grave and retrieve a sword that was laid by his attendants. Emerging from the grave with the sword signified that he had entered death as a boy but emerged back to life as a man.

Once he had retrieved the sword, the groom would go to a bathhouse where he would symbolically wash his bachelorhood away and purify himself ahead of the wedding ceremony. During this stage of cleansing, the groom would receive insights and tips on fatherly and husbandly duties from his attendants.

4. Goat Sacrifice For The Wedding To Work

On the conclusion of premarital rituals, the wedding ceremony would begin with the exchange of the bride-price and dowry. This would then be followed by the summoning of the gods and goddesses in which a sacrifice and incarnation would be involved. If sacrifices were necessary, Vikings would use animals related to the gods of fertility. For instance, for Thor, a goat would be sacrificed. For Freyja, a horse or boar would be sacrificed.

Viking bride with her sword, ready for the sword exchange ceremony.

5. Exchange Of Rings And Swords

In Viking weddings, grooms presented their ancestral swords to their brides to keep for their future sons. Brides also presented their grooms with ancestral swords, which symbolized the transfer of fatherly protection of the bride’s father to the groom. The gift symbolized a sacred union. After that, the bride and groom would exchange rings to consecrate their marriage.

6. Thor’s Manhood On The Bride’s Lap

At the ceremony’s feast, a simulacrum of Mjolnir, which was Thor’s hammer, was placed between the bride’s womb and genitals and was highly symbolic.

7. Viking Wedding Clothes

Viking bride waiting for her wedding

During the wedding, the bride and groom did not dress in extravagant clothing. Brides did not wear white dresses. Instead, they wore flowing dresses with plenty of layers and ruffles, over an under-dress. Brides wore a headdress and fur cloaks. The emphasis was on their hair rather than their clothing. Brides maintained long hair, which was braided in voluminous and elaborate styles and was then capped with a floral crown.

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