If you believe that modern wedding rituals and the conventions that go along with them are too intricate it's likely that you are unaware of what medieval wedding customs were like. When it comes to planning a wedding now, everything you think is difficult pales in comparison to what it was like in Viking culture.
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We've compiled all the information we could find regarding the Viking wedding customs in this post. Continue reading to learn more about the amazing traditions of a Viking wedding ceremony.
Financial arrangements for the union were the crucial focus
The Viking couple meticulously planned their wedding ceremony over the course of several months. If the financial discussions between the future spouses' families were not the most crucial aspect of such planning, it wouldn't be that odd. As you might have guessed, Vikings rarely got married due to their strong feelings of love and commitment. In most cases, financial stability required getting married.
What, then, did the union of a Viking man and a woman signify?
Marriage in Viking society was more akin to a legal contract. It can be compared to a partnership between two families. Due to this, the majority of a Viking wedding's preparations were legal discussions between the prospective couple's families. Only when an agreement was reached that satisfied both families could the wedding ceremony itself be prepared.
TRADITIONAL VIKING WEDDING CEREMONY
To properly comprehend the tradition of Viking weddings, we need to grasp why Viking marriage was so sacred. Unbelievably, the cause is entirely logical and has nothing to do with feelings of emotion or love.
Reproduction, or having as many offspring as possible, was the primary factor in why the Vikings placed such a high value on marriage.
More children meant two things to the Vikings.More workers for their crops as well as more potential warriors who may increase their wealth. A Viking man required a strong woman who could bear his heir and take care of their home in order for all of this to be accomplished. However, given the difficult circumstances they faced, Viking women required a spouse who would respect them and look out for them.
When it came to premarital discussions, they began with a prospective husband-to-be visiting the future bride's home and making an engagement proposal, accompanied by powerful members of his community. The majority of the time, Viking women had no option because their families had authorized the marriage. The "price of the bride" would be negotiated with the groom if the girl's parents agreed to the marriage proposal.
The price of a future wife includes three transactions in the Viking tradition: Price of the bride was paid by the husband to the bride's father for all the years he cared for the future bride.
Dowry was the share of the bride's father's fortune that she was entitled to after the marriage and bride's morning gift was a gift that the man offered to his wife the morning after the wedding.
Given that they were sometimes associated with being barbarians, do you think the Vikings had well-established legal regulations about marriage unions? Either way, the Vikings strictly kept their long traditions.
Rewind to the wedding preparations.
The time of the wedding and other important accompanying aspects (food and drink including Viking beer, accommodations for the guests, etc.) were decided upon when the amounts for payment of the transactions indicated above were established.
Due to the bitterly cold winters in Scandinavia, most Norse weddings took place in the summer. Since the Viking wedding feast could last up to a week, it was important to provide large quantities of food and drinks for family and friends, and housing for all the attendees. The best entertainment was provided during these Norse feasts, where guests could feast, dance together, wrestle, or even participate in joking insult competitions.
Friday was the ideal day for a Viking wedding ceremony. Because Friday was regarded as the day of the Goddess Frigg, the Goddess of marriage, love and fertility, it was thought to be the best day for a wedding. Friday, as we know it today, was known as Frigg's day during the Viking age.
The last-minute planning for the wedding was then necessary. These preparations included participating in special rituals for the pair.
THE WAY VIKINGS GOT MARRIED
The pair had to undergo a purported "cleaning" process before the wedding ceremony.
Therefore, the bride would participate in a ritual of cleansing the day before the wedding along with her mother, married sisters, and other married family members. Only married ladies were permitted to accompany the bride for this ritual. She would remove the "kransen" (the crown that was her sign of innocence) and the clothing she was wearing. She placed the clothing and crown she had taken off in a box and saved them for her future daughter.
The bride would take a warm bath to symbolically wash away her previous life after removing all reminders of it. The rite of "cleaning" ended with the bride entering cold water, which would close the pores on the body, and her new life could begin. Married ladies who were present at the ceremony would give the bride counsel and direction on her upcoming union.
The "cleaning" process also required the groom to participate. But before this ceremony, it was customary for the groom to break into a grave and take the sword of his forefathers. Getting the sword would represent the groom's death as a youngster and his rebirth as a man. Only after that did the groom do the same procedures as the bride in a cleansing ceremony with his father and other married men.
More Norse rites were performed the following day in preparation for a wedding ceremony. A Viking groom's wedding vows included handing his future wife the sword he ceremoniously removed from his ancestor's tomb. For their firstborn son, she would preserve the sword. Additionally, the bride delivered her father's sword to the groom as a sign that she was passing her father's protection to her future spouse. On the handles of the traded swords, the newlyweds placed rings that they had given to one another. The marital vows were sealed after the exchanging of rings.
One tradition with ties to today was 'handfasting". The wedding officiant, the Gothi, would bind the hands of the couple together in a symbolic "tying of the knot". This practice may have been handed down by the Celts but became very popular in Viking weddings.
Because the Gods were so important in Viking lives, it was common to call on them for their protection and blessings of the couple and their marriage. They sacrificed animals to their favorite Gods to ensure a long and fruitful marriage. Thor, the God of Thunder, Freyja, the goddess of love, fertility, battle, and death and Freyr, the God associated with peace, fertility, rain, and sunshine. These were the most popular and powerful Gods among the Viking people. The groom would often wear a symbol of Thor, his mighty hammer Mjolnir, to ensure his protection and blessing.
Now was the time for a feast, which occasionally lasted for an entire week!
Following the wedding, the Vikings engaged in another fascinating Norse ceremony. The ceremony is referred to as the "bride's race" or "bru-hlaup." In this custom, the bride and groom's relatives ran from the venue of the wedding to the place of celebration. For the duration of the celebration, those who arrived last had to serve beverages to the winners.
Another tradition was for the couple to sip mead, popularly known as "wedding ale," while enjoying the feast. The fact that they drank ale from the same cup, a cup of love, represented their unity.
Norse custom also required at least 6 witnesses to be present in the same chamber as the newlyweds on their wedding night. To demonstrate that their marriage was consummated, the couple would have to make love in front of witnesses.
The bride dressed in a "hustrulinet" (a linen head covering), the sign of a married lady, the following morning and bound her hair. She would then proceed to their home's main hall to receive a "morgden-gifu" (a morning wedding gift from her husband). The husband would eventually give his new bride the keys to their new home. This would grant the bride new power in her role as the house mistress.
This essay would not be complete without a somewhat more in-depth account of wedding rings because the Vikings were known for producing jewelry.
WERE WEDDING RINGS WORN BY VIKINGS?
The bride and groom customarily exchange rings at their wedding, as was already said. The trading of rings for swords served as a sign of the new community in the Nordic culture. The Vikings demonstrated the significance of family honor in Norse culture in this way. Thus, the Viking rings served as a kind of seal designating "an alliance" between two families.
The majority of Viking jewelry, including wedding rings, were made of silver or bronze; gold was uncommon due to its rarity and high cost. The Norse Gods, historical figures, geometric patterns, runes, and animal totems served as design inspiration for the rings.
A VIKING WEDDING'S ATTIRE
At a Viking wedding, attire was not particularly significant. The Vikings focused more on their hair than their clothing. To accentuate their sexuality, Viking brides decorated their hair. The Viking bride inherited her mother's dress, which she wore on her wedding day.
The bride additionally donned a crown on her wedding day that might have been made of any material. The bridal crown was typically embellished with a variety of beads and other suitable decorative elements. The bride's mother also passed down the wedding crown to her.
The groom's attire for the wedding was unimportant, much like the bride's, but his hair and weaponry were. The groom's hair was intricately ornamented, but the sword he was wearing garnered the most attention. This makes perfect sense given that the sword represented the boy's transition into manhood.
Viking weddings included a variety of lovely and fascinating pagan rites involving the bride and husband, as well as certain customs that today's Westerners might find inconceivable. We sincerely hope you have enjoyed learning about the traditions of a Viking wedding.