Patience is the term, almost a year now I have been waiting to attend a Norwegian wedding and when the chance presented itself, I just couldn´t wait. “Hey, got two weddings you could attend, if you have time, both on the same day” said my friend Lisbeth.
I was informed most weddings are done during the Spring and Summer seasons therefore, I could get more invitations during this time. Last Friday, Lisbeth calls and says, “I am sorry I won´t make it for the wedding, but my housemate Ann will be attending and she has no problem going with you. So you can join her.”
The two weddings, are scheduled to start in the afternoon, one at 1pm and the other at 3pm. I get in touch with Ann, we are attending the 1pm wedding , we agree to meet at 12.20pm. As much as I would like to focus on the similarities with the Norwegians, in this case, the differences exceed the similarities and therefore, I have no choice but write about that.
This being my first wedding in Norway, I am not sure on how to dress. So I decide on a black dress. “Annet, is it ok to dress like this to a wedding?” I asked my Ugandan colleague. “My friend, Norway is tricky, sometimes you dress only to realise you over dressed and at times you get there and you and realise you under dressed. But, black dress I guess that is fine.” She replied.
I get to our meeting point and there comes Ann and two other ladies. They drive past me and I immediately realise, oh, I under dressed! But I hold my horses. I get into the car and the three ladies are looking so awesome and the scent, really nice. Ann is seating besides me, she looks really gorgeous with her long hair and manicured nails. I console myself, they are in dresses just like me, so not too bad after all.
We drive about 20 minutes out of Kristiansand to Kandesund Kirke (Kandesund Church) where we join a few other guests outside the church. We have less than 10 minutes so I try to do a head count, at least 40 people. At exactly 1pm, we are getting into the church. On the door, we receive a very simple program line up- “Velkommen til Ashild and Arilds vielse”, containing 3 hymns which we sung during the proceedings. This was way too simple compared to what I see in Kenya.
The church, more of a normal Sunday service, no decorations at all. No red carpet for the bride, no, nothing of that sort. I am doing what I love best, just looking around and observing people. Many of them are smartly dressed with most men looking very sharp in suits. A few minutes later, the groom comes in accompanied by his best man. They walked and sat at the very front as we waited for the bride. Opposite them, is the best lady and only one maid dressed in sky blue, I guess this was the colour scheme. I just couldn´t tell the colour scheme as nothing really portrayed it as the main colour. In Kenya, immediately you attend a wedding, then you know the theme by just looking at the decorations and the bridal crew.
Kiss the Bride
There is a band playing different instruments. Two minutes later, the bride is at the door and we all stand in respect. Pretty in her gown, Ashild matched in with her father by her side. She walked to the very front, while her father got himself a chair at the very front. This in a way is similar to Kenyan weddings only that the bride in most cases is accompanied by both parents as long as they are both alive.
Then we all sat and watched. I was informed this was a protestant kind of wedding. Everything was in Norwegian, so it is obvious that I missed some of the words. The priest with the Bible on his hand, called the two and said a few words which also included reading the vows upon which each of them were required to simply say “I do”. Most of the time in Kenya, the couple will repeat the vows after the priest.
Then, the best man presented the rings to the pastor who blessed them as we all watched the two exchange the rings. Immediately, the priest proclaimed them husband and wife, then the moment we all wait for, “Now, you may kiss the bride.”
30 minutes service
Then, four friends headed to the front and sang the song “Lean on me”, as the couple headed back to sit. After the singing, the priest had the two kneel before the church and blessed them and the service was over. At exactly 1.30pm, the newly married matched out of the church.
“Ann, is that all?” I asked in shock. “Yes, we are done, next we head to the reception, that in most cases might take more time and actually extends to the evening party.” She said. I still have questions, I haven´t seen the couple sign the marriage certificate, why? I have always thought that this is one key aspect in any wedding ceremony. I decide not to ask about it then.
The band is singing by the door as we leave. I realise the couple are standing by the door too, hugging all the guests as they go out. Oh, seemed a bit tough, but I think about it, I have actually done a head count, we are 80 people. So I engage my friends in a conversation, “How do two families get to a guest number of 80?” I ask out of curiosity.
“Did you expect a bigger number? Actually the number in some areas will be smaller. Only immediate family members, relatives and close friends are invited. Weddings in Norway are expensive. Way too expensive than in most places. Initially the bridal family will cater for the wedding expenses but now in most cases, the couple caters for the wedding. If you were going for the reception, you would realise the number will be less. Others just get an invitation to the church service and not the reception, it is expensive. We do not do what I saw in Africa, people have small cards asking for wedding contributions, that will never happen in Norway.” They explained.
1.7 children, average number
Convinced about this, I am still not sure about the number. I explain this and it leaves them in such a shock but I understand them keeping in mind that the average number of children for a Norwegian household is 1.7 children. How they arrive at point 7, I really do not know, so do not ask me about it.
“In Kenya, weddings are a family event and everyone will want to attend and wish you the best as you start this new phase in life. In my case, it is even tricky, I have more than 100 first cousins alive, from my mum and dads side. Many of them are married and have kids, who are my nieces and nephews. A number of my nieces and nephews are married and have kids too, so by virtue of that relationship I am actually a grandmother, which I am very proud of at my age. So, by any chance if all my cousins show up for my wedding, I am counting from 100, not including their parents and not even their spouses. Then, my many aunties and uncles, my neighbours, my mom´s womens group, my colleagues and my dear friends, then now let’s think about the grooms side.You can start making the estimate, so 80 for me is just impossible.” I explain. And now, they are all looking at me with such a shock on their faces. “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?????” Is all they could ask.
There was only one car for the bride and the groom, not decorated at all, just plain with Norwegian flags unlike in Kenya where we have a convoy of very expensive cars all decorated. But why was the marriage certificate not signed? Is this how all Norwegian weddings are? Not many Norwegians go for weddings, many start cohabiting from their campus days and life goes on, but why is that the case? “Many of us are not religious and we don´t pretend to be, just for one day,no!” “With the divorce rate at 50% in Norway, why will one invest in a flashy wedding when the future is uncertain?” They explain. More insights about Norwegians take on weddings and marriages on my next blog post.
Do have a lovely week ahead.