Vows in Valhalla: Exploring Norse Wedding Traditions

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 02/15/24
Vows in Valhalla: Exploring Norse Wedding Traditions

Vows in Valhalla: Exploring Norse Wedding Traditions

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 02/15/24

Part of the Wedding

Vows in Valhalla: Exploring Norse Wedding Traditions

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 02/15/24

Do you have a bit of Sweden in your soul? Some Denmark in your DNA? Viking in your veins?

Historically, Scandinavia consisted of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, and was the homeland of the mighty, sword-wielding Vikings. If your heritage is steeped in these ancient lands, it’s only natural to want to incorporate Viking wedding traditions into your own ceremony. And the Viking culture does not disappoint.

While some Viking wedding rituals are better left in the past, some are meaningful, beautiful, and hugely fun!

If you plan to inject a little Norse into your nuptials, here’s what you need to know about traditional Viking weddings.

What is a Norse Wedding Ceremony?

Norse Wedding Traditions
A Viking wedding ceremony is an important and profoundly symbolic event that pays homage to the gods and goddesses of the Nordic people. 

Historically, Viking wedding ceremonies would last around a week and consist of many pagan rituals designed to honor the gods and place blessings upon the newlyweds. Due to the cold and unforgiving climate that made travel virtually impossible in winter, Viking weddings were nearly always held during the summer.

Vikings married for power, status, and money, so marriages were usually arranged. It was normal for the bride and groom not to have spoken to (or even met!) one another, before the wedding. Additionally, as Christianity swept across the Nordic lands, the Viking wedding became crucial for producing “true-born” children of pure Viking blood.

Of course, much of this won’t apply to your circumstances (at least, we hope not!). However, many ways to add Viking flair to your big day still exist.

Old Norse Wedding Traditions for Your Wedding

Friday is the Day

Norse Wedding Tradition Friday
A traditional Viking wedding always took place on a Friday. This was to honor Frigga/ Freya, the goddess of marriage, fertility, and love, and the wife of Odin. Wedding ceremonies held on Friday were considered good luck and they provided the newlyweds with blessings from the two principal gods in Norse mythology.


The Maidenhood Ritual

One of the key Nordic wedding traditions for the bride was the maidenhood ritual. Once betrothed, she would wear a kransen  – a type of circlet – in her hair to symbolize her virginity.

Before the wedding, the bride would head to the bathhouse accompanied by married female family and friends. Then, she would cleanse herself to wash away her unmarried status. The kransen, at this point, would be removed and saved for the bride’s future daughter to be used as her wedding crown.

For an up-to-date version of this ritual, we suggest a pamper day at an upscale spa!


The Sword Exchange

The sword exchange, a norse wedding tradition
This important Norse wedding ritual would take place during the wedding ceremony.

As well as exchanging viking wedding rings, the bride and groom would also exchange swords.

This symbolic gesture symbolized a transfer of protection between the two families. The swords were typically procured from an ancestor’s tomb, and once the exchange took place, the bride and groom’s hands would be placed on the hilt of each sword.

For a modern twist on this, how about exchanging necklaces or other jewelry featuring a sword pendant or charm?


Handfasting Ceremony

The handfasting ceremony was and still is popular in many cultures. The Gothi (high priest or priestess) would perform the ceremony and bind the bride and groom’s hands with a cord. Then, the couple would exchange Viking wedding vows.

The handfasting represents the intertwining of the bride and groom’s lives and is where the expression “tying the knot” comes from.

If you want to include a handfasting ceremony in your wedding, find an officiant that knows how to perform one.


Thor’s Blessing

Another ritual for the bride involved placing an imitation of Thor’s hammer, “Mjolnir,” upon her lap. This was to invoke Thor’s blessing and request he provide her with strong children.


The Grand Feast

traditional norse wedding feast
A Viking wedding feast was seriously impressive. It traditionally featured a large table overflowing with meats, cheese, seasonal vegetables, and bread. The bride and groom would sit at the head of the table, while guests would pass by and help themselves.

The Viking feast is easily recreated for modern weddings. Choose a buffet-style menu with Viking-style additions, such as: 

  • A hog roast
  • Whole cuts of meat like hams and fish
  • Fruits, berries, and nuts
  • Eggs in brine or mustard sauce
  • Buttered root vegetables
  • Buttermilk cheese
  • Walnut bread


Sacrificial Animals

Animal sacrifice was an important part of Viking culture, and several animals were traditionally sacrificed at Viking weddings, to summon relevant gods and goddesses.

Now, this type of ritual obviously isn’t going to fly in today’s modern society, not unless you want to send your guests screaming for the hills. Therefore, we recommend leaving this tradition in the past.


Bride Running

This is a really fun tradition that you can easily incorporate into your Viking wedding. After the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom’s families would race to the celebration hall. Whichever side lost served mead to the winners. 


Mead and Horns

Mead and horns norse wedding tradition
Mead played a large role in any Viking celebration, and it certainly flowed during a wedding. The drink was especially important for the bride and groom. 

Since many Viking marriages were arranged, the newlyweds were often strangers. The mead helped to get conversation, and other activities, started.

For full-on Viking style at your wedding, the only way to drink mead (or beer or ale) is from a cup made from an animal horn. (BTW — these horns make awesome wedding favors for your guests!)


Bridal Braids and Crown

For Vikings, hair was everything. 

The bride’s hair symbolized her sexuality (important for the wedding night!), so she would weave it into intricate braids. The more complex her braids and the longer her hair, the better it boded for the couple.

The bride would also wear a bridal crown. Inherited from her mother, the crown featured numerous ornaments made from crystals, wood, and flowers.


Bride and Groom Attire

Historically, at least for Vikings, bridal clothing did not hold the importance it does in modern weddings. Historians believe the bride wore red during the wedding, but blue, green, and yellow were also popular wedding colors.

While the bride focused on her hair, the groom concentrated on adorning himself with symbols of Thor, such as axes or hammers.


The Honeymoon

traditional norse honeymoon

After the wedding ceremony, the honeymoon commenced. No, the Viking couple did not jet off to a tropical locale. Instead, the newlywed couple would drink honey mead each day for a full moon’s cycle, hoping for good fortune and fertility.

Of course, the honeymoon still takes place today. However, it involves considerably less mead and generally involves flying somewhere hot and sunny.

Viking Marriage Traditions: Frequently Asked Questions

What Age Did Vikings Get Married?

Vikings were expected to be married off by the time they were 20. Remember that life expectancy was much lower centuries ago. Therefore, it was not unusual for Vikings to get married in their early teens.

What is the Norse Handfasting Ritual?

The Norse handfasting ritual involves binding the bride and groom’s hands together with ribbon, cord, or string. When the hands have been bound, each will say their vows. The ritual represents the intertwining of the couple’s lives and that they are now “bound” together.

Who Officiates a Norse Pagan Wedding?

A Norse wedding is traditionally officiated by a priest or priestess called a “Gothi.” In modern times, it is more common to have a close friend or family member ordained, so they can carry out the ceremony.

What are the Norse Wedding Vows?

Norse wedding vows differed by area and by country. However, a typical Norse wedding vow would sound something like this:

“Our love is Blessed. May we always be as happy as we are today. May Odin give us knowledge on our way to come. May Thor bless our union with strength and courage.”

Did Vikings Give Kittens to Brides?

The Norse goddess Frejya supposedly rode a cat-drawn cart. Therefore, a kitten was often gifted to the bride to honor her during a wedding. Although a kitten was a common gift, it was not obligatory.

Nordic Wedding Traditions: Final Thoughts

You really do have your pick of Norse wedding traditions, and better still, many can and are adapted for modern-day weddings. Whether you choose to incorporate a few elements, like handfasting and the bridal crown, or go all-out with your own Viking wedding, your wedding is sure to be a memorable day for all.

At TheGroomClub, we’re all about exploring different wedding traditions and cultures, to bring you the best ideas for your wedding. Whether you’re on a budget or plan to splash out on a dream destination, we have advice for weddings in all shapes and sizes.


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