Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Wedding traditions in transition

What is a Norwegian wedding tradition? Currently, the idea of the "traditional wedding" is dominated by a mixture of American traditions gleaned from movies and "Bridezilla" programs, where we learn how they do things elsewhere. It's about white brides, bridal music of a certain kind, and church weddings where brides battle to the death to get the church they always wanted. But is this the traditional Norwegian wedding?

First: about half the weddings in Norway 2008-2010 were in a church, the other half was elsewhere. I am not counting the part abroad, as it's not registered whether those were church- weddings or not. So, if tradition is defined by what people do, church weddings are no longer the one, true way.

Next: white weddings. The white wedding dress was not common until between the first and second world war in the US, and was still not all that common until 1940-50 in Norway. Before that wedding dresses were all colours, with both red and black as much-used colours. If we are to look at the more recent traditions, as in four - five years old, like the weddings above, people get married in just about everything, and the strongly coloured national costumes are quite common, even in churches. Considering that only half the weddings happen in churches, where white seems to be the strongest tradition, and several of the church weddings see the bride in national costumes, I think there's a good chance that white isn't the most common (i. e. traditional) bride colour any more.

Third: Why did I write this at all? There is this beautiful article about two young women who are quite unhappy that they won't have their dream wedding, since they are early adaptors to a new law. The Norwegian church has not yet written a liturgy to include same-sex weddings, and so a church wedding will not be legally binding. They will have to marry twice if they want both a church wedding and a legally binding ceremony. While that is sad for two girls with conventional dreams, it is traditional for non-conventional weddings. Back when divorce was unheard of, only previously unmarried people or widows/widowers could marry in the church. Unless you were a king and changed the church in your country, of course. When divorce lost the taint of scandal, priests would still refuse to marry people who had been married before, and refuse them access to the church. In 1991, one of my relatives could not have a priest in her wedding in Norway, since she had been married before. This was quite common treatment of heterosexual divorcees.

What I am trying to say is, the traditional wedding for Norwegian couples that do not adhere to the norm of heterosexual, Christian, first-time marriage is an untraditional wedding. It's a wedding where the couples mix family traditions, local traditions, traditions from film and television, examples from royal weddings, made-up traditions and their own ideas about a good wedding.

So you go, girls, making your own interpretation of traditions. I suspect that is the most traditional tradition of all wedding traditions: To pick something here and something there, adjust, change and renew until you have a ceremony and party that fits with what you want. In that manner, you're traditional early adaptors. Thank you for sharing it with us. You are beautiful and brave.

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