Finnish weddings

I attended a lovely wedding last week – my best friend got married. It was also only the second Finnish wedding I’ve ever attended.


But it allowed me to make some observations on how our traditions differ from others.

The wedding season

Since we have horrible wet and sleet-riddled autumns and cold, snowy winters, most of the weddings take place in the summer. So that leaves us with June, July and August. The whole country is getting married in the few Saturdays that are in those three months.

As the sun doesn’t really go down in June and we only get a few hours of darkness in July and August, it also brings its own flair to the occasion.


A Finnish wedding is a time when we break from tradition. People show emotions, do lots of public speaking and even talk to strangers.

There are, however, some peculiarities involved. While the wedding ceremony itself is a fairly universal church thing, the reception that follows after takes on a more Finnish twang.

There are two kinds of locations where to have the ceremony – a mansion or a people’s house (työväentalo). No castles or hotels for us. We keep it real and preferably close to the woods.

I was talking with the bride’s dad at the reception on how it’s becoming acceptable for men to show emotions at weddings. This was in reference to the beautiful speeches both him and the groom made – not a dry eye in the room. Traditionally it’s for the women to cry and for the men to remain silent and grumpy.

Fun and games

When the teary-eyed bit is over, it’s time for fun and games.

A Finnish wedding will almost always have some sort of games for everyone to play. They can be fun and social or ridiculous and a bit embarrassing. The bride will get robbed, meaning a group of men from the party will take her somewhere and the groom will have to complete a series of tasks to prove that he is worthy to get her back.

There are a whole bunch of others, like blindfolding the groom, lining up a group of women from the party and one man and have the groom guess which leg belongs to his bride.

All of it is rather exhilarating for hermits like us.

There is obviously always some drinking involved but people tend to behave rather well at weddings. This will depend on the couple and what kind of a bar they have (no open bars in Finland because of the high prices) but people at least behave themselves until the dinner is over.

After the dinner is served, there is a high likelihood of the wedding reception moving to a party locale – something like a nearby barn converted to a dance floor.

And what happens in a barn, stays in the barn.



Finns celebrate Christmas on Christmas eve, perhaps not wholly unrelated to my previous post about us being obsessed about being on time.

Cemetaries across Finland are lit up with candles

Nevertheless, the traditional thing to do is to first visit the cemetary to light a candle for family members no longer with us. This is indeed the one time of the year there are massive traffic jams outside the cemetary. There’s massive amounts of snow everywhere and candles lighting the night so it is actually quite pretty..

After this things get a bit weirder. Most people then go to the sauna. In the nude I might add – none of that shy towel-wrapping thing in Finland. Some of us choose to roll in the snow and then go back to sauna for an added thrill. (Now how many creepy stalkers did I gain by revealing that?)

Then there’s the Christmas dinner. Most dishes would have been prepared the night before because they’re about as peasant dishes as these things get – a massive piece of ham covered in mustard for example, accompanied by carrot casserole, potato casserole, liver casserole, swede casserole (the vegetable, not our neighbours) and so on which take a lot of time to prepare. Most people go all the way and have all these casseroles, not just one.

After stuffing yourself, there’s the time Christmas was invented for: presents.

The word joulu, meaning Christmas, is by the way, in the Germanic tradition and has no relation to the whole Christian thing like in English. So even naughty atheists  like me can gen enjoy the day.

I hope you too will have a lovely Christmas.