My apologies for the delay in posts. In the past month I have traveled back to Sweden from Florida. In that time, accompanied by family and friends, I married my best friend. I thought I would take a quick detour from my usual nursing related posts and share with you one of the greatest days of my life.
One month this past Saturday, I married Nils Fredrik Brännström, a man I met ten years ago in San Francisco. I had no idea that I would one day be living with him in his native Sweden and much less become his wife. I have always been a bit of a rebel or have done things in less conventional ways in my life. I never planned to marry, never wanted to have children. In fact, I always imagined myself being the crazy old cat lady. The thing is, never say never and I am proud to say that marrying this man was the greatest detour in life.
When we decided to marry, it was a simple question of where. My family and friends reside in Florida, his in Sweden. We decided in the end to have a small ceremony in Florida for family that would not be able to travel to Sweden and an actual wedding in Sweden. We had our small family ceremony in Florida back in January. What follows is a glimpse into our wedding last month in Sweden.
We married in a church marked as a World Heritage Site. Dating back to 1492, Gammelstad Church and its surrounding church village with over 300 cottages, has a long history in Fredrik’s family. Everyone in his family for many generations has married here, been baptized here, and buried here in the neighbouring cemetery. While Swedes are generally a secular people, they are still for the most part a traditional people. Marrying in a church is still the most common place for a wedding ceremony.
A Swedish wedding procession is nearly nonexistent. There is no maid of honor, no bridesmaids, no best man. In fact, the father of the bride does not traditionally walk the bride down the aisle like back home. The bride and groom walk down the aisle hand in hand, a symbol of entering their marriage together as equals. We walked to live music played by the super talented daughter of a dear friend.
The ceremony is similar to an American ceremony with the, “do you take this man,” and “in sickness and in health,” only in Swedish. Sweden’s churches are primarily Protestant led by both male and female priests. Our priest spoke a bit of English to accommodate our English speaking only friends and family. On a funny side note, our priest was hilarious. He told us the first time we met that he was going to a party the night before our wedding, but not to worry. He said he would not be too hungover on our wedding day. Only in Sweden.
A Swedish wedding reception is a super fun evening of food, drink, speeches, and dancing. Ours was no exception. We rented a restaurant in a cultural center for our reception. We were served some of the most delicious local food of the area including local fish and reindeer and the most beautiful cake adorned with orchids.
Every wedding reception is hosted by someone called a toastmaster, usually the best friend of the bride and/or groom. The toastmaster’s job is to welcome all of the guests and coordinate the entire evening which is a tall order and a lot of pressure. In our case, two of Fredrik’s best friends were our toastmasters. They did a truly amazing job arranging the entire evening for us. No detail was left unpolished. It was a wonderful, magical evening thanks to these two. Thanks, Jörgen and Marcus!!!!
It is tradition at a Swedish wedding that anyone can give a speech. The speeches usually begin with the father of the bride and continue throughout the night with other members of the bride or groom’s family and friends. Speeches are at the center of a Swedish wedding reception and go on through the entire evening. I was completely shocked and moved that our toastmasters had arranged for my father to give a speech remotely as he was unable to come to Sweden for the wedding. It meant so much to me. I don’t think there was a dry eye for that one. Fredrik’s mom, pictured above, was one of many that gave a truly touching speech. His sister, Therese, also standing, translated for his mom. His family has been so wonderful to me through my ups and downs of acclimating to life in Sweden. I have always felt the full support of not only Fredrik here, but his dear friends and family as well.
Another tradition at Swedish weddings is that each time the bride leaves the room, every woman in the room lines up to kiss the groom on the cheek. The same goes for when the groom leaves the room. It is a super cute tradition that I can now say I have been a part of.
Traditionally, the bride and groom’s first dance in Sweden is a waltz. Being the always unconventional girl I am, I opted to choreograph our first dance. It was a last minute decision and we spent only two weeks rehearsing, but it went very well in the end. We had the best time putting it together.
Thanks to all of our wonderful friends and family that shared in our day with us. And thank you for those that traveled so far to be there, some even leaving babies home to come. Thank you to my amazing cousins, Jenn Ross and Diana Ross for all your support and help in preparation for and on the wedding day. I guess to sum up this magical day and tie it in to the purpose behind this blog, my advice to those of you in a difficult time in life or just questioning what you are doing with your life is to follow your heart. I came from a place of difficulty and uncertainty to a place of joy and acceptance. Through it all, I found myself. Your heart will lead you in directions you never imagined if only you allow it. Trust the process. Sometimes pain and difficulty lead you to your heart. Trust your heart. Trust yourself ❤