A Swedish Wedding
September 19, 2017
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 ❤
Easter in Norrland
March 28, 2016
Each Easter, we fly up to Northern Sweden, Norrland, where only approximately 12 percent of Sweden’s nearly 10 million inhabitants reside. My sambo (live in boyfriend) grew up in a small village here a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea. Year round, it is the most breathtaking, picturesque part of the world I have ever seen. Even the quality of the air feels different.
We arrived on Thursday and have since tasted some of the best local fish (bleak) grilled right over an open fire, walked and snowmobiled on the sea, and had the best homemade cookies (recipe to come) for our fika, the cherished coffee break in Sweden. We have also spotted a herd of reindeer (owned by the indigenous Sami in Sweden) that roam freely through Northern Sweden.
Luleå is a city with a population of nearly 47,000. It is known for Luleå University of Technology, Luleå Hockey Club, and it’s steel production. It is part of Norrland, one of the three land regions in Sweden.
They have a saying in Sweden, “det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder,” which literally translates to “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” In other words, there is no excuse to stay in when it is super cold or overcast. I still struggle with this from time to time, but I am a Florida girl. Swedes have evolved to make the best of any weather conditions.
I was reluctant to head outside yesterday as it was a bit overcast and super cold. Today was another day. The sun was shining in every direction, the sky was blue. We decided to spend it the way most Swedes in the area spent the day, walking and snowmobiling on the frozen sea!!!
We celebrated Easter together with Fredrik’s family in his sister’s family’s cabin. We ate grilled moose and reindeer from a bbq made in the snow. Many Swedes own a “summer house” which often consists of a large open room complete with a primitive kitchen, dining, and sleeping areas. Spring and Easter usually mark the time when Swedes open up their cabins for use.
Easter in Sweden is mostly secular. The Easter bunny is not as celebrated a tradition as back home. Instead, children (boys and girls alike) dress up as Easter witches and go from house to house wishing their neighbours a Happy Easter. In return, they are given candy (similar to trick or treating on Halloween). In addition, parents give their children Easter “eggs” that are filled with candy.
Food traditionally served around Easter can vary, but generally consists of boiled eggs, cured and/or smoked salmon, cold cuts (ham, moose, and/or lamb), cheese, bread, potatoes, and pickled herring.
Though I long for home every day (especially on holidays), Norrland and Sweden have been my second home for nearly six years. My boyfriend’s family have always been so kind and welcoming to me. They have made my holidays here very special. While I recommend visiting Stockholm and Gothenburg, no trip to Sweden is complete without visiting the many wonders of Norrland. Hoping everyone back home was spoiled by the Easter Bunny and enjoyed each other’s company ❤
August 2, 2015
Hej allihoppa (Hi everyone)!!! As I prepare for my long flight back to Sweden (Tuesday), I have been reflecting on how different life is there compared to here in the U.S. Living in another culture gives you a completely new perspective in life. While sometimes crossing cultures can create friction, it is mostly fun and allows us to examine ourselves in a different way. I think everyone, if given the opportunity, should try living in another country.
I have always had a special place in my heart for Sweden and all things Swedish. My grandmother on my mother’s side was Swedish. Her parents came to the U.S. by way of Canada in 1901 or 1902, when more than a million Swedes immigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life. I try to imagine how hard it must have been for them in a time when there was no Skype, no Facebook, no email. If I didn’t have Face Time, I might have already moved home.
I remember one of my first dates with my Swedish boyfriend, Fredrik. He hadn’t lived in the U.S. long, so he (unbeknownst to me) did some investigating on American dating culture when we first started dating. I will never forget one of our first dates. Fredrik picked me up and ran around to open the car door for me in an attempt to be chivalrous. I laughed and said that it wasn’t necessary. He laughed too and said he wouldn’t do it again then because he only read that that’s what American guys do on a date, but it would never happen in Sweden. I think I knew then that we were perfect together. The following is a funny reflection on Swedish culture. With the exception of getting naked with the in-laws, I was there before I even moved to Sweden. Perhaps that’s why I feel so at home there ❤
Thanks for stopping by! See you again soon!! Ses snart igen!!
Lördagsgodis!!! Saturday’s Candy!!
Today is Sweden’s national day. Glad National Dag, Sverige! Swedes don’t generally celebrate national day the way Americans celebrate the 4th of July. I guess they are saving their strength for Midsommar (Midsummer) which is maybe second in line only to Christmas in importance of their many holidays.
Maybe even more important than Sweden’s national day today is the fact that today is lördagsgodis day or candy day in Sweden. Every Saturday Swedes young and old can be seen at the grocery store stuffing a paper bag full of their favorite sweet, sour, or salty (not a typo), yes salty candy. They apparently are the largest consumers of candy in the world.
The interesting fact here is that it is only on Saturdays (and some holidays) that Swedes will stuff their faces with candy. Even the kids learn to exercise moderation. It really works!! I vote Americans should take part! What do you think????
May 8, 2015
How it All Began
I moved to Sweden five years ago in August. It has been both challenging and amazing. You learn so much about yourself when you step completely out of your comfort zone, learn a new language, eat new food, and experience new traditions. From finding baking powder (bakpulver) in the grocery store to learning to calculate exchange rates, the brain is on overdrive trying to absorb and register all the new experiences that we take for granted when we are in our own environment. There are days where it is super exciting and there are days when you want to pack your bags and go home out of sheer longing for the familiar.
What brought me to Sweden? I get this question often from both Americans and Swedes alike. It was love. My boyfriend, Fredrik, is Swedish. We met while I was on a travel assignment in San Francisco and he was working at a startup in Silicon Valley (engineers galore for any single travelers out there). Neither of us planned to stay permanently in California and had no idea that when we met, we would be inseparable. Just shy of our third year together, we packed our things and headed east. I was lucky to get a temporary work and study visa on arrival because Fredrik is a citizen of Sweden.
I live in the second largest city in Sweden, Gothenburg. It is a beautiful walkable city on the south-west coast with a population of over 900,000 including both urban and metro areas (Gothenburg). It was a trading city which also has a rich history of fishing. It is home to and the birth place of Volvo. It has two major universities. Culturally, Gothenburg claims Jose Gonzalez as one of their own! It is the Seattle of Sweden. Can you sense the pride I feel living in this city?
I spent the first year I was here studying Swedish intensively at the University of Gothenburg. After fulfilling the language requirement, I started studying for my Swedish nursing boards which was a written exam (in Swedish). By May 2013, I had taken and passed my boards!! All that was left was a three and half month internship in the Swedish medical system followed by a little one semester course in medical Swedish law (nightmare).
I started working and actually getting a pay check just over a year ago 🙂 I work in the second largest NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) in Sweden. It is a university hospital (Sahlgrenska University Hospital). Like the U.S., they are short staffed (more on that soon), so I am able to work contractually and go home when I want. I am surrounded by some of the brightest doctors, nurses, and techs from around the world. While it is super challenging thinking, speaking, and charting in Swedish (especially in an emergent situation), I have the constant support and encouragement from a great group of coworkers. Now on to the next adventure……….my Swedish BSN!!!!