Have you been invited to a Finnish wedding? That’s excellent news because weddings in Finland are always happy occasions. There are quite a few fun traditions you might enjoy learning about, but it is unlikely you could make any mistakes.
To make sure you can relax and have a memorable experience (especially if you happen to be the bride or the groom), I will cover everything you need to know before you attend a Finnish wedding.
Table of Contents
- What to expect from a Finnish wedding party?
- Finnish wedding traditions
- Do Finnish people wear wedding rings?
- Traditional Finnish wedding food
- What to wear to a Finnish wedding?
- Finnish wedding gifts
- Finnish wedding card and wedding blessings
- When can you leave a Finnish wedding?
- After the wedding
What to expect from a Finnish wedding party?
Weddings in Finland are still often quite traditional. They usually start with a marriage ceremony, either at a church or at the wedding venue, followed by dinner and a party. You might also recognize some of the traditions that take place before the actual wedding.
Finnish bachelorette party traditions
Bachelor’s and bachelorette parties usually take place at a time that suits everyone, sometime before the wedding. The maid of honor and best man usually organize them and send out the invitations or get everyone together in a group chat. The time and location are traditionally kept secret from the bride and groom.
Modern parties include anything from going abroad to having to dress up and perform embarrassing tasks. The bachelor’s party for the groom tends to be similar to the western style popular in many places, but bachelorette parties in Finland usually have quite unique features.
Often these traditions involve going to the sauna. This is actually an old tradition, that in the old times, was believed to protect the bride from evil spirits. The bride is taken to the sauna with her friends singing and making a lot of sound to get rid of the spirits.
Several poems, songs and traditions, even spells, can be associated with the bridal sauna. Old loves and crushes are washed away, for example.
Even today, the bride’s hair might be washed with egg to represent fertility or her back washed with salt and flour to make sure the past is washed away and to bring wealth into the marriage. The bride’s friends can put a lot of effort into making this an experience to remember.
Before the wedding
Like in many other countries, the couple often doesn’t see each other right before the wedding.
The groom does not see the bride in her wedding dress before the wedding ceremony. A traditional white wedding dress is still the most common choice for brides.
It is quite common for the bride’s father to escort her to the altar. However, it can be so that the couple walks down the aisle together.
Weddings are usually full-day events that start around noon or early afternoon and end in the evening. There are no traditional pre-wedding ceremonies, such as rehearsal dinners, in Finland.
Make sure you have accepted or declined the invitation before the suggested day goes by. It’s not rare that the couple wishes that children don’t attend their wedding party. If this is their wish, it is clearly stated on the invitation. If there’s no mention, then children are welcome to the party.
Finnish wedding ceremony
As you arrive at the church, seating might be arranged based on whether you know the bride or the groom. The groom’s side is on the right, and the bride’s side is on the left from the door. Parents, grandparents, and those in the wedding party usually sit in the front row.
The groom usually waits for the bride at the front and walks towards her to meet her. A Lutheran wedding ceremony consists of hymns, readings, and a sermon before the wedding wows, and exchanging of rings. The couple will get a bible from the church.
One of the most popular songs to be played at a wedding is “Prinsessa Ruususen Häämarssi” (The wedding march of Sleeping Beauty) by Erkki Melartin in 1905.
A non-religious ceremony usually also consists of a speech, music, wedding wows, and exchanging of rings. Since summer weddings are very popular, the ceremony can also take place outside when the weather is good.
Both versions of a wedding usually include a point when the couple says “I do”, in Finnish “Tahdon”. I’m proud to say that in Finland, “I do’s” are for everyone. Same-sex marriages are legal, and the wedding ceremony for everyone can take place in a church.
Sometimes guests are still handed rice to throw as the couple exits the church, but many churches in the capital area have banned the practice. Often rice is replaced by blowing bubbles or throwing rose petals. You usually get these from someone at the wedding and don’t have to bring your own.
Venues and what happens after the ceremony
If the first part of the ceremony takes place in a church, one thing to check is how you will get from the church to the wedding venue. Usually, these are close by, or there is transport, but it is good to find out before you leave the church. Sometimes anyone with space in their car offers a ride to those who don’t drive.
The couple themselves might have pictures taken between the ceremony and arriving at the wedding party. Wedding pictures are usually taken on the day.
At the venue, the couple or their parents usually welcome and thank the guests, who leave gifts and cards on a gift table. Seating plans are common, so check where you are meant to sit before sitting down. You can expect toasts, dinner (often a buffet), cake, and dancing. After that parties turn more relaxed and the formal part of the wedding ends.
Finnish wedding traditions
Finnish traditions are similar to weddings in the US or UK, for example. Traditions include speeches by the parents and best man, a first dance, and cutting the cake. The father of the bride often gives the first speech, followed by the father of the groom and the best man.
So what surprises should you expect? Some games often feature in Finnish weddings, most notably “stealing the bride”. This means the groom’s friends kidnap the bride and he has to get her back by performing tasks. There can be other activities, which are often organized by the couple’s friends, like quizzes about how well the couple knows each other.
There is no sweet tradition of feeding each other cake as you cut the wedding cake. Instead, if you are marrying a Finn, you should be aware that the person who stamps their foot on the ground first while you cut the cake together will be in charge in the marriage. Another tradition says the one holding their hand on top will be in charge.
A first dance is also a tradition, and it is usually a waltz. After some time, the couple often invites others to join them on the dance floor, starting with the parents.
The couple may leave for their honeymoon at the end of the party or simply party the night away with the guests.
At some point towards the end of the wedding, there can be a bouquet toss, and sometimes the groom will find and throw the wedding garter in a similar manner. According to the game, the unmarried woman who catches the bouquet will be the one who gets married next.
Do Finnish people wear wedding rings?
Engagement rings are common in Finland and usually worn by both, men and women, as a sign of commitment. At the wedding, the bride usually gets a wedding ring to add to her engagement ring. The groom often wears only the one engagement ring. Exchanging rings as part of the ceremony is common.
Traditional Finnish wedding food
You might be asked beforehand for any special dietary needs, but the common catering option for a wedding nowadays is a buffet with a few options. Favorites that make an appearance in many Finnish celebrations might be in the menu, like a sandwich cake, but there are no foods that are a must at every wedding. Children sometimes have their own table with special meal options they find more appealing.
You will sometimes hear a stereotype that drinking alcohol is very important in Finnish weddings, but this is not true for most weddings. Alcohol is often served and enjoyed at dinner and after coffee, but there are usually plenty of non-alcoholic options too.
What to wear to a Finnish wedding?
The dress code for a Finnish wedding is formal but flexible. Men wear suits, and women often wear a dress, but anything that is at least smart casual will usually be fine. Most celebrations in Finland don’t have a strict dress code, but it is polite to dress nicely for the occasion.
Traditionally the bride should be the only one wearing white, and black should be avoided, but little black dresses are a more and more common sight in modern weddings.
Finnish wedding gifts
Do you bring a gift to the wedding? The best thing is to check the invitation as it might even contain the account number if you want to contribute to the couple’s honeymoon or other financial goals.
It is customary to give a gift but more often than not the couple will give you some idea of what they prefer you do before you arrive at the wedding. Traditional wedding gifts in Finland are similar to those elsewhere in the world. If the couple has already lived together for a while, guests often find it easier to put some money in the envelope with their card.
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Finnish wedding card and wedding blessings
So you have bought the gift and a wedding card (these are readily available in stores), but now you have to know what to write on the card. It would be perfectly fine to write in English, but here are some great options if you want to include something in Finnish:
Onnea hääparille! Congratulations to the wedding couple!
Onnea hääpäivänä! Congratulations on the wedding day!
Onnittelut tuoreelle avioparille! Congratulations to the newly weds!
Parhaimmat onnentoivotukset teille molemmille! Best wishes to the both of you!
Kaikkea hyvää tärkeänä päivänänne ja tulevaisuuteen! All the best on your important day and for the future!
Rakkautta ja iloa yhteiseen elämäänne! Love and joy for your life together!
Onnea yhteiselle matkalle! Good luck on your shared journey!
Tämä päivä on kaunis ja se on teidän! This day is beautiful and it belongs to you!
Hääilo olkoon onnen enne, täyttykööt toiveet sydäntenne! Let the joy of the wedding be an omen, let your hearts’ wishes be fulfilled!
There are countless other poems and blessings you can find on websites if you want something a bit longer. Search for häätoivotus or hääruno.
When can you leave a Finnish wedding?
This might seem like a silly question, but as weddings are all-day events with some moments when nothing is happening, this question might come up.
If you have been invited to the church and the wedding celebration, you can almost count on there being cake and coffee before the formal part of the celebrations end. The first dance might follow this. You can always politely ask someone like a maid of honor about what will happen next.
Before you leave, it is polite to say thank you and goodbye and give your well-wishes to the happy couple in private once more. Most Finns will say goodbye to everyone they know and someone in charge of organizing too. You might be asked about where you disappeared unless you do so. If you are not in a hurry, the celebrations often continue until late.
After the wedding
After the celebrations, most couples will take some time off for a honeymoon at some point. You will probably receive a thank you card with some wedding photos too.
I hope you have a great time attending a Finnish wedding! Is there something else you would like to know about Finnish wedding traditions? I will answer any questions in the comments.
Here are some other articles on Finnish traditions you might find interesting:
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