In Norway, there are four types of invitations that go out for weddings. The first is a newspaper announcement which serves as an invitation for any and all who want to attend, to come on by the church and watch the bride and groom become husband and wife. No need to RSVP. If the church gets full, the pews get cozier. There is no obligation to bring a gift, as there’s a good chance no one even knew you were there as you leave when the couple kisses and walks outside.
Norwegian weddings look almost like American ones with a few exceptions. They place two sets of chairs facing each other at the front of the church with the bride and maid of honor on one side facing the groom and best man on the other. There are no other attendants. Songs are sung, candles lit, the priest talks and prays. When the time comes to exchange vows, the couple briefly stands up. The maid of honor sits by the best man and for the remainder of the ceremony, the wedding couple sit side-by-side. It’s difficult to see what’s going on with everyone sitting, but Norwegians appreciate the ability to relax, even on their special day.
Months prior to the wedding, an invitation goes out to immediate family and a few close friends to attend the formal dinner after the ceremony - and I mean formal. There are place names, seating charts, a master of ceremonies, speeches and a schedule. Everyone in attendance is expected to give a speech, read a poem they have written, or sing a song. It’s common to take a familiar tune and rewrite the words telling something cute or embarrassing about the couple.
These speeches take several hours and are intermixed with food being served. There is no side chit-chat as all attention must be on whoever has the floor. Most wedding dinners only have about thirty people in attendance because this part of their day is the most expensive as food in Norway is anything but cheap.
A third invitation is also sent out prior to the wedding for dear friends and extended family members – it’s for attending the coffee and cake portion of the evening after dinner has been eaten. It’s a little less formal gathering since there are no seating charts involved, but the speeches by all the newcomers continue into the night, with breaks occasionally to look at the gift table or use the bathroom.
One of the oddest wedding traditions in Norway is that they have helpers open the gifts the minute they arrive and put them on display for all to see.
It’s not uncommon for wedding celebrations to last until the next morning. No one leaves early and there’s plenty of coffee to keep everyone awake.
The last wedding invitation goes out for the “reste selskap” - the leftover party - where neighbors and friends gather the following day to eat food, and especially the cakes, that didn’t get eaten up the night before.