Norway – A Nordfjord bride and groom

We do not see the whole of the party assembled for the wedding, though a few neighbors stand within range. (The man in the long coat, just beyond the bridegroom, is not a Norseman, but a foreign tourist). The elderly people in the doorway are the bride’s father and mother. A great many Norwegians of the elder generation wear a beard of that peculiar cut. Ibsen himself followed the same fashion.

The wedding ceremony itself has been performed in church down at Olden, at the lower end of the lake. Now the bride is no longer to be addressed as Froken (Miss), but with the more dignified title of Fru (Mrs. or Madame). These titles are, however, in practice, applied only to women of the upper classes.

Every Norwegian country girl looks forward to the honor of wearing such a bridal crown ; the custom is of very ancient origin. (City girls oftener follow the more commonplace customs of the Continent, from which they take their standards of fashion.) A wealthy farmer’s family in many cases treasures a silver-gilt bridal crown as one of its most interesting heirlooms, the daughters wearing it in turn, and perhaps borrowing it for the grand-daughters when their time arrives. People in humbler circumstances, like these Brigsdal citizens, provide an imposing crown, whose outside is either gilded or finished in shining brass, though it has no intrinsic value. Sometimes a pretty girl manages to produce the traditional effect by means of a coronet neatly covered with gilt paper—the idea of a crown is the main thing. The tinsel-embroidered ribbons which hang from this crown are not invariably a part of the decoration, but the heavy embroidery of the bodice and the showy pendants worn on the breast are dear to girlish hearts. The costume, as a whole, omitting only the crown and its appurtenances, will constitute the young woman’s holiday toilette for many seasons to come.

Unfortunately for the picturesqueness of life, the tendency is for the men to abandon whatever was once distinctive in their own garb, and to adopt the very same commonplace cut which prevails over Europe in general. It is a natural result of the increasing ease of communication between town and country.

Mention has already been made of the custom of sending a formal offer of marriage by a third person to a girl’s parents. The long engagement which often intervenes between the formal betrothal and the actual wedding is sometimes a weary waiting, but it is often unavoidable, so hard it is in this part of the country to make a place for an additional home. Not an inch more land is there to cultivate ; the community can probably not support any increased number of independent artisans or tradesmen. If young people are not inclined and able to emigrate, they may perhaps be actually obliged to postpone their wedding until some change in the parish makes a little house vacant, and so gives them a chance to set up housekeeping. In old times, before so many energetic, enterprising young people went to America, the practice of waiting for a house was much more common than now, and often a sadly unfortunate thing it was for the peace of mind of all concerned. Miss Martineau’s old-fashioned romance, called Feats on the Fjord, gives a pretty picture of a country betrothal, and of how the young couple waited for a certain cottage on their employer’s large estate, before their marriage could actually be celebrated.

There are curious old superstitions connected with Norwegian weddings. The “hill people,” trolds, goblins, and the like, used to be credited with special de-signs against weddings. If they could possibly man-age it they would steal a bride and carry her off to live with them in realms subterranean, so that the human race might not increase in numbers and strength. Even if they did not go so far as to break up a marriage altogether, goblins used to make mischief. Over near Eidfjord, so the story goes, a bad spirit once took the form of a wandering fiddler and attended a wedding, offering to play for the evening dance, and he wielded his fiddle-bow with such magic power, that the bride danced and danced and could not stop, but danced until she died !

There are many descriptions of wedding festivities which can be read in English. See, for instance, the Nordhoug wedding in Synnove Solbakken, the wedding in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, and others. Bjornson, in The Bridal March, describes the shy wonder and admiration felt by a little girl guest, about the age of this small damsel in the kerchief. Stone’s Norway in June gives quite detailed accounts of ceremonies witnessed in this country several years ago.

The objective point of most of the tourists who visit Brigsdal is a certain arm of the vast Jostedal Glacier, which reaches down into the valley not far above the few farms of the neighborhood. Our stand-point is numbered 72 on the map.