Icelandic Wedding Traditions

From the white dress to the throwing of the bouquet, modern Icelandic weddings look a lot like American ones. Icelanders have a relaxed attitude towards traditions but some of our old ways still frequently make their way into a couple’s big day.


Picture by Ryan Jarvis.

To start with, the Icelandic word for wedding, “brúðkaup” literally means “buying the bride” – as weddings were primarily seen as an economic transaction, between the father of the bride and the groom or his father. Now, Icelandic men and women are free to choose their partners themselves and no one is getting “bought”. However, it is still traditional for a bride to be walked down the aisle by her father and most grooms choose their fathers as their best men. There’s a lot of sitting and standing during the ceremony, and after the couple has said their “I do’s” the father of the bride switches seats with the groom.


The traditional Icelandic kransakaka

When it comes to festive food, there’s nothing quite as traditional as the Icelandic kransakaka, served at christenings, confirmations and weddings. These crumbly, layered pastry wreaths usually stretch up into a small tower concealing wrapped pieces of candy.

While Viking wedding feasts used to stretch over a number of days, a modern ceremony in any religion will usually take 30 to 45 minutes. Most Icelandic weddings ceremonies are held in churches but outdoor settings have grown in popularity. Before, weddings usually took place at the end of slaughter season in August when food was plenty and weather conditions still allowed for travel on horseback. It was customary for women and men to celebrate separately before and after a wedding ceremony. Men would ride their horses and drink while women would gather at the bride’s family home. This tradition has almost completely been set aside, in favor of Americanized bachelor/bachelorette parties, but some couples still ask women to sit on one side during the ceremony and men on the other.

Another Icelandic phrase for getting married is to “walk to a shared bed” or “ganga í eina sæng”. Back in the old days, the couple was usually blessed in their “bridal bed” by the pastor while sipping from a shared cup. This tradition has a different form in the modern version of an Ásatrú wedding where the couple sips from a drinking horn as the pagan priest blesses their union. Ásatrú is the old Norse religion of the Vikings and has grown wildly in popularity in Iceland and abroad in the last few year


Hotel Rangá’s wedding coordinator can help you find the perfect details for your dream wedding. Contact: wedding@hotelranga.is for more information.

Speaking of the bridal bed, back in the day the male wedding guests would playfully bid for the bride’s virginity at the end of the night. The bridesmaids would always choose the groom as the winner, who had prepared a special present for his new wife. This tradition developed into the more tame tradition of “morgungjöf” meaning “morning-gift”, which is still often observed by both brides and grooms following their wedding night.


There are multiple ways to give your wedding some special Icelandic touches. Whether it’s serving kransakaka, picking wildflowers, wearing handmade Icelandic wool sweaters, or sharing a drink from a horn, Hotel Rangá’s wedding coordinator can help you find the perfect details for your dream wedding. Contact: wedding@hotelranga.is for more information.