By " Madge" (Mrs. Humphry)
Impromptu Appearance Demanded by Lapland Wedding Etiquette - How this is Ensured
In the more remote portions of the Faroe Islands, which lie between Iceland and Shetland, old customs still continue.
Some of them are picturesque. For instance, the long wooden staff carried by the bridegroom or his ambassador, as a token of his errand, is taller than himself, and as he wends his way to the home of his chosen one, it informs all whom he meets of the mission on which he is bound.
This is a kind of publicity that would scarcely please a British wooer. One can imagine the excitement of the inhabitants of those distant islands when a man is seen carrying the staff. They wonder if he is the principal in the matter, or if he is only a deputy.
If the girl consents, the preliminaries are ar-ranged and the day is fixed. A cow is killed to provide the wedding feast. The bridegroom chooses two friends who fulfil the duties of our English best-man. They dress him on the wedding morning, and see that he is at the church in proper time. They support him on either side as he walks to the church, and his other friends walk after them in couples.
The dress of the men on such festive occasions includes fine white woollen stockings, black breeches, a jacket (often blue), with many pockets and narrow cuffs, a white neckcloth, and a black cloth hat, with an up-standing point back and front. These hats take the form of a cockade, and rise twelve inches or so, their edges being trimmed with stiff, narrow lace. The bridegroom is distinguished from his following by red ribbons hanging from his neckerchief.
The bride, escorted by her two bridesmaids, is accompanied to the church by her friends, who walk behind her in couples. She wears a full skirt and short jacket, usually both blue. Black velvet cuffs finish her long sleeves, and turned back on them is wide lace. A silk kerchief, also edged with lace, is folded round the neck. A large silver pin fastens to her bodice a square silver plate four inches wide, furnished with hooks hung with silver spangles. She wears a red velvet girdle on which silver figures are sewn, one end hanging down in front from the silver buckle.
Her hair, in two plaits, is folded round her head, and on the plaits rests a gold or silver or coloured ribbon band, twisted and intertwined, and about three inches high. Wide ribbons, half a yard long, float from the back of this roll, and are interwoven with gold or silver, or else covered with ornaments. Two of these ribbons hang down the back, and two are drawn forward on the chest.
Bridesmaids and women friends wear black-and-white skirts, lilac knitted jackets, black stockings, and tan shoes tied with gay ribbons. Under the jacket appear white and red bodices, and the headgear is a white silk cap. In preparation for the arrival of the two processions, a number of bridesmaids range themselves along one side of the church, remaining there until the bride has passed. The altar has many candles on it. The form of service varies according to creed. The Faroe Islanders are chiefly Protestants, but there are various sects.
The ceremony over, everybody kisses both bride and bridegroom, and congratulates them. The whole party then adjourns to the bride's house, and sit down to a meal of soup, roast beef, rice soup, plum tart or fritters. Cupbearers dispense brandy freely. The meal over, a hymn of thanksgiving is sung, and the room is then cleared for dancing. Bride and bridegroom and guests join hands and dance round in a circle, while a nuptial hymn is sung in chorus. If the party is large, a second circle of dancers is formed within the other.
After an evening of dancing, the cupbearers enter, and, with a loud knock on one of the beams of the roof, they summon the bridegroom. He takes no notice, and half an hour later they come back, and summon the bride. She takes no notice. After a while the cupbearers summon the bridegroom for the second time - successfully.
The next morning presents are taken to them, the gifts usually consisting of money. Each donor is given a glass of wine or brandy. The whole day is then passed in dancing and feasting. After dinner, one of the guests brings in a round of roast beef, with the tail bent upwards and tied with coloured ribbons. The surface of the beef is adorned with gilt paper, brightly painted. A versified oration is uttered with the entrance of the beef, extolling the dish and detailing the life story of the cow of which it once formed a part. Each person, as the dish is passed from hand to hand, makes some droll remark, according to his capacity, before passing it to his neighbour.
A Lapland Wedding
The lover in Lapland is non-committal until he has sounded the girl of his choice in a half-jesting manner, thereby saving his pride from a possible rebuff. He walks warily, guarding his self-esteem, but once assured that he is acceptable, he hurries on the marriage with all speed. It is etiquette in Lapland to give an impromptu appearance to a wedding, and the parents of the bride are not supposed to have made any preparation for the event.
A number of relatives accompany the bridegroom in procession, preceding him to the hut where the bride lives, and taking with them a good supply of provisions. Arrived, they all enter, save the bridegroom, and the bride retires to a neighbouring hut, that she may not. hear what the visitors say.
Then ensues a curious parley. The new arrivals seat themselves, and the father of the bridegroom offers brandy to the bride's father. The latter assumes a look of astonishment, and asks the reason of this generosity.
The other replies, "I have come with a good intention, and I pray God that it may prosper." He then declares that his son wishes to marry the daughter of his interlocutor.
This request may not be received favourably, and in this event it is declined with polite expressions of thanks. But, if a favourable reply is given, the bridegroom's party produce presents and put them on a reindeer skin spread upon the ground. The gifts consist of silver coins, household utensils etc. The money is then divided into portions one for the girl and one for her parents Should the latter not be satisfied with the amount, bargaining begins, and when 2 satisfactory arrangement has been reached the bride is sent for and brought on the scene by two relatives of the bridegroom, He, too, enters. The girl, in accordance with the fiction of knowing nothing beforehand, has had no opportunity to change her ordinary dress, black cloth petticoat, fur jacket, open in front to show a fur under-jacket and loose fur trousers (the fur being that of the wolf, bear, or fox), and a small fur cap. There is but little difference between the dresses of the men and the women.
Arm-in-arm with the bride is her most confidential friend, a chief bridesmaid, who enlivens the proceedings by loudly lamenting the approaching loss of her dear friend. She will not be pacified until she is given a present, when she immediately becomes quiet.
The bride's father, when the noise made by the bridesmaid is stilled, asks his daughter, "Are you satisfied with what I have done ? " and she replies, "I submit myself to the disposal of my father, who is the best judge of what is good for me."
Her mother then gives her the portion of money that falls to her share, pouring the coins into a platter on her lap. She stands up, and the parents of the bridegroom take off their fur caps, while one of the company makes an oration, praying for God's blessing on the newly-married couple, and thanking "Him who gives every man his own wife, and every woman her own husband."
A Brief Marriage Servic
Brandy is then handed round, to the parents first and afterwards to the other guests. At this point the relatives of the bridegroom produce their provisions, consisting usually of cheeses and a large piece of meat, dried and salted. No preparations for a.feast have been made by the bride's family, since they are supposed to have been in ignorance of the whole matter. The beef is roasted in front of the fire while the company is given some preparation from milk, the bride and bridegroom eating apart from the rest.
The bridegroom's whole party remains the night, much eating and drinking going on, neighbouring huts being lent for the occasion. The guests all depart next morning, and then the couple come before the priest for the marriage service. It is very brief, and is more in the nature of a blessing than an exchange of vows.