There’s possibly nothing a Dane loves more than flags (and hearts, but more on that later). More notably, the Dannebrog – the flag of Denmark.
A short history lesson for you – the Dannebrog is the oldest state flag in the world still in use by an independent nation. Legend has it that the flag fell from heaven during the Battle of Lyndanisse during the Northern Crusades in 1219, giving the flailing Danish army (who caught it before it touched the ground) hope and leading them to victory. The Dannebrog was – obviously – a gift from God and has been the flag of Denmark ever since, having never touched the floor or been hoisted at night.
Ever since, the Danes have used the Dannebrog for everything – birthdays, deaths, weddings, Christenings, etc. – with many Danes having flag poles in their gardens. This has always been a tradition of my nuclear family’s too, with my Mum bringing out the miniature flag to sit proudly on our table on birthdays (since we never had a full size flag pole here in the UK). Here’s a picture of me and my Mum in 2006 celebrating her birthday with the Dannebrog taking pride of place in front of the birthday girl:
So, of course, the Dannebrog had to feature in our wedding day, and with that we couldn’t miss out the Union Flag or the Flag of Ghana in our celebrations.
As I may have said previously, we chose to have a Danish wedding cake (kransekage) instead of a traditional English fruit cake. I’m not a fan of fruitcake and think kransekage is so much nicer – made of almonds, sugar, egg whites and marzipan displayed in rings and decorated with flags. So for this we needed small flags of the three nations that play a part in our lives. A difficult task – especially for Ghana which, it seems, doesn’t feel the need to use cocktail stick flags (heaven knows why not!). The only thing for it was to make some flags – a job I happily passed on to Jeffrey. So, here are two photos – one of Jeffrey making the flags and one of the two kransekager and a traditional Ghanaian Nkate Cake made of peanuts and sugar, made kindly by one of Jeffrey’s Aunties.
Back in January I wrote a post about Ghanaian/Ashanti wedding traditions. I talked about how Jeffrey’s family are Ghanaian and how this element must in some way play a part in our (/the dreaded) ‘theme’. Now we’ve only really managed to get a couple of Ghanaian aspects planned because, as I mentioned before, much of the Ghanaian traditions centre around the bride’s family and we can’t really see how we’d tie it in.
But not only are we thinking about Ghanaian elements, but also aspects of Danish wedding traditions due to my Mother being Danish.
So here I give a run down of some of the Danish wedding traditions I know of, and which we may well try and tie some of in to the wedding in some way.
The typical Danish wedding is very similar to the English in that it starts with the bride and groom sleeping separate the night before the wedding (to make a distinction between the wedding day and every other day), a trip to the church or town hall for the ceremony, followed by the wedding reception.
But the Danish wedding reception feels quite different to the English. There are a few customs that tend to take place at Danish wedding receptions that don’t feature in the typical English reception:
- Before the wedding, an arch of pine branches is built around the doorway of the bride’s family home. This is called the Gate of Honor. Another is built when the couple celebrates their silver anniversary.
- At some point during the ceremony, if the bride leaves the room all the female guests have to run over to kiss the groom, and if the groom leaves the room all the male guests kiss the bride.
- When guests bang their cutlery on their plates or glasses the bride and groom have to climb onto their chairs and kiss. When guests stamp their feet the pair have to kiss under the table.
- The bride and groom dance the wedding waltz before midnight. Guests stand in a big circle, clap and slowly move closer so that the circle gets smaller until the couple are surrounded by their loved ones.
- The male guests pick up the groom to remove his shoes and cut the toes of his socks off. There are a couple of suggested reasons for this: 1) to allow the bride to prove she can sew, and 2) to symbolise that the groom should no longer walk in the footsteps of other women.
- Family members often write songs instead of giving speeches. The song lyrics are written to popular melodies and the words are passed around so that everyone can join in.
- The traditional Danish wedding cake is made of marzipan rings stacked on top of each other. This cake (Kransekage – below) is decorated with icing and flags and is cut by the bride and groom together to avoid bad luck.
And that’s all the traditions I can think of. A fair few to choose from! So now we just need to work out which we take part in. But we know for definite that we are having the Danish wedding cake. It’s far nicer than fruit cake.
And here’s the Danish Crown Prince Frederik’s Wedding Waltz with his new wife, Mary, for you to pore over: