Here come the Norwegians!

A wedding day in Voss filled with tradition

ON THEIR WAY: On a brilliantly sunny day with blue skies and not a cloud to be seen, the bridal pair, Stian Lid and Kjersti Nordgård, set off on horseback on to celebrate their wedding day in Voss, Norway.

Kristine Askvik
Avisa Hordaland

Bride and groom Kjersti Nordgård and Stian Lid were celebrated by a large crowd at Prestegardslandet in Voss, Norway, on June 10, 2023. It was a day of celebration for residents and visitors alike.

Local newspaper Hordaland met with the bride and the women and girls the morning of the wedding, as they were getting dressed and ready at Finnesloftet, Norway’s oldest wooden nonecclesiastical building from 1295, now used as a banquet hall.

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Photo: Ingerid Jordal
FINNESLOFTET: The bride, Kjersti Nordgård, gets expert help with her bridal crown.

The married women were to wear traditional headscarves, while the girls needed braids. For the bride, it was time to put on the vossakrona, the Voss bridal crown.

“It has been very exciting to put on the wedding bunad and crown. I have tried it on once before, but it is a little different now on the big day,” says bride Kjersti Nordgård.

“You’ve dreamed of having a traditional vossabryllaup with a procession on horseback. Why is that?”

“Above all, it’s very special to be able to ride a horse to church with a long entourage. It’s so nice that friends and family get to be a part of the entire procession, from where we set out, all the way to the church,” says Nordgård.

Braids and headscarves

Outside and inside Finnesloftet, it is calm and hectic all at once. Someone wonders if the braids and the headscarves have been done correctly. Others bring out the champagne and pop the cork with the bride and groom.

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TO THE CHURCH: The bridal pair heads to the church for a private ceremony and celebration after sharing the first part of their day with all of Voss.

“We think this is very nice and we really wanted to be a part of it. It has been a while since someone had this kind of wedding in Voss and it’s nice to be able to carry on the tradition,” says groom Stian Lid.

He has already been allowed to see the bride in her full wedding attire.

“In bunad weddings, tradition allows for this,” he explains.

“And what do you think?”

“She is very pretty!”

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FIRST TIME: Fiddler Tore Bidne had never played on horseback before. The father of the bride leads the procession.

Sidesaddle for the married women

Behind him, Vangsvatnet, Vang Lake, glistens in the sun. Outside it is about 79° Fahrenheit; inside at Finnesloftet it is cooler. The bride takes a sip of Coke. Soon they will head down to Svartenakken and mount the 26 horses waiting there.

Not everyone is accustomed to horseback riding, but ride they are ready to set out.

“I’ll ride the normal way, while my mother will use a sidesaddle. She will have to balance on one of the old saddles made of wood,” says Mona Lid, sister of the groom.

“We have done a test ride, but it’s a bit different that we have to sit sideways like that,” says Anne Lise Lid, mother of the groom. She is excited and a bit nervous about getting up on the horse.

Mona tells us that the bride will ride the normal way.

fiddler

SUNSHINE AND A CROWD: Alexander Røynstrand played Hardanger fiddle during the opening of the wedding festivities at Prestegardslandet.

Getting ready for the wedding night

“In the olden days, it was said that the bride should ride the normal way in order to get ripe and ready for the wedding night, while the married women were to ride sidesaddle,” she explains.

“We think it’ll be fine. It has to be. There is no other way,” they both say, laughing.

At Svartenakken, the horses roam and chew on crisp, green grass. Olav Langesæter has gathered all the horse keepers around him in a half circle. Everyone listens to the instructions.

“Safety is very important. Safety comes first,” urges Langesæter.

He leads the committee for horseback-riding vossabrudlaup and is responsible for the horses.

“If someone is uncomfortable, it is better to have them walk next to the horse,” he says to about 30 people dressed in black-and-white uniforms. They will each walk a horse.

The women who ride sidesaddle and the fiddler each get one extra horse keeper. Langesæter wipes his forehead and has a solid grip on the paper folder. Lists and checkmarks indicate control measures—and a lot of planning.

“Can we talk with you for a bit?” we ask.

“Yes, but not for too long.”

On the gravel road along Vang Lake, the horses and the bridal procession are riding along as if they have done so all their lives.

Not a single neigh or horse on the loose. And nobody is asking to get off their horse. Langesæter and his helpers are in full control.

Met by a large crowd 

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FOR BIG AND SMALL: Both young and old alike looked on with fascination as the wedding festivities unfolded in Voss.

A large crowd of people greets the procession at Prestegardslandet park. It must be close to the 3,000 to 4,000 who showed up in 1921 for the wedding procession and the unveiling of a monument­—if not in numbers, then at least in spirit.

“This is so fun—that’s for sure,” says the bride from on top of her horse. The crown fits as it should. Young and old stare up at her with wide eyes when she passes by with the rest of the entourage. She is photographed by curious Voss residents and tourists from home and abroad as she makes her way toward the monument.

Avisa Hordaland talks to two of the spectators who are standing by the mini-golf course.

“This is awesome. It’s very good that they maintain the traditions. And it looks so great with all the bunads!”

Another member of the crowd tells us she was actually just going to Prestegardslandet to enjoy the sun on what she thought was an ordinary Saturday. It was quite the surprise with the wedding and the large crowds.

“It’s super nice. It is so beautiful and very impressive,” she says from the lawn near the outdoor stage.

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A SEA OF PEOPLE: In 1921, between 3,000 and 4,000 people turned up. It’s not known how many people there were at Prestegardslandet on June 10, 2023.

The wedding procession has reached the monument, which bears the inscription, “In memory of the Fiddler Ola Mosafinn and old horseback vossabrudlaup.”

They are greeted with music from several musical groups, including Voss spelemannslag (fiddling group), Evanger musikklag (music group), Berit Opheim og kvedarane (Berit Opheim and the chanters), and Verdas største juniorspelemannslag (The Worlds’s Largest Junior Fiddler Group).

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IT HAPPENED HERE: The monument commemorating a Voss horseback wedding was unveiled in the same way as it was in 1921.

Voss at its best

The monument commemorating a Voss wedding on horseback was created by Nils Bergslien and completed in 1921. Since then, it has been relocated several times.

Mayor Hans-Erik Ringkjøb speaks to the crowd from the monument on its reopening at its new location.

“This touches my heart. This is Voss at its best. People show up and demonstrate how much they care about their traditions. It strengthens our common identity. This makes a mayor very proud, quite simply.

“It is about who we are as Voss residents, where we are from, and the foundation of this town. We see the expression of all this today. This is what it is all about. We want to keepsake this­—now and into the future. This monument has been moved around for a hundred years. Now it will be right here—for the next 500 years,” Ringkjøb says.

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GROUP PHOTO: The bridal party posed in front of the 102-year-old monument that depicts another Voss wedding on horseback from days gone by.

This article first appeared in Avisa Hordaland, and was reprinted with permission.

Translated by Ragnhild Hjeltnes

All photos by Ingerid Jordal

This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.