Published: August 19th 2012August 8th 2012
Drumroll, please…This, ladies and gentlemen, is my 200th
Travel Blog. I last wrote from Denmark on the eve of our trip to Sweden. I am going to devote the 200th blog to the wedding of our friends Lisa and Rikard. I realized I would reach my 200th blog on this trip and decided immediately to do a special report on the two day wedding extravaganza before finishing the stories from our 7 days in Sweden.
The 2 day wedding was held at Rockelstad Castle a bit over an hour from Stockholm. The wedding invitations made it very clear that this was an adults only event, but Lisa had assured me she would help me find someone to watch the kids. Lisa found us a wonderful young man named Patrik who is the son of one of Lisa's colleagues. Patrik and I emailed a few times before we arrived in Sweden and I was quite sure the kids would be well cared for and would also likely have a lot of fun hanging out with a local teenager. Sure enough, the kids were completely entertained and happy during our day and a half apart. Nathan and Emily might even write a blog
post about their time with Patrik, which would be very fun. But back to my story of the wedding. The journey begins
Mark and I left the kids with Patrik at the apartment and headed to the subway to get to Stockholm's central station where we were all meeting. We were bringing a bunch of champagne and plastic flutes to Tomas the Toastmaster for the chartered bus ride to the castle. This was such an important responsibility it even prompted the groom to call and remind me to bring the drinks while he was driving to his wedding! Tomas was our guide during the trip to the castle and also led all the toasts (hence the title of toastmaster) during the wedding dinner. Tomas is a longtime childhood friend of Lisa's and he and his wife, Jennifer, kept our glasses filled and the conversation going on our way to the ceremony. Despite the drizzling rain, the view of green fields and red houses with white trim outside the bus windows was lovely. We didn't know anyone on the bus but we chatted with several other guests and discovered that everyone had a fun connection to the bride and
groom and therefore we quickly knew we'd like everyone we were to spend the next day and a half with. There were childhood friends and family on the bus as well as other friends like me who met Lisa somewhere in Europe, Asia, or North America. Lisa is a big traveler and she's also extremely social. The stories of how she met the wedding guests were often unusual and funny and they unfolded over the course of our time at the castle. Some of the groom's friends were island friends--they had grown up or met as adults in the archipelago, where Rikard's family spends much of their time.
We pulled off the main road and ended up on a gravel road that took us to Rockelstad Castle. Lots of oohs and ahs as we spotted the castle for the first time. Right on the water, the grounds were beautiful and the front of the castle had many large pots of colorful wildflowers. There are several small houses surrounding the main castle and we were told to find our rooms, change for the wedding and meet back at the main castle. Mark and I knew we were staying in the
main castle along with the bride and groom and one other couple from out of town. We felt like royalty and I giggled as we climbed the stairs to castle door. Fairy tale wedding, indeed!
We found our room, which was magnificent--at the back of the main building with a gorgeous view of the lake and the grounds. The furnishings were exactly what you'd expect in your castle quarters--antique wood, a red velvet bedspread on a high, plush, and extremely comfortable bed that looked out onto the lake. Since it was still raining and wet, the ceremony would be indoors. It didn't matter in the least, since the indoor venue was, well, a castle. We had a few minutes before we were told to go into the small ceremony area and met a few other guests while we waited. Everyone we met was warm and friendly and as thrilled to be at this wedding as Mark and I were. The energy of the crowd was lively and it was warm and cozy with rain outside and a fire in the fireplace.
As we walked into where the ceremony was held, just a few steps from the front door,
we listened to music performed by Rikard's brother as well as a string quartet. His brother is an exceptional singer and he played his guitar as he sang a tear-inducing song while Rikard stood beaming while he waited for his bride. I had no tissues and I was sniffling and snorting and wondering what might I do when the bride made her entrance. I was already starting to weep and it was the before
Lisa came in with her father, Leif, and she was radiant. Her family was in the front row and I could see her sister and her mom smiling as the bride and her proud father came into the room. Lisa is gorgeous on a bad day. Her bed head is glamorous so imagine how incredible she looked during her wedding. She wore her hair down, in a loose braid (a lovely job done by on of my dinner companions, Matthias who is a hair stylist from Stockholm and a good friend of Lisa's). She had on a strapless Vera Wang dress she found (for a bargain of course) on some Swedish eBay type site. She told me with pride that it was a used
dress, because LIsa is known for her thrift store finds and her deal making. Rikard wore a gray suit and they looked like they were on the set of the movie "My Fairy Tale Wedding."
The ceremony was conducted by a long-time friend of Leif's who had also become a good friend to Lisa's mom, sister and herself. Leif and Jay (an American from California) met in the 60s in Stockholm and had stayed friends ever since. Time went on, kids were born, but they remained connected and Lisa asked Jay to conduct the ceremony. Jay is not a religious officiant. He is a professor and renowned scientist from UC San Francisco. However, I can imagine that when Lisa asked him to do the ceremony he didn't hesitate for a second. That is the magic that is Lisa. She is not manipulative. She is compelling. She wants things to be perfect and her idea of perfect was to have this very special, very eloquent, very kind member of her network conduct the ceremony. Jay said his friends all reacted with confusion and surprise at hearing of his gig at a Swedish wedding, but he figured he could put together
a ceremony and he did an amazing job. Note for those wondering, as I did, no it was not a binding ceremony in the eyes of the government, but it was in the eyes of those witnessing the exchanging of vows and the promise of a lifetime commitment. The legal part would happen later back in Stockholm. Lisa had it all figured out, of course.
Lisa and Rikard each said "I do" at the right time and with enthusiasm but Rikard's "I do" was a bit louder. We later learned that someone told him that whomever says "I do" louder gets to make the decisions in the marriage. Rikard shared this fun fact from Swedish wedding lore, and Lisa said "why didn't you tell me?!" She is very competitive and was not happy to hear she had been beaten in this particular contest. Lisa then insisted that it didn't matter because of course she was not going to be taking orders from anyone and I half expected her to ask for a do-over so she could be louder. There was no doubt that Rikard held no real advantage and that this marriage would be a partnership with two decision
makers. It was fun to see Lisa's reaction, though. Reception and dinner
After the ceremony we had champagne and amazing appetizers and listened to the string quartet play while Lisa and Rikard took photos. I was standing next to a suit of armor and a stuffed moose head with a glass of champagne mingling with guests from around the world. Pretty nice. Mark looked so handsome in his new grey suit. I'd share a picture, but we realized after the wedding that we took zero pictures of us together.
Another fun tradition my dinner companions explained to me is that it's common practice to seat spouses apart and singles near other singles. Mark and I were actually at different tables with our backs to each other. We passed the camera back and forth, but otherwise, we had our own new friends to hang out with and we both had a great time. Mark particularly enjoyed sitting next to two beautiful, young, single Swedish women.
The speeches were led by Toastmaster Tomas. He was the perfect host and had little intros and song sound bytes to precede each speaker. Most speeches were in
English with a few done in Swedish by people not comfortable speaking in English or in one case, a friend made her speech rhyme in Swedish and there was no way to make that work translated. The last speech of the night was actually a song and it was Stevie Wonder's "I'll Be Loving You Always" performed by Lisa's friend, and professional musician, Jocke Bergström. Mark and I think Jocke's rendition was even better than Mr. Wonder's.
Throughout the speeches, we were given many courses of amazing food. Lisa hired a very talented chef from Stockholm and he took some ingredients from Lisa for the meal. For example, he used mushrooms she picked in the forest for the entree course. Lisa loves to pick berries and mushrooms. We had a sample of her skill while on a hike after the wedding. It's fun to eat wild gooseberries, blueberries and raspberries off the bushes. I recommend it if you have a guide like we did. We had deer, fish, scrumptious vegetables and amazing breads. Swedish bread is yummy. The hard breads are super tasty and I could not get enough of them. Especially with butter slathered on top. Rikard's mom
made these rolls for the dinner that were also delicious. It was hard to imagine that every bit of food and drink was brought to the castle. There was no store nearby to run to if something was forgotten. I saw evidence of Lisa's spreadsheets and plans and it was an incredible amount of work.
At some point between dinner, many glasses of good wine and dessert, Lisa made eye contact and mouthed "you aren't giving a speech?" and she paired this with a pouty face. Well, that was no good. I could not let my dear friend down. So I found Tomas, he said I could be worked in to the schedule and that I had to pick a song for my introduction (yep, they played songs before each person so I picked Dancing Queen by Abba. I chose this tune because Lisa's bio about me said I was a skilled Zumba teacher. Quite the exaggeration. I do a lot of Zumba but that doesn't mean I'm good at it. To be fair, Mark was listed as being fluent in Mandarin. Exaggerations all around.
I went out in the hall and wrote a few messy sentences down.
Tomas asked me to share a fun fact that he could use when he introduced me. I wracked my brain and said "i'm not really that interesting. But Lisa thinks I am!" and he said that would do for a fact. I went after Lisa's amazing sister, TIna's speech. I cried a little. I made a couple jokes, not necessarily in that order. I have yet to watch myself on video with sound. I watched without sound and that made me cringe, but I think LIsa appreciated my effort.
Dessert was an individual cake with a berries made from wild berries Lisa and Rikard picked in the outer archipelago of Stockholm. They transported the berries from their freezer on the island to the baker, no small task. It was delicious and some people were lucky to have a second cake at brunch the next day!
We rolled out of the dining room and down a candlelit gravel pathway to the party house, where the DJ awaited us. Lisa and Rikard had their first dance and then the party got started. Lisa changed into a cute second dance friendly outfit and we danced until 1:30am. There was a BBQ
at some point and people went out for a midnight snack of grilled sausages. We headed back to our room close to 2am and vowed to get up early before the brunch to explore the grounds.
Last wedding notes: Lisa made place cards with champagne cork holders (that's a lot of champagne corks to collect. I feel like there's a story there too). The booklets she made with our bios was also filled with fun facts about the menu and the venue which we all sat and read throughout the meal. Before speeches we'd scan the bio and get a little inside scoop. It was fun. I took my cork, my name card, and the booklet home as keepsakes. The favor at the table was a small silk bag filled with a tiny glass bottle that contained "love seeds". The explanation on the card inside the bag was the seeds were a mixture of wild flowers from the archipelago. There was also a shell in the bag from the beaches in the Philippines, collected on another of their many adventures together. The next day
The brunch was at 11 and we were up and out by 8:30.
We were actually dying for some coffee but as I said there was no neighborhood cafe or store to drop by. We were fortunate enough to run into the father of the bride who helped us sneak into the kitchen and score some pre-brunch coffee. It was the cooking staff's coffee but they were nice enough to share.We went back out and took some fun pictures, saw these really interesting horses who appeared to be sleeping standing up (do horses do that?) and then we considered taking a boat out for about 5 seconds before deciding it was a) too cold and b) involved too much effort.
Finally, it was time for the brunch we had smelled hours before. The feast was incredible. A buffet of beautiful salads and meats. It was another spectacular meal and I was lucky enough to sit next to the bride. We finished up brunch and made our way out to the bus for our trip back to Stockholm. We had a fantastic time and I was sad to leave the magical castle. Luckily we had more time in Stockholm and more time with our friends in the coming days.
There are more photos below