We like to tout the Norse as paragons of modern marriage values around here. After all, Vikings had very modern, even almostfeminist, sensibilities when it came to marriages and the rights that they brought women. Also, they really liked to drink during their celebrations. Bet you didn’t see that coming. In fact, the phrase used for, ‘to have a wedding,’ (drekka brullaup) literally meant, ‘to drink a wedding.’
But before the wedding part happens, you have to find someone to marry. And when you find that perfect person, you need to plan the perfect proposal to win them over.
Let’s start with a little background.
Historical Norse Marriage
Norse marriage was pretty unique in Europe for its time, because it was suggested (but not always necessary) that the bride consent to both her future husband and their union. Both bride and groom brought a dowry to the wedding– the bride’s was called, ‘heimanfylgja‘ and the groom’s was called, ‘mundr.’ These dowries didn’t go to the families of the betrothed but to the couple themselves. It was sort of a starter kit for the family they were starting. The family would need tools for farming, weapons for protecting their land and raiding, clothes and blankets for their children, and livestock. They were expected to depend on one another in this marriage, and this was their family’s way of assuring the other couple that they could do so.
Viking women also retained their property after divorce. That’s right– they were allowed to divorce their husbands, which is something many modern women aren’t even allotted.
Plan Your Perfect Proposal
Modern couples have no reason to involve their families in their wedding negotiations. And we also tend to marry for love more than for creating a strong household to support our families in times of war. So truly proposing like a historical Viking is kind of out of the question, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take elements of their love and apply it to your own!
First, pick your proposal location. Renaissance faires, LARPing camps, and historical sites are always a great idea. They invoke that feeling of ritual, that people us have walked these steps and gone through these motions with the ones they love. But if those aren’t really your bag, pick somewhere in nature. Of course, the Vikings loved the sea, but they also loved the deep, dark woods, and open fields ripe for sowing. Set the mood for your beloved by picking the one that speaks to you both the most.
Then, pick out the ring. Or a sword. That’s right– some Viking families had a tradition of giving a sword to their intended instead of a ring. That’s way more metal than a ring and we here at AleHorn fully support it.
The Vikings revered the words of their skalds. If there’s a passage of literature that suits your love, feel free to spout it. It’ll be better if it’s memorized. Here are some suggestions from the Eddas:
“It is like a man | whom no one loves,– Why should his life be long?”
“And I said to him that I had made a vow in my turn, that I would never marry a man who knew the meaning of fear.”
And, of course:
Thou should never sleep in the arms of a sorceress, lest she lock thy limbs (113).
Comrades in arms and family were always important to the Vikings, so if you think your intended would be comfortable with that, have them on-hand for an after-proposal celebration. Feasting is always appropriate. Make reservations at a local favorite restaurant– if they have meat and mead, all the better.
And of course, you will need mead and an appropriate vessel to drink it from. There’s a linguistic tradition that the etymology of the word, ‘honeymoon,’ comes from the newly-wedded Norse or Anglo-Saxon couple needing enough mead to last them the first month of their marriage. This is actually not true (it instead comes from the idea that the purely wedded bliss wanes like the moon!) but we here at AleHorn think it should be a thing.
Make sure to get it all on camera. After all, in our digital age, if your proposal pictures aren’t online, are you really even engaged? Just kidding. Send us pictures of your Viking proposals and we might just feature them on our social media!