Finland potluck wedding
Photos by Laura Böök

Offbeat partners: Nino & Maiju

Date and location: Pohjolan Pirtti, Lammassaari, Helsinki, Finland (8/21/2021)

Our colorful queer DIY handfasting &potluck wedding celebration at a glance:

We had a fall wedding with an outdoor ceremony. We were legally married in a magistrate's office before the wedding, but we still wanted to have a ceremony in front of the guests, so we hired a friend who's a singer and actor to sing and perform the ceremony.

I wrote the script based on a few different handfasting ceremonies found online. In Finland we don't have a custom of writing wedding vows; both the civil ceremony and church ceremony have their own course and basically you're just required to say “I do,” but we wanted a bit more than that (so we said it three times).

The guests were asked to participate in form of a potluck wedding – I provided the recipes and a friend helped by organizing who brought what.

The whole wedding was very much DIY, luckily we had lots of friends to help us.

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I made our clothes and Maiju, who is a scenographer and works in theatre productions, was in charge of designing the space and decorations. Our wedding outfits were in folk dress style, I wore a kilt I and Maiju wore a super puffy and frilly skirt I made for her back when we just started dating, out of lots of vintage slip dresses she had.

We had fairy lights, party flags that had been used in a play she did the stage design for in the Finnish National Theatre, and rowan branches, rosehips and acorns that we gathered.

Our dresscode was “comfortable and festive.” Lots of our friends are LGBTQ+ (as are we), so we didn't want a formal dress code. And it wouldn't have been our style anyway!

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Tell us about the handfasting ceremony:

We had a friend perform a song as an opening for the ceremony and as a cue for us to walk down the path to where people were waiting. We had a handfasting ceremony with a few key elements; blessing of the hands, a script with three questions, and literally tying a knot to the handfasting cord. The opening song was the tune of Greensleeves with Finnish words. I'll do my best to translate our ceremony script here:

(I'll use P as an initial for the friend who performed the wedding and M and N for Maiju and myself, respectively)

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P: Maiju and Nino, take each others' hands.
(we take each others' hands, left to left, right to right, P holds their hand on top of our hands)

P: These are the hands that will love you and caress you,
these are the hands that will comfort you and wipe your tears,
these are the hands that will care for you and support you.
These are the hands that will build your life together,
and these are the hands that you will hold when you have grown old and this day is but a memory.
yet your love prevails.
(we let the left hands go, P places the cord on top of our right hands)

P: Maiju, are you here of your free will, to form a union with Nino?
M: I am.
P: Do you want to take him as your spouse, to love and respect him, and keep him closest to your heart?
M: I do.
P: Do you promise to do your best for him and your shared home and to trust that he will do his best for you and your shared home?
M: I promise.
(P wraps the cord around our hands)

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P: Nino, are you here of your free will, to form a union with Maiju?
N: I am.
P: Do you want to take her as your spouse, to love and respect her, and keep her closest to your heart?
N: I do.
P: Do you promise to do your best for her and your shared home and to trust that she will do her best for you and your shared home?
N: I promise.
(P wraps the other end of the cord around our hands)

P: Then I ask you to tie a knot to mark your agreement.
(we grab the ends of the cord and pull them through, forming a knot)

P: You are partners, lovers and spouses. You may kiss!

After our kiss we were showered with confetti made from dried flowers and leaves (also I accidentally nearly inhaled some but apparently people didn't notice my coughing :D) while we walked towards the entrance of our venue (the ceremony was held in the front yard). We stood there welcoming people in and receiving their hugs and congratulations before moving inside.

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Tell us about the potluck wedding reception:

We were very adamant that we didn't want to have any party games or embarrassing and sexist traditions, so we simply went inside and cut the cake and invited everyone to eat and drink and socialize. There were some speeches and a few friends performed (there were more than a couple of singers). We had a guest book, an Instax camera, and some paper slips on which people were asked to write something they wish to do together with us in the future.

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The venue was on an island, about one mile walk on duckboards. The name of the island is Lammassaari, Sheep Island, and there actually are sheep, though not on that island but the one next to it. There was no running water and electricity was provided by an aggregate generator (Finnish people have a custom of spending their summer vacation in cabins on remote areas with no modern conveniences, so our guests got the summer cabin experience). The generator was switched off around 1 am, so we stayed there to watch the lights go out and then went to sleep. A few friends stayed the night and helped us clean the next day, and we also went to sauna and swam in the sea.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?

Plan before you do anything, and triple the money! We had lots of things to DIY, including our outfits (I sewed my kilt and my shirt and altered a second-hand suit jacket and a waistcoat, I made a vest, a shirt, and a tulle petticoat for Maiju and knitted knee-high socks for us both). I am normally in the habit of starting everything the night before, but the wedding preparations taught me some project management and scheduling; I started to make the first things more than a year before and I didn't need to panic.

Our original budget was around 2000 EUR (1 EUR being around $1.1 at the time) which was of course ridiculously optimistic. My parents paid for the venue but we still ended up with the total nearing 4000 EUR. All kinds of small things add up pretty soon, and there's always something you haven't taken into consideration.

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