Ice Church in Swedish Lappland offers white winterland wedding

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, AFP's Nina Larson witnesses wedding ceremonies performed in a Swedish winter wonderland.

Ice Church in Swedish Lappland offers white winterland wedding

Shivering more from excitement than cold, a bride clad in white silk and fur all but melts into the snowy background as she and her groom become one of around 150 couples to tie the knot at Sweden’s Ice Church this year.

“It was like a fairytale. A very powerful feeling,” 27-year-old Charlotte Axelsson-Andersson says after the ceremony.

She and her new husband, Daniel Andersson, 32, decided to make the 1,560 kilometre (970 mile) trip from their home town of Oskarshamn in southeastern Sweden to the small Lappland village of Jukkasjärvi because they were seeking “a unique and special place for the wedding,” Charlotte explains.

“We looked into a number of different options, like going to the West Indies, but there are beaches in lots of different places. Then we got to thinking about the Ice Church and it just felt more unique and different,” she says.

The chapel, a small dome made entirely of hard-packed snow and crystal-clear blocks and sculpted pieces of ice, sits next to Sweden’s famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, some 145 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle.

Each year, between 140 and 150 couples from as far away as Japan and Singapore are drawn to the icy uniqueness of the Jukkasjärvi church for their wedding, according to local wedding coordinator Eva Lundquist.

“I think it’s becoming more and more popular with winter weddings because of the pure whiteness of it,” she says, adding that about half of all couples who tie the knot here are Swedish, while some 90 percent of foreign newlyweds come from Britain.

The Ice Church and neighbouring Ice Hotel, where guests can choose to sleep in simple rooms with just a bed sculpted out of ice or in suites where ice-sculpted beds, chairs and decorations are created by a variety of different artists, has had a very successful marketing campaign in Britain, Lundquist explains.

Charlotte and Daniel spent one night at the frosted hotel before their wedding.

“That was a cold experience,” Charlotte says.

“Outside it was minus 17 (degrees Celsius, or 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and inside minus five. You really had to lie deep inside your sleeping bag and you really didn’t want to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.”

The chapel too is constructed anew each December by different artists, using ice from a next-door ice factory to create a frozen house of God that lasts for four to five months depending on the weather before it is left to melt away to nothingness.

This year, Dutch artists Marjolein Vonk and Cindy Berg have created the dome.

Its doors — two large slabs of translucent ice covered with reindeer skins and with reindeer antlers for door handles — open to disclose an enchanted forest of sculpted snow branches bathed in an eerie blue light.

The branches, or perhaps the antlers of dozens of reindeer, suddenly part to reveal a pulpit, baptismal font and even suspended candle holders all sculpted out of clear, blue-tinted ice.

At Charlotte and Daniel’s wedding in January, 32 guests filled the pews, made of solid blocks of ice covered with reindeer skins as temperatures inside dipped to minus five degrees Celsius.

“We weren’t all that cold actually. I guess we were too excited,” Charlotte says, pointing out that she wore knit wool stockings and ski socks under her silk Mignon gown for the 25-minute ceremony.

While setting up travel and sleeping arrangements so far from home for all the guests was a challenge, Charlotte says “the most difficult thing to plan for was the clothing.”

“I had a lot of trouble finding the fake fur to go with my dress, and deciding on shoes was really difficult … There are not that many warm white boots that go with a wedding dress,” she says.

“And we had no idea how cold it would be. It wasn’t that cold for our ceremony, but it could easily have been minus 30 (degrees Celsius) if we had been unlucky. The problem was not knowing,” she adds.

AFP/Nina Larson


Top ten expat complaints to their Swedish partners

From ketchup to driving skills, when The Local once asked what expats complain about most to their Swedish partners, the responses were mixed.

Top ten expat complaints to their Swedish partners
Why do you love your tech gadgets more than me? Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

1. Ketchup on… well, everything!

Swedes have an obsession with ketchup. They dollop it all over their pasta, their lasagne, their mashed potatoes – you name it. And it's not just a little splodge either, this is a true dousing. Strange, right? I mean, Swedes wouldn't put jam on their meatballs, would they? Oh that's right, they do.

Ketchup line up. Photo: Don Ryan/TT

2. Texting while driving down Vasagatan? No problem.

It's nothing strange to see a Swede talking, or even texting on their phone, while driving. And do you know why? Because for years it was pretty much perfectly legal, although this is beginning to change

Just watch out for red lights! Photo: LM Otero/TT

3. Passive aggressive notes

Swedes tend to avoid conflict, but only of the verbal kind. If you've left a little bit of lint in the laundry room's dryer, or if you've left a mug in the office sink, then you'd better be prepared to face a passive aggressive note the next day. In the picture below a Swede is complaining in very colourful language about garbage disposal etiquette.

'Keep your sh*t in your own apartment!' Photo: Petter Palander/Flickr

4. Too much coffee and no decaf!

The biggest problem is the lack of decaf, some Twitter users suggested when we once asked what rubbed people the wrong way about their Swedish partners the most. In a country where coffee is (probably) consumed more than water, you're in the minority if you prefer yours without caffeine. And if you don't like coffee, then you'd better rectify that immediately. It's easier than saying “No thank you, I don’t drink coffee” and then explaining yourself 14 times a day.

Mmmm… fika time… Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

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5. Tradition over spontaneity, no exceptions!

“You'll be here next Christmas, too, right?” your Swedish mother-in-law will ask as the last present is unwrapped on Christmas Eve (yes, presents are unwrapped on the 24th). Tradition triumphs and spontaneity is dead, that's the fact in Sweden. Expect raised eyebrows if you don't commit early to birthday celebrations, Easter, crayfish parties, and of course, Christmas. You will be there, and you will enjoy it. And we dare you to try to plan a weekend away with friends instead!

A silly Christmas Chihuahua. This is not a Swedish tradition, we just liked the picture. Photo: Mary Altaffer/TT

6. Laundry comes first…

Swedes will sometimes use their laundry time as an excuse. “I'd love to come out with you tonight, but I have a laundry time reserved – I really can't miss it.” In Stockholm, at least, most people live in apartment blocks with a communal laundry in the cellar. Reserving a good laundry time (like a Sunday morning or Tuesday after work) can be treated as the holy grail of weekly achievements.

No time like laundry time! Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

7. ‘Did you really pass your driving test?’

Nescience of road rules is one of the complaints we heard the most. More specifically, people we asked were peeved at the lack of indication when turning corners or using roundabouts. Others moaned that Swedes don't know how manage traffic flows on motorways. One even said Swedes drive just like a Volvo, which, upon checking the online urban dictionary, apparently means the driver is, in short, conservative and ‘boring’. 

No Volvos in this picture! Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

8. “Let me drink!”

A complaint we heard a few times was that Swedes often turn a disapproving eye when it comes to having a casual drink on a school night. “You're having a glass of wine? On a Tuesday?!” This could have something to do with the fact that alcohol is hard to come by in Sweden, as it is only sold in the monopoly chain Systembolaget at certain times of the day, and drinking is an exclusive weekend activity.

How is he holding that wine glass? Photo: Gorm Kallestad/TT

9. Too much snus

A quick explanation of snus in case you're unaware: snus is a moist snuff packet (imagine a tobacco teabag the size of a piece of chewing gum) that you wedge between your lip and teeth. Well, maybe you don't, but the Swedes do. A lot. If you think a snus packet sounds familiar, it's probably because you've seen one dangling from a Swede's upper lip mid-conversation, or perhaps you've seen a used one in the gutter or in the toilet, spat out and forgotten.

The snus-ing shadow… Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

10. “I can't find a Swede to date… and then complain about…”

Yes, complaints about Swedes aren't just for those dating them, but for those still looking. And meeting new people might be hard, especially if you refuse to use popular dating apps such as Tinder. Then you just have to rely on a classic ‘Hollywood-romance’ meeting, which isn't necessarily easy in a country not exactly known for its open and sociable citizens. Good luck!

READ ALSO: How to never be single again in Sweden

Romance in the moonlight. Photo: Charlie Riedel/TT

This article was first published in 2013 in our old gallery format and was revamped in 2017.