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Stockholm braces for drop-in wedding deluge

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Stockholm braces for drop-in wedding deluge
10:35 CEST+02:00
Las Vegas it isn't, and chances are Elvis won't be anywhere in sight, but this weekend's mass 'drop-in' wedding at Stockholm's Skansen wildlife park is expected to draw hundreds ready to say "I do", The Local's Geoff Mortimore discovers.

Statistics show that over the past three years, more people than ever in Sweden have turned their backs on traditional religious wedding ceremonies in a church, opting instead for civil services.

With this in mind, coupled with the fact that one often has to book months in advance for a ceremony at the popular and stately Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset), the management at Skansen saw an opportunity to offer a unique twist on the "drop-in" wedding concept.

"We were expecting about 50 couples last year,” recalls Tasso Stafilidis, one of the wedding officiants.

"In the end we had over 300, it was chaotic but the response was fanastic”.

Inspired by last year's success, officials at Skansen have decided once again to provide couples looking for a unique wedding experience.

Stafilidis believes the venue itself is a major draw, especially for those coming to Stockholm from other parts of the country.

"We soon realised that there was a demand for this kind of event and it proved to really popular. Holding it at Skansen is important, because it means a lot to people, not only as a culturally historic landmark, but also because it is such a popular place," he explains.

Convenience is a major factor alongside the obvious novelty value.

For Stafilidis though, the most striking aspect of last year's cermeony was its diversity.

"Last year I carried out 65 services. Many of them were couples who had been living together for 20, 30 years who took the chance to make their relationship official. But we also we had young couples, different ethnic groups, different nationalities, same sex, mixed race, every possible combination really,” he recalls.

The convenience aspect is key for Emma Shanti and her husband-to-be, Hasse.

The pair from Gothenburg in western Sweden will be among the many exchanging vows on Saturday.

"We were not really into the idea of a traditional service, so we were looking for an alternative. When we heard about the drop-in ceremony it just seemed to be a fun thing to do. We just wanted to keep things simple,” says Hasse.

For anyone thinking about tying the knot, it's not too late. Just pop over to Skansen on Saturday with an ID in hand, as well as 500 kronor ($80).

Of course, one should also bring plenty of patience as well, if last year's experience is anything to go by.

Proceedings begin at 10am on Saturday morning and each service takes about ten minutes.

Officials promise that everyone who is there before 3pm can leave as a married couple.

To avoid the kind of logistical difficulties of last year, when queues snaked around the block and couples were left waiting several hours, organisers have worked hard to improve the procedure this year, including the introduction of a simplified queueing system.

For those really acting on a spur of the moment whim, everyone and everything you could possibly need will be in place.

Skansen provides both religious and civic officials, musicians, witnesses, photographers food, and, if you're getting pre-wedding jitters, or want somewhere to celebrate afterwards, the champagne bar is handily located close by.

"The beauty of it is that it can be really personal, couples appreciate the ease of it and the fact that they are not bound by the obligations and traditions that can sometimes dominate these occasions” says Stafilidis.

If you do decide to take the plunge, best of luck…and there may be just enough time to dash down to the dry cleaners with that Rhinestone one-piece you've been saving for a special occasion!

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