ARHUS, Denmark -- After five hours of nonstop speeches, raucous song, and more rounds of wine and other drink than I could count, the call went out to every man still able to stand in the castle's centuries-old ballroom. Hoisting the groom mosh pit-style above our shoulders, we plucked off his black shoes, put scissors to the ends of his outstretched socks, and unceremoniously snipped them off. Cries of "Skal! Skal!" echoed through the hall as the groom wiggled his naked toes and wild dancing commenced. The Danish, so I learned, take their wedding traditions seriously, even the goofy ones.
We all know the Danes can make pastry. But believe me, they can also throw a party the likes of which you have never seen. Though the bride walked down the aisle at 3 p.m., I didn't stumble back to my room until sunrise the next morning. The setting for my friends' wedding, meanwhile, was straight out of a fairy tale, with a simple service in a lakeside chapel followed by a night of revelry in a 16th-century castle nestled among the rye fields of the Danish countryside. Cross your fingers you and hope you get invited to one of these shindigs some day.
The bride, Victoria Marcinkowski, a former professional dancer turned journalist, is a native of Arhus, Denmark's second-largest city. The groom, a blond-haired Bentley College graduate named Brian Woodward, hails from Colorado.
I got to know them in graduate school and last fall they asked me to be in their wedding party. I soon learned, though, that Danish weddings do not normally have groomsmen or bridesmaids. We were there at Brian's request.
The couple also asked me to give a speech, an honor I gladly accepted. More than a dozen people speak at Danish weddings, so many that a "toastmaster" is appointed to schedule speeches.
The ceremony was in Danish, with the minister repeating the sermon in English for the benefit of the 25 or so Americans who had made the 2,000-mile journey. We threw rice at the newlyweds as they emerged from the church and hopped into their funky wedding car: a 1969 white Cadillac convertible with tiny US and Danish flags flying diplomat-style from the front fenders. The car was the last vestige of Yankee influence at the wedding.
Though everyone spoke English for the Americans' benefit for the remainder of the night, the reception was traditional in every other way.
The bride and groom strolled into the main dining hall of the Rosenholm Castle to a standing ovation. Thanking their guests, who had traveled from as far as California and Poland, they took a seat at the head table.
Within moments, Victoria's side of the family began stomping their feet, an order for the couple to crawl under the table and kiss. Such playfulness was repeated several times throughout the evening.
We dined on venison and fish for nearly five hours before dessert was served, allowing plenty of time for speech and song. Most of the testimonials were fairly hilarious, including a slide show of the bride as a child, to a rendition of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" with verses penned by the two toastmistresses, Victoria's best friends, Lotte Vittinghus and Marie Jacobsen. My speech, which came later, was a well-received spoof on what a Denver Broncos fan and a Danish beauty could possibly have in common. The answer, of course, was love. More goofy traditions followed, including one I called the bathroom kissoff, a cute little ritual in which men in the room form a conga line to kiss the bride whenever the groom steps out to use the facilities. When the bride leaves the room, the women in the house return the favor.
At some point in the night we hoisted Brian onto our shoulders. By snipping his socks, according to folklore, the bride would be able to tell if her new husband's toes were dirty, a sure sign that he had been tiptoeing across the rye fields at night to another woman's abode.
Other moments, of course, were more poignant. The bride brought tears to people's eyes as she sang "Sail Away With Me" to her groom, who was so overcome he could not speak.
At 11:55 p.m. or so, the bride's father, Karl, pushed the couple to the dance floor, nervously aware of a Danish tradition that ensures a happy marriage only if the first waltz is held before midnight. More dancing and drinking followed, with the "early birds" catching the 2 a.m. chartered bus back to Arhus. I rode back in the 4 a.m. last-call wagon, capping the morning by closing out a bar after dawn with one last toast for the happy but tired couple, who by then had left us and were probably fast asleep.
Peter DeMarco is a freelance writer living in Somerville.