My barbarian-to-be is a wedding officiant. We are both mead brewers. Several times, we’ve had couples he’s marrying ask us to supply mead for their wedding, or after seeing the first season of American Gods or reading Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, asked him to write and perform a mead ceremony, similar to the one Odin and Shadow partake in in the aforementioned TV show.

We did some researching because we wanted to get it right, then we modernized it a bit to help our [spoiler alert] animal-loving friends. Check it out:

The Origins
As with many things that ad to do with Viking culture, it’s hard to know what all happened at Viking weddings. One reason is because the only written records we have of the Vikings are the Eddas. Which are, admittedly, very good sources. But also, the only weddings in them are very notable weddings, not those between everyday folk. For another, the Vikings encompassed a lot of different cultures and places all around Northern Europe. Each culture left its own marks. For some, it was including games at the wedding, like a footrace between the bride and grooms’ parties– whoever won had to serve mead all night to the others.

For another, in many Viking cultures, an animal had to be sacrificed to the god or goddess who was supposedly overseeing the wedding. For example, if that god was Thor, a goat would need to be sacrificed. If it was Freyja, it was a sow.

The blood of this animal is then placed in a bowl and fir branches are used to flick blood at the betrothed couple, granting them the god or goddess’ blessings. Needless to say, white was not a popular wedding dress color for Viking brides.

Weddings were also commonly far more about property than about love. The wish was that the couples would grow to love one another. And women were allowed to object to their chosen partners– which is a lot more than many women around the world today even get.

The Modern Mead Ceremony
We decided to take more inspiration from the ceremony in American Gods, as this wedded couple were big fans of the book. Here’s how it shook out:

[Nine shot glasses of mead lined out on a small table between the couple ]

Before us, we have this. Mead. Honey wine. The drink of heroes. The drink of the gods. Ancient and venerable, it is believed by some to be the oldest alcohol in the world, with signs of it pointing back nearly ten thousand years ago. It is a drink steeped in history, from ancient China to the pages of the Epic of Beowulf. In Norse tradition, mead brewed from the blood of the man Kvasir was said to turn those that imbibed it into scholars or poets, tapping into the vast well of knowledge held by Odin himself. Here, today, we use this mead in the style of a world long gone.

Drink with me, to the dawn of your marriage.

[Officiant, bride and groom drink together]

Drink with me, and seal the pact of your marriage.

[Officiant, bride and groom drink together]

Drink with me, for the third time’s the charm.

[Officiant, bride and groom drink together the final shots]

Looking back on it, the only thing I think we would do differently next time is give the bride and groom their own engraved alehorn, or a quaich.

Have you done a mead ceremony for your wedding? What about other Viking inspiration? We’d love to hear about it! Send it to our social media accounts for a chance to be featured.