Sweden Engagement and Marriage Records

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In pre-1800 Sweden, the state of marriage was considered a “legally-binding” relationship between husband and wife. The legal nature of the marriage relationship required that an engagement or “promise” be made by the “intended” prior to marriage. Thus, the engagement formality was a legally binding statement in which the bride and groom publicly declared that he/she would continue in “good faith” through the conclusion of the engagement and then into marriage.

A ”promised” couple went to the minister and informed him that they wished to be married. The minister then filled out an intention of marriage (marriage bann) . The couple next went through a three-week sequence of “reading of the banns”. At the conclusion of his sermon each Sunday during the three-week period, the minister read aloud the marriage bann of each “promised” couple and asked the congregation if anyone objected to the marriage going forward. After the conclusion of the readings of the banns, if no one had objected to the couple’s forthcoming marriage, the couple was then granted permission by the minister to be married. Marriages customarily took place in the parish of the bride, but could also take place at the bride’s home. The bride and groom were each required to bring a witness with them to the formal signing of the engagement contract and the witnesses’ names were recorded in the document. The bride often brought her father or an elder brother to the engagement, not only to act as her witness, but also to give his permission to marry. A reminder to the reader, that the Swedish society in the years before 1900 was patriarchal and a female could only enter into legal agreements with prior consent granted from the male legally responsible for her.

In a Swedish Church Record of marriage you can expect to find:

  • The name of the bride and groom
  • The date and place of marriage
  • The residence(s) of the bride and groom
  • If the marriage is a first marriage or a subsequent marriage
  • The names of the witnesses to the engagement
  • In case of a widow, if a probate was made after the former spouse

When working with Swedish Church Records of marriage


• Marriages usually took place in the parish of the bride

• Marriage banns were read each Sunday for three weeks prior to marriage

• The terms “ungkarl” and “pigan” indicate a first marriage
• The terms “enkemand”, “enkan”, and sometimes "hustru" indicate a previous marriage
• After the reading of the third bann, the “promised” couple was considered to be man and wife