And so, here we are in the first sub-post in the series of Norwegian wedding planning posts.

Booking the church was absolutely the easiest part of getting married in Norway, short of saying “Yes” to my beloved husband.

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Slagen Kirke in the Tønsberg Kommune

However, not all churches are so easy. Norway is officially Christian and manages its churches through the State. The Kirken.no site umbrella houses the congregational sites for each of Norway’s official congregations, and on that master site the churches have their own web pages that they build and maintain. We got married in Slagen Kirke in Tønsberg, and the city’s Kirken.no site has a lovely button that says “Velg Dato og Kirke” — “Choose Date and Church” — which you simply click on and walk through a series of registration steps. Tønsberg is a pretty big city, as Norwegian cities go, but church websites for smaller communities require a telephone call or (if things are really advanced) an email, and some waiting.

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Walking down the aisle!

We picked our date, the time we wanted, click, click, click. And the bill? A mere 5000KR (about $625) for any Tønsberg church and the church servant — what my mom would call a “Church Lady” or church coordinator in the US wedding planning business. At a popular (and intensely lovely) Dallas church where my grandfather was married c. 2006, the fee for the 180-seat chapel is $2100 for non-members, $1300 for members (for comparison, Slagen Kirke seats 500). Additionally, the waiting list is long for any popular US church. I’ve heard of churches booked a year or more in advance — that is, no openings whatsoever. In Norway, we were able to secure a date a mere three months in advance, then change our minds, then change the time with no impediment whatsoever.

One really beautiful thing about many Norwegian churches is that they are really old, but have been refitted with modern conveniences like bathrooms and central heat. Slagen Kirke, where we were married, was built in 1901. Another church we looked at, Sem Church, was built in 1100 and restored periodically through the 17th, 18th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Everywhere you go here, history basically grows out of the ground. On our drive around Tønsberg prior to the ceremony, my husband’s dad showed us a king’s burial mound from c. 800. There it was, just sitting in the middle of a neighborhood. Incredible.

What has your experience been with booking churches, in Norway or elsewhere?

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