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The Swedish way / The bride wore a snorkel

It has its moments...

Shortly after moving to Sweden, I found myself one afternoon soaking away my worries in a hot Jacuzzi in an upscale Stockholm bathhouse called Centralbadet, which was next door to the editorial offices of my newspaper workplace. Imagine my surprise when four young women in bikinis suddenly crowded into the tub with me: one of the bathing beauties was wearing a diving mask, a snorkel and a wedding veil!
Nothing naughty happened in the hot-tub other than bubbles, ribald joking and giggles. But this was one of my first exposures to the remarkable practice of the Swedish mhippa, a series of pre- wedding pranks and adventures secretly organized by the closest female friends of the prospective bride.
The mhippa doesnt have much in common with American wedding showers, which in recent years have evolved into an orgy of gift-giving. In the USA, female friends and family of the bride- hold a succession of showers, in which glassware, champagne bottle holders, cookbooks, kitchen appliances; ceramics, various electronic devices are bestowed upon the bride, all discreetly accompanied by receipts for later exchanges at Pottery Barn stores and other retail outlets.
The Scandinavian counterpart to this phenomenon is very different than the American bridal shower. In Sweden, for example, the mhippa for brides bears some similarity to the Svensexa, for Swedish grooms, which can take the form of a last wild night out with the boys.
The first part of the mhippa or the svensexa is often the kidnapping of the bride/groom-to-be, which usually takes place some weeks before the wedding. The unsuspecting victim thinks they are going to work as usual. Instead, they are ambushed in the morning by a group of merry friends, blindfolded, dressed in some bizarre manner, and bundled off for a day of adventures and mischief. Instead of spending another day at the office, you may find yourself whisked away to an electronic music festival in France, bungy jumping from a cliff, or taking a ride on dog sled.
A Swedish website for brides suggests a whole series of suitable mhippa adventures, including a trip to a go-cart track, paintball arena, or boxing gym, taking a lesson in karate or dancing, taking a parachute dive, waterskiing, horse riding, recording a record, or.as more traditionally, going to a spa or bathhouse.
Pranks or practical jokes are key facet of this pre-wedding ritual for women Sometimes, the bride-to-is asked to perform a series of moderately embarrassing tasks, such as selling a certain number of kisses to strangers. She may be given a box of candies or flowers she has to sell, find a man who will allow himself to be dressed entirely in toilet paper, or take a dive in a Jacuzzi..
The day packed with adventures and practical jokes often ends with a visit to a restaurant, disco, bar or nightclub, where alcohol is consumed by the group of increasingly jolly comrades,
According to wedding website www.brollopstorget.se , the Mhippa tradition goes back to the 1600s, some two hundred years before its male counterpart, the Svensexa was introduced.
In the old days, the mhippa took place the night before the wedding, and involved only women. One common part of the evening was a bath for the bride together with her friends, which was presumably not an everyday experience in the good old days. Nowadays, a trip to the bath house for a facial, massage, swim or soak in the Jaccuzi are still one of the most popular parts of the pre-wedding bash.
The photo I've included is unrelated to my story. It was shot for www.nordicreach.com by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin

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