Toasts, Tears & Traditions

A Swedish Heritage. A Southern Embrace.

JULIE AND HENRIK NORLANDER have been married less than four months, but the petite native Augustan and the Swedish professional golfer seem to have already found their swing as a force of one. 

The newlyweds, sitting in their comfortable and elegantly modern West Augusta home, recount their history as a couple. As they tell their story, which has just begun, the pair displays an instinctive sense of where each one leaves off and the other comes in. They know, for instance, that when tales of the Norlander couple are chronicled in the years to come, it will likely be Henrik who is the keeper of the intricate points of their life, like dates.

The 20-somethings admittedly agree that Julie is not the one to ask about specific details, including which year they met. Julie says the two met during Masters week while out with
the college-aged crowd that returns to Augusta every April like the swallows to Capistrano. 

“That was 2010? Or nine?”  

Julie wonders aloud, her voice rises as it trails and she glances toward her husband. Her question is implied. He answers without hesitation.

brides 3


She persists. 

“Was it 2010? I graduated in 2010.”

“Yes, “ Henrik says. “It was just before you graduated.”

The exchange is unremarkable except that is provides a revelatory glimpse of an intimate emotional dance between the two, where they move and speak in a rhythm only they can follow. υ

WHEN THE TOURNAMENT ended after their initial meeting, the two went their separate ways. Julie returned to Georgia Southern to graduate. Henrik, a junior at then Augusta State University, would soon win his first NCAA Division I National Championship with the men’s golf team.

It wasn’t until May 2011, after Henrik graduated from ASU, that Julie invited him to a baseball game with friends. Soon thereafter, the couple had their first official date, auspicious for its timing. It was the night before Henrik left for Oklahoma with the ASU men’s golf team, where they would vie for the NCAA Division I regional championship, a title they would win, followed by a history-making second consecutive national championship.υ

HENRIK, working to earn a spot on the PGA tour, left for New York, then Sweden, playing on the European Challenge Tour. Living in different countries, on separate continents and negotiating a six-hour time difference did not deter the couple from pursuing their relationship. Every day for almost three months, they met online for two-hour long skype chats.

brides 4

…It is the blend of Swedish customs mingled with  Southern traditions that colored their day amd marked it as uniquely theirs. 

 When Henrik returned to Augusta for the championship ring ceremony, the two dated “intensely” during
his five weeks in the U.S. before he
returned to Sweden. The rest, as they say, is now part of the Norlander couple’s history. 

On December 14, 2013, Henrik proposed to Julie at the Dallas, Texas, home of his close friend and former ASU golf coach Josh Gregory. Once she recovered from her shock, Julie quickly said yes.  

“Then it was tears and tears and tears and tears,” she says. Back home in Sweden, the engagement announcement was in the newspaper the next day and the two turned their attention to their wedding.

Living in different countries, on separate continents, and negotiating a six-hour time difference, did not deter the couple from pursuing their relationship.  

The first priority was to choose a date that would accommodate Henrik’s golf schedule. They decided on October, reasoning the time of year in the South usually affords moderate temperatures. Both desired to make their wedding an intimate celebration with closest family and friends, rejoicing in what brought them together and reminiscing over their separate and merged pasts. But it was the blend of Swedish customs
mingled with Southern traditions that colored their day and marked it as uniquely theirs. υ

The mid-October day, usually a guarantee against oppressive heat, sweltered unseasonably in the 90s. This too becomes part of the story, now described with an incredulous laugh by the couple. The beauty and emotions of the day swirled together through afternoon nuptials at Saint Mary on the Hill Catholic Church, carried along by mellifluous sacred sounds, fragrant bursts of floral color, warm hugs, smiles, tears and even a single look of reprimand when the bride and groom giggled during a private moment in church.

After the ceremony, the luxurious atmosphere for the seated gourmet dinner set on tables covered in latte-colored linens at Champions Retreat Golf Club set the stage for honoring Henrik’s heritage and his country’s wedding customs. Gold-trimmed menu cards doubled as place cards with individual guests’ names printed atop. Cards were tucked gently into linen napkins and placed according to the seating arrangement. 

In anticipation of a brisk fall night, pashminas for the women were draped on the fruitwood Chiavari chairs that encircled the dinner tables, but the shawls rested unused on the atypically sultry October evening. 

brides 2A floral circle of beige, blush and peach roses entwined with white snowberries and passion vine hung over an immovable water feature at the center of the tented dining area, thereby offering a burst of beauty in the heart of the room.

There on the dance floor,  two cultures met and mixed…
they danced to commemorate the success of the day…

One of the two most intriguing practices at Swedish weddings is to seat couples separately. This is done, Henrik says, to ensure people engage with others outside of the person with whom they attended. It requires a keen eye and knowledgeable care when arranging where each guest is seated. υ

“I probably spent at least 15 hours planning the seating,” says Henrik. Sometimes after Julie’s input, Henrik changed the arrangement. Julie remained apprehensive up until the dinner began, but given the exhuberance of their guests that evening both deem it an overwhelming success. 

The second tradition, hosted by a toastmaster and toastmistress, allows for guests to offer a toast to the newly married couple. All would-be speechgivers had to inform the Henriks’ friend who served as toastmaster no later than several days before the wedding and had to adhere to their designated amount of time and content. Stories, funny and sentimental, had to pertain to the couple. The toasts and dinner lasted five hours. υ

THE pace of the evening was lively and the toastmaster, a childhood friend of Henrik’s, entertained guests between speeches with silly trivia questions about the bride and groom. Before they spoke, each of Henrik’s friends had to list the three things they thought he would take to a desert island. Their responses varied, but in every case the last item was always “his seven iron.” 

The formal dinner wound down at a time when most Southern weddings end and guests say farewell, all the sentimental and witty toasts had been given, the tears shed and the laughter stilled. But there was one more festive element to this day. It was neither Swedish nor especially Southern in style, but family and friends, whether they came from down the road or across the Atlantic Ocean, merged in the pavilion, which had been transformed into an upscale black-and-white dance club, replete with white leather sofas. 

There on the dance floor, two cultures met and mixed again with joyful release, the anxious minutes of the day forgotten and the expectant hopes exceeded. And they danced to commemorate the success of the day, where two families came together to honor the joining of two lives and two well-loved people who now dance to a rhythm all their own. 

This article appears in the February/March 2015 issue of Augusta Magazine. 

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