International wedding story


Weddings seem to be on my mind lately, no doubt due to my new status as a future mother of the bride. Helle-May Cheney, a talented quilt designer who will be featured in a future issue of American Quilter, recently sent me this charming wedding story.

“I am a first-generation Estonian-American with nearly all my family still living in Estonia. After 50 years of Soviet occupation, Estonia regained its independence in 1991, finally allowing me the opportunity to visit and get to know my relatives. This summer our visit had a very special purpose—to attend the wedding of my cousin Liina and her Norwegian fiancé, Harald.
Of course this meant a wedding quilt was in order! I wanted it to reflect both homelands also be a memento of the occasion. For the center, I made a patchwork version of the traditional striped woven wool skirt that my cousin would wear at the wedding. The border reflected the colors of the Estonian flag (blue, black, and white) and the Norwegian flag (blue, red, and white). A blue ribbon weaving through a white chain represented the joining of two cultures, families, and the multitude of friends.
The wedding ceremony took place on a picture-perfect summer day at a church built in 1534. The 100 guests, about half from Norway, were invited to wear the traditional dress of their native country and region, which made for a colorful wedding!
From the church, the guests joined the wedding party in a motorcade to Liina’s mother’s house where both bride and groom had to demonstrate their readiness for married life by chopping wood (groom), darning a sock (bride), and donning a two-person apron to jointly peel a potato! Once the tasks were performed to the satisfaction of the Norwegian and Estonian grandmothers, we were on our way to the reception.

After a champagne toast, I presented my quilt to the couple and invited all guests to sign the quilt in the white chain. As is the custom, Liina changed into her national dress at midnight and was presented with her married woman’s apron and hat by her mother and mother-in-law. The band played on well into the night with a combination of Norwegian and Estonian pop favorites, and all language barriers were broken with dance and laughter.

The wedding was a beautiful merging of cultures, traditions, and ages. I was so happy to have been a part of it all!”

Read more about Helle-May and see her quilt designs at

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Joanne Colleaux, Armstrong, BC

thanks, Christine, for the cross-cultural thread in your postings. I appreciated the Jewish New Year reflection, and now the Eastonian-Norwegian connection is very interesting. Good material to share with us all.