Lena Fleischmann at the Swedish Church in New York City has been to more weddings than she can count. And oftentimes she isn’t even invited! No, she's not the pastor—she is the church administrator, and when couples get married, they sometimes call on her as a witness.
“We have about 125 to 130 weddings here a year; it means around three or four a week,” says Fleischmann. “When we released our schedule, which we did in September, we booked 22 weddings in 90 minutes!”
People of all ages and from all walks of life get married at the Swedish Church in New York, and May is the most popular month to have a wedding.
“If you travel from Sweden,” Fleischmann continues, “you can choose to get married on either a Wednesday or a Thursday, but Swedes living in New York also have the option to have a Saturday wedding. We who live here know how difficult it is to get time off mid-week, even for a wedding.”
Fleischmann herself did not get married at the Swedish Church, she got married in Dals-Ed, Dalsland where she is originally from.
“I came to the U.S. 33 years ago, as an au-pair,” she says. “My grandmother’s sister had lived here for many years, and I thought it was so exciting when she said Swenglish things like: ‘Nu ska jag baka blueberry muffins.’”
Lena was here for two years and met her husband-to-be, but still she went back to Sweden when her job ended.
“I though it was time for me to go back and, you know, to become a Swede again. But when I got there, I realized that nothing had changed in the two years I had been gone!”
Life in New York was definitely more exciting than life in Dals-Ed ... and so Lena returned and married her American boyfriend. They remain married and have two grown daughters—Olivia, a financial analyst and Sofia, a nurse. Fleischmann’s been working at the Swedish Church for more than 20 years, first as a leader of the popular children’s groups (she is a nursery school teacher), then soon she switched to becoming the church’s reliable administrator.
“Jan Madestam, who was the pastor then, asked me if I knew somebody who could work as an administrator, then he looked at me and said, ‘It’s you who should do that!’”
Needless to say, Fleischmann likes her job a lot, though she says working with numbers doesn’t come naturally to her.
“But there’s more to the job than that of course. It’s a job with a great deal of breadth and I represent the continuity here. Throughout the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of people, and when they leave I keep in touch with them, and often see them on my visits to Sweden, every other year.”
Fleischmann’s job is social in nature, which suits her well, but she points out it’s not your normal 9-5 office.
“You become a part of the church when you work here. I sometimes have to tell myself ‘It’s just a job,’ but the fact is it’s a bit unusual. You take part in the most joyful and most tragic of events in a person’s life. Sure, we sell cinnamon buns here, but the most important thing we do is soul care, mixed, of course, with faith, and a whole lot of tradition.”

Your wedding in the Big Apple
If you want to get married at the Swedish Church in New York City, there are a few guidelines to follow. If you live in Sweden, your best bet is to first check the times available for weddings before you book your transatlantic flight. Call the church.
The fee for a wedding, a blessing or a renewal of vows, is $600 as of January 1, 2011. There are no weddings in conjunction with Lucia, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. In addition to the fee, you’ll make the church happy if you bring some Swedish coffee and Gott & Blandat candy from Sweden as a gift.
“These are items that we aren’t allowed to import, so we are very happy when guests bring them,” says Fleischmann.
After the wedding, the church offers coffee and cake for the couple and two witnesses. If you have a bigger party, you pay $5 per person for coffee and cake.
Before you leave Sweden, you need the following documents from the Swedish Tax Agency: “hindersprövning” and “vigselintyg.” You also need a “vigselblankett” from your parish in Sweden. Contact Pastorsexpeditionen and let them know you’re getting married, and make sure to bring to New York the form they give you. One of the partners getting married must be a member of the Swedish Church in order for the wedding to take place.
Once in New York, you must also get a marriage license. Go to the City Clerk, 141 Worth Street (open 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.). A wedding can take place only 24 hours after a marriage license has been issued, so don’t go any later than the day before your wedding. It’s best to go early in the morning to avoid long lines. Bring your passport and a credit card. A marriage license costs $35. You can also fill out the form online, at http://www.cityclerk.nyc.gov/html/about/office.shtml
The wedding will be valid according to the Swedish Church and also according to American laws. Same-sex marriages can’t take place at the Swedish Church in New York City because of American laws.
For more information:
Phone: (212) 832-8443

New pastor to New York
Mona Svensson will be the senior pastor at the Swedish Church in New York as of February 1, 2011. "I was born in Limhamn outside Malmö and had just turned 23 when I was ordained," writes Svensson from Sweden. "During my first two years as a pastor, I was stationed in Ystad; my second job was in Malmö's St. Pauli Parish, where I remained for 15 years! I've been a family pastor, a school pastor, a district pastor and also, the last years, a hospital pastor. I helped found the hospice operation at Värnhem's Hospital in Malmö. I've also worked in San Agustin on Gran Canaria—I was there for over 8 years. At the moment I'm working at Åkersberga Stiftgård." Assisting pastor will be Stellan Ponnert, ordained in 2007 and currently working at Maria Parish in Helsingborg.