Carry Me, Baby – The Wife-Carrying Championships in Finland

Just when I think I have heard about all of the strange festivals in the world, I discover something more bizarre than I could imagine. On the first Saturday in July in the Market Square in Sonkajärvi, Finland the Wife-Carrying Festival is held, a bizarre custom that dates back to the days when men would pillage the neighbouring villages for womenfolk. The good news is that in the modern version of the contest all female participation is entirely consensual!

A husband and wife team can enter the Wife-Carrying World Championships and he will need to carry his wife on his shoulders for the entirety of the race. There are several accepted methods of carrying, including fireman’s carry, piggyback or with the wife hanging upside down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders – known as “Estonian Style”. Choosing the Estonian Style carry means that during the water section of the course there is a good chance that the wife’s head will go underwater!

Wife-carrying World Championships
US Airforce Wife Carrying Teams: Photo Wikipedia

The Competition

The wife must be at least 17 years of age and she must weigh a minimum of 49 kg. If she weighs less than 49kg she must wear a rucksack with weights in it so that the total load will be at least 49kg. The wife also wears a helmet to protect herself and if the husband drops the wife, the team will receive a 15 second fine.

The course is very difficult and requires a high level of physical fitness to complete. The official track is 253.5 meters long and it has two dry obstacles as well as a water obstacle around one meter deep. The winner is the couple who completes the course in the shortest time, but there are also prizes for the best costume, the most entertaining couple and the strongest carrier.

You might think that it is an advantage to have a petite wife in this competition, because if she is small she will be a lot easier to carry. However, the prize for the winning team in the Wife-Carrying World Championships is the wife’s weight in beer. Therefore, if the competitor is able to carry his heavier wife and win the race, he will be richly rewarded in delicious beer.

World-Wife Carrying Championships, Sonkarjarvi, Finland
Jump into Water, Songarjarvi July 2013: Photo Flickr Visit Lakeland CC BY_ND 2.0

The Wife-Carrying World Championships

As well as being practiced in Finland, wife carrying competitions are also held in the USA, Hong Kong, Australia, Estonia and other parts of the world. Those who win the qualifying events in these countries are then able to travel to Finland to compete in the Wife-Carrying World Championships.

The Wife-Carrying Festival is considered a celebration of love and harmonious relationships , because a couple who are close are able to find a mutual rhythm while running and move as one. I think that’s actually quite romantic! If you think that you could carry your wife through the obstacle course and successfully complete the race, why not head to Finland and try to take part in Wife-Carrying World Championships?

About Kelly Dunning


A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

Other posts by the Author

One Response

  1. World's Best Festivals in July - Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] Summer is on its way and with that comes loads of summer events. From energetic music festivals which turn muddy fields into campsites and themed bungee-jumping contests which see competitors paint transform into works of art to high-speed camel races alongside belly dancing shows and giant effigies of historical figures parading the streets – the world is jam-packed full of amazing festivals in July. […]


Leave a Reply