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Scottish Wedding Traditions


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Scottish/Celtic Wedding Traditions

The Traditions;

Traditional blessing In Gaelic: Mìle fàilte dhuit le d'bhréid, Fad do ré gun robh thu slàn.
Móran làithean dhuit is sìth, Le d'mhaitheas is le d'nì bhi fàs.

Translation in English: "A thousand welcomes to you with your marriage kerchief,
may you be healthy all your days. May you be blessed with long life and peace,
may you grow old with goodness and with riches."

Attributed to the Rev. Donald MacLeod, minister of Duirinish, Skye, Scotland c. 1760.


Guidelines for a successful Scottish/Celtic Wedding:

1. Give a Scottish brooch (called Luckenbooth) as a token of your love or as a betrothal gift. This is usually made of silver and is engraved with two hearts entwined. Some couples pin this on the blanket of their firstborn for good luck.
2. Plan a grand wedding reception at a Scottish castle or country manor, or go the traditional route of holding it at a relative’s house. More often in the US this now takes place in a church or hall.
3. Arrange a “Penny Wedding,” in which guests are expected to bring their own food and drinks to the church to celebrate after the ceremony is over.
4. Buy a kilt for the groom to wear that represents his clan or the brides to be. Another alternative is to opt for a more general tartan such as the National Millennium,Flower of Scotland or St. Patrick. if Irish
5. Exchange either claddagh rings or gold rings with Celtic knotwork designs instead of plain gold wedding bands.Sterling silver is a common choice in Great Britian for wedding.
6. Ask guests to sprinkle flower petals or confetti on the bride as she and the groom walk together to the church for the wedding.
7. Follow the old tradition of getting married just outside of the church doors. Following the vows and “joining ceremony” (or marriage), enter the church for a nuptial mass.
8. Hire bagpipers to play during the wedding party’s entrance and recessional.
9. Select an engraved silver teaspoon for the groom to present to the bride at the wedding to ensure that the couple will never go without food. Pewter is a modern alternative engraved with the clan crest.
10. Arrange for a traditional Scottish sword dance to entertain guests.
11. Arrange for a ceilidh band for Highland dancing at your reception. Music for a Ceilidh usually consists of traditional reels, jigs,and "Gay Gordons", commonally know as Scottish Country Dance.
12. Select Scottish music such as "Maairi’s Wedding" and "Queen of Argyll."
13. Provide an oatcake or bannocks (a barley and oat flour biscuit) for after the ceremony. Guests break these over the bride’s head in the doorway of her new home before she enters for the first time. In the West rice is a more common substitute.
14.As a rule Scotmen like to toast freely at all gathering so be sure to have plenty of Scotch Whiskey  or other privations on hand.

Banns of Matrimony:

In the thirteenth century, the medieval Church announced intended marriages through a process called the "banns of marriage". The banns were proclaimed in the parish church for three successive weeks during Sunday worship, and the practice continued in Scotland for over six hundred years. In later centuries, an alternative was to give notice and obtain a license to marry from a registrar. This method eventually became accepted by the Church of Scotland. In present day, the practice of banns of marriage have declined, but giving notices have become compulsory for all regular marriages. It is at this point that the bride has been traditionally presented a carved spoon with the clan crest or Coat of Arm's to assure that there will always be food on the table for the couple.

The Re'iteach ( Betrothal ) :

Traditionally the groom would approach the father of the bride before his intended and state his desires. If the father of the Bride approved of the wedding he, at the " réiteach" or formal betrothal, would stand before the congregation of the Kirk and say in Gaelic; "Ma tha ise deònach, tha mise ro-dheònach, agus mura bi sin mar sin, cha bhi seo mar seo" which means "If she is willing, I am very willing and if that weren't so, then this wouldn't be so".This generally is followed by a shared toast from a traditional Cuiach  or elaborate tankard at a home reception after the service.The "banns" were called three Sundays at church in succession ( though traditional this is no longer done in most cases) and on the Tuesday after the last calling the wedding would take place.

Showing of the Presents:

In some regions of Scotland, usually about a week before the nuptials, a brides' mother may choose to hold a "show of presents" for their daughter which is somewhat similar to bridal showers in other cultures, but in this case showing wedding presents. Invitations are to an open house rather than for a set time, and the guests are the women among those who gave presents to the wedding couple. The presents are all unwrapped, assembled if necessary and set out with the card of the gift giver set up next to the appropriate gift. The interaction that follows gives the guests and bridal party a chance to get acquainted before the wedding. During this time, the guests are shown the presents primarily by the bride (the bride's maid of honor helps when the bride is busy), have conversations, and enjoy light repasts of tea, sandwiches, cakes, and other foods and beverages before taking their leave.

Taking Out or Salt Filled Potty Night :

After the show of presents, some Scottish brides are made up and dressed in long trains that could be made from old curtains colorfully festooned in whatever party-like material at hand. Or else, they are dressed in already prepared and garnished costumes. The bride may be given a baby doll, a plastic potty with salt in the bottom, and other small items to carry in her arms. Thus adorned and made up, the bride is traditionally taken out around town by her friends and any remaining guests from the show of presents. The women make plenty of noise by singing and banging pot lids and pans to herald the bride's status. To gather luck, the bride exchanges kisses for money to be dropped into the potty as the group goes from place to place around town. The purpose of the salt-filled potty, the doll, the money, etc. is believed to be for luck, prosperity and fertility, but the true meaning of the symbolisms are uncertain.

Stag Night:

In his turn, the groom gets taken out for a stag night which is the equivalent to the bride's taking out. Although stemming more from a British tradition than a Scottish one, the groom is sometimes dressed up and taken around town for his stag night by his male companions. At times the groom is put into a padded outfit to look like a pregnant woman. More often, he and his friends would find a bar or party place to celebrate by drinking to excess. They may indulge in a great deal of (for the most part) harmless practical joking, of which the groom is the main target. When the wild night winds down, the groom may be left in the street in front of his home partially or totally stripped of his clothes, and in some occasions tied up.

Footwashing Ceremony:

1. Invite guests to your home on the eve of your wedding. 2. Prepare a tub of hot water.
3. Ask a married woman to place her wedding ring in the tub. 4. Expect the bride to take off her shoes and immerse her feet in the water. 5. Call people to gather around the tub. 6. Encourage guests to stick their hands in the water and help to wash the bride’s feet. 7. Remind unmarried guests to look for the wedding ring. 8. Explain that the first one to find the ring will be the next to get married. 9. Have a towel ready to dry off the bride’s feet when you are done. 10. Provide music, food and drinks for guests to enjoy afterward.

Customs:

Many of the rustic wedding customs of our ancestors do not travel very well to our present times. If you break a short bread over the head of the bride or groom as they leave the church what are the chances that the unmarried youths present will scramble to eat a bit of it off the ground to insure a good match for their own marriage? Cutting the cake with a sgian dubh or dirl over the seated bride’s head at the reception has replaced this tradition. It was also customary to salute the bride and groom by firing guns in the air outside the church. Try that in the suburbs. If you did have your wedding at a venue where you could use firearms, what statement would you be making? Chances are at least some of your guests would think you are a gun nut rather than a traditionalist. Honking the horns of the cars in the procession from the church replaces the guns.

In some locations the couple would spend their wedding night in the barn. The bride’s girl-friends would dress her for bed and tuck her in and then the male guests would enter and kiss her good night Great sport was made of delaying and harassing the groom before he was allowed to join her. The couple could then expect pranks and peeping until everyone was too drunk or exhausted to remember. Our grandparent’s generation planned their weddings with escape in mind from this kind of tradition. The tin cans tied to the get-away car evolved from this custom. Kidnapping the bride or groom is occasionally still attempted at some of the rowdier weddings. The salmon leap was the traditional way the groom joined his bride in the wedding bed. To do this he should crouch on the floor and then spring into bed in a single leap symbolically imitating a salmon swimming up stream to spawn.

There are old customs for good luck that are fun to follow. "Something old, Something new, Something borrowed, Something blue, Silver sixpence in her shoe" (or "a penny in her shoe") is fairly well known. For people of Celtic heritage who live in new lands this is an opportunity to include something sentimental that relates to their heritage. An heirloom from the old country, if available can be used as something old or something borrowed. An Irish coin, or for Scots and Welsh an old British sixpence or penny can be worn in the shoe. Stock up now, the Euro-Dollar will not be as poetic. Something new items also can be chosen for their cultural significance also. Keep in mind the theme of continuum that a heritage wedding implies. With an eye to the future, the brooch or pendant that is something new for the present wedding can be loaned at a future wedding and might be the something old at the wedding of your daughter or granddaughter.It is bad luck for the bride and groom to meet on their wedding day before they meet at the church. It is good luck to take a different route leaving the church than arriving at the church. This signifies that life is different now for the bride and groom.

Attire:

Men: 1. Plan for the groom and groomsmen to wear traditional Highland outfits, which include kilts, jackets and hose.The most formal being that of the Prince Charlie style 2. Buy or rent kilts. Remember that each clan has its own tartan, or plaid design. Distinguish the groom from the groomsmen by securing a "fly plaid" ( tartan sash worn on the shoulder ) to his jacket with a large brooch. 3. Include coats and vests for all of the men. 4. All of the men , if wearing kilts,should wear "sporrans", which are simple leather pouches that hang around the waist. Select a formal one with a chain for the special occasion. 5. Tuck a Sgian Dubh ( black dagger in Gaelic) into the top of the men's kilt hose. This custom comes from a time when Highlanders wore their weapons openly when they accepted an invitation to someone's house, thereby showing they had nothing to hide. 6. Suggest that the men wear ghillies, which are standard Highland footwear. 7. Give the men the option of wearing a kilt belt. This should be worn over the kilt instead of through the belt loops and may be adorned with a clan crest or Celtic buckle.

Women:
1. Select a plain white gown for the bride. 2. Trim the bride's dress with tartan ribbons or sash. Tartan is a pattern commonly referred to as plaid. The ribbons are made of lightweight worsted fabric. 3. Look for embroidered touches that will make the dress stand out, such as a Celtic knot, which represents the eternity of love and nature. 4. Drape a tartan shawl around the bride's shoulders or use a tartan sash at her waist. 5. Select bridemaid's dresses of lightweight wool with full tartan skirts and velvet bodices for cooler weather. 6. Opt for lightweight dresses trimmed with tartan for a summer wedding.( Many tartans are now also available in cotton or silk )

Parents:
1. Expect the fathers of the bride and groom to wear kilt outfits or at the least tartan waist coats or cummerbunds and bowties. 2. Suggest they select semi-dress, which includes either a black jacket or a colored tweed jacket. This is called an argyll outfit. 3. Ask the mothers to wear silk or lightweight tartan dresses with plain collars or plain bodices. 4. Order the mothers corsages that have a piece of tartan attached.5. Mothers may also decide to wear a tartan sash and a celtic brooch, in which case flowers should be placed on the handbag or in the hair.

Flowers:

Florists throughout the world have become very adept at importing Heather. Even is it's only a single sprig a touch of heather in your bouquet is a lucky omen for a Scottish Bride. It also dries beautifully and can be preserved as a reminder that can be enjoyed for the years to come. Heather may also be used for hairpieces for the bridesmaids and the wreath of flowers that is placed upon the brides head after the ceremony.A modern tradition is to place a Clan Crest stick pin on the bouquet ribbon which is augmented by either flowers and or feathers.This serves as a reminder of the event and also it is a way of saying thank you to the attendants. Other flowers to match the tartan choice are available and our staff of professional floral designers can help you choose exactly which flowers will make your specail day truly special. To see some of the flower choices please visit the Fresh Flowers page of this site or the More Wedding Designs page for finished bouquets.

Music:

Nothing in the world is more reminicent of the Scottish Highlands then that of swirling bagpipes.In a traditional service ,where the Bride and Groom are married on the steps of the church, the piper plays to escort them to the ceremony location and again upon the departure after the religious service. For bag Pipe CD's see the Music Cd's page of this site. Or if you are brave enough to play them yourself see the Bagpipes page as well.

A sure fire way to have your guests in tears is for the bride to have a dance with her da, to the song "Tis The Ring Your Mother Wore". In fact I challenge anyone to just listen to this song without becoming verklempt.  Of course "The Slosh" is also a necessity at any Traditional Wedding,Scottish women love this number! And lastly don't forget a rousing rendition of good old "Marrie's Wedding!"  For other popular Cetic music selections see the Music Cd's page of this site.


The Vows: in Scottish Gaelic and also English;

Gaelic: Am fear (groom)
Tha mise <ainm> a-nis 'gad ghabhail-sa <ainm> gu bhith 'nam chéile phòsda. Ann am fianais Dhé 's na tha seo de fhianaisean tha mise a' gealltainn a bhith 'nam fhear pòsda dìleas gràdhach agus tairis dhuitsa, cho fad's a bhios an dìthis againn beò.

English: I, <name> now take you <name> to be my wife. In the presence of God and before these witnesses I promise to be a loving, faithful and loyal husband to you, for as long as we both shall live.

Gaelic: A' bhean (bride)
Tha mise <ainm> a-nis 'gad ghabhail-sa <ainm> gu bhith 'nam chéile pòsda. Ann am fianais Dhé 's na tha seo de fhianaisean tha mise a' gealltainn a bhith 'nam bhean phòsda dhìleas ghràdhach agus thairis dhuitsa, cho fad's a bhios an dìthis againn beò.

English: I, <name> now take you <name> to be my husband. In the presence of God and before these witnesses I promise to be a loving, faithful and loyal wife to you, for as long as we both shall live.

The Departure:

When departing the church the groom will throw a handfull of loose change to the children, this is called the "Scramble", while the oat cakes are broken and sprinkled upon the bride and groom as the dash away to the reception.It is believed by many that this simple act insures wealth and happiness in the household of the couple for years to come.



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