Scottish Wedding Traditions
Scottish Wedding blessing
Mìle fàilte dhuit le d'bhréid,
This is attributed to the Rev. Donald MacLeod, minister of Duirinish, Skye, Scotland c. 1760.
Traditional Scottish Marriage vows (Bóid pòsaidh anns a' Ghàidhlig)
Groom (Am fear)
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. (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.)
Bride (A' bhean)
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. (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 bhean phòsda dhìleas ghràdhach agus thairis dhuitsa, cho fad's a bhios an dìthis againn beò.
The older religious form would change the ending to: until God shall separate us by death (..., gus an dèan Dia leis a' bhàs ar dealachadh.)
The traditional Scottish token of good luck for weddings is to wear a sprig of white heather (Calluna Vulgaris). According to legend in ancient Scotland, the famous bard, Ossian, had a daughter named Malvina, who was both beautiful and sweet natured. She won the heart of Oscar, a handsome warrior and they became betrothed. But Oscar left in search of fame and fortune. As time passed, Malvina's heart became heavy. On a beautiful autumn day, she sat with her father talking about her love on a Highland hillside when a ragged messenger staggered towards them. He brought the terrible news that Oscar had been killed in battle. The messenger held out a spray of purple heather to Malvina, a last gift from Oscar, and told her that he had died whispering her name and pledging his love. In her grief, Malvina ran over the hillside, weeping bitterly. Where her tears fell, the purple heather turned pure white. When she saw this, she said, "May this white heather forever bring good fortune to all those who find it".
Medieval Scottish wedding traditions
It was normal practice in olden times for an entire village to get involved in the preparations for a marriage. People would line the streets to the church to cheer on the happy couple before they took their vows. In pre-reformation times, there is evidence that two Scottish wedding services would frequently take place. One in which the priest would address the party in Scots dialect and lead a ceremony outside the church. Whilst the more formal Latin mass and nuptial ceremony would take place inside.
The exchange of the rings has been a main feature in Scottish wedding ceremonies from ancient times, for a ring has no beginning and no end and as such symbolizes the enduring love within a marriage.
Following the church ceremony, a piper would frequently lead the wedding party down the streets, often to a relative's house, for a night of celebration, feasting and enjoyment. Local musicians would get the dancing started, and tradition has it that the first dance, normally a reel, would involve the newly wed couple. When the celebrations were over, the married couple would leave to spend the night in their new home.
The ancient tradition of carrying the bride over the doorstep was linked to the superstition that evil spirits inhabit the thresholds of doors. Hence the bride is lifted over the thresholds and into the wedding bed. In medieval times, a priest would often bless the house and bless the wedding bed at this time. Then for the first time, as man and wife, the newly weds would have some quality time on their own.
Modern Scottish Wedding Traditions
The bride's mother often holds an open house for a traditional "show of presents." Invitations are sent to those who gave wedding gifts to the couple and the wedding gifts are unwrapped and set out for viewing. After the show of presents, the bride-to-be is often dressed up and her friends escort her through her town, singing and banging pots and pans, heralding the wedding day. This tradition has evolved into the legendary 'hen night'.
A bridegroom's stag night, likewise has ancient roots. The young man accompanied by his friends heads to town and often drank to excess. One tradition has it that in smaller towns the groom-to-be would be stripped of his clothes and left in the street outside his home or even tied to a lamp post!
The day of the ceremony can be filled with grandeur and the drone of the pipes. Today, the bagpipes are often used to add atmosphere and grandeur to a wedding. The piper, in full Highland dress, stands at the church door and plays as the guests arrive. Later, he leads the couple from the church to the car. The married couple are frequently piped to the table of honor along with the bridal party. With the cutting of the cake, again a piper is often asked to perform and the piper may even supply his dirk or highland dagger to start the 'cutting of the cake'. As the bride slices the first piece of cake, custom dictates that her hand is guided by that of her new husband.
Traditional Gaelic hymns are often played at Scottish weddings and the bride is frequently piped down the aisle. The 'Highland Wedding' tune is still a feature today at many ceremonies in Scotland.
The wedding ring, until the late 20th century tended to be for the bride, and not the groom. Today, both bride and groom now wear rings for the most part. The traditional Scottish gold wedding band dates back to the 1500's. This style of ring is still popular as a wedding ring today as are Celtic knot work designed engagement and wedding rings. The reason for wearing the rings on the third finger comes down to us from the Romans. They believed that the vein on this finger ran directly to the heart.
Traditional Scottish Dress
There is little doubt that traditional Scottish outfits add a touch of class and splendor to the wedding day and its associated ceremonies. Whilst the bride's white gown and veil has its roots in more modern times. A Scottish bride will usually wear a traditional white or cream wedding gown. She might wear a horseshoe on her arm for good luck, or a pageboy might deliver one to her as she arrives at the ceremony. Bridesmaids may wear whatever the bride has chosen to match her dress and it may include a little tartan accessory. Bouquets may include tartan ribbons or bows. Tradition says 'sew a hair onto the hem of a wedding dress for luck', or 'let a drop of blood fall onto an inner seam'. The bride must never try on a completed dress in advance of her wedding day. To facilitate this tradition a small section of the hem is left unsewn by the dressmaker until the last moment.
The groom’s party and her father may come to the wedding resplendent in full Highland dress in the traditional tartan of their clans. The use of highland dress and the kilt, jacket, dirk and sporran in Scottish weddings has continued over the centuries. A gent's highland wedding outfit in its entirety consists of the following: Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and waistcoat, kilt, tartan flashes to match kilt, white hose, gillie brogues, kilt pin, sgian dubh, black belt with buckle, formal sporran with chain strap, wing collar shirt, black or coloured bow tie, and a piece of lucky heather in the lapel. He also has the option of wearing a fly plaid, which is anchored under the epaulette on the shoulder of the jacket and secured by a large plaid brooch.
For the bride, a universal custom is the 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue'. The mother will often provide the something old to her daughter to start her off in her married life, symbolizing the passing on a bit of mother's wisdom. The 'something new' can be the bride’s dress! The 'something new' at the wedding can become the 'something old' or ‘something borrowed' at the next generation’s weddings. The bride sometimes wears a blue garter (symbolizing love) which plays a part later at the wedding reception. There are two likely sources for this. Roman women used to border their robes with blue as a sign of modesty, love, and fidelity. Also blue is the color normally associated with Mary the mother of Jesus who is often used to symbolize steadfast love, purity, and sincerity. It was also traditional in some areas for the bride to put a small silver coin in her shoe to bring her good luck.
After the wedding ceremony, it is traditional for flowers, petals, or pretty paper confetti to be thrown at the departing couple. In some rural areas, the couple throw coins to the children who have gathered outside the church to watch. This is called a “scramble”. As the couple leave the ceremony, the groom dips his hands into his pockets (or sporran), and throws all his loose change out on the ground for the children to scramble for.
Another tradition frequently seen during the evening wedding festivities involves the bride throwing her bridal bouquet, usually white roses, over her left shoulder. Her female non-attached bridesmaids and other single women in the bridal party stand in a line behind her. The girl who catches the thrown flower posy is by tradition going to be the next in the group to get married.
Traditional wedding reception festivities can easily last all night and the newly-wed couple lead off the dancing. Before the evening is finished the bride and groom leave as quietly and secretly as they can and go to a pre-arranged destination for their wedding night. At the end of the evening, guests often gather in a circle before leaving and sing "Auld Lang Syne".
Before the Ceremony
The Wedding Morning
After the Ceremony
After the Reception