Scottish wedding traditions: The 19 things to include in your big day
Scottish wedding traditions are a bit like the nation from which they’re born –they’re varied and eclectic.
Mostly our couples are Scottish and want to pay tribute to their homeland in a small special way. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get a gorgeous pair of lovebirds from further afield, who are also keen to honour Scotland in some small way in their big day.
Being absolute muppets who mainly just deal in props and flowers means that we didn’t always have the answers to hand when people would as us for ideas of which Scottish wedding traditions to include in their ceremony. However, we’re not the kind of gals who like to let anyone down, so a couple of G&T’s later and a whole lot of Googling we managed to assemble the below selection of Scottish wedding traditions that you could weave into your wedding, should the fancy take you. We’ve also included a couple of traditional Scottish wedding blessings, because people seem to like those too. You ask, we provide.
Here are some of our favourite Scottish wedding traditions, but let us know if you have any tucked up your sleeve that we should add in. Every day’s a school day, and don’t we just love learning.
It turns out ritual humiliation of brides and grooms on their stag and hen parties is old news. Way back when people began practicing ‘blackening’ where friends and family of the happy, soon-to-be-weds, would capture them before their wedding day and cover them in dirt or messy substances and parade them around the streets for all to see. Lovely, but we think we’ll stick to the Sambuca shots.
Creeling the bridegroom
Unfortunately for the boys they were often the ones who would come under fire leading up to the day of their wedding. The Scottish tradition of ‘creeling the bridegroom’ involved the unlucky lad being made to carry a large creel (a basket) filled with heavy stones round and round his village until his bride-to-be deemed it fit to come out of her house and kiss him.
Bride feet washing
We’re straight in and straight away it’s weird, isn’t it? Apparently back in the good old days woman would have their feet washed before their wedding day by an older married woman. In some parts of Scotland gals still practice this luck-attracting act and it is thought to symbolise good fortune. We guess having someone to wash your feet is pretty good fortune? We couldn’t pay anyone to go near ours.
The wedding scramble
We won’t beat about the bush, this is our favourite of all the Scottish wedding traditions we’ve witnessed or heard about, because who doesn’t like free money? This fun start to the day involves the brides’ dad (or dads, this is 2018) chucking handfuls of small coins from the wedding car on their drive away from home or the hotel to the ceremony. This results in tonnes of local kids scrambling about to get themselves enough dough to get a tidy haul from the corner shop. Fabulous, we think you’ll agree.
Before we get into what luckenbooths actually are let us just give you a little history lesson (we warned you about our liking for school days). Luckenbooths got their names from the shops in which they were often sold, which were literally ‘locked booths’. These tiny jewellery shops lined Edinburgh’s royal mile and could be secretly locked up at night to keep all their good safe and sound, away from prying hands.
We really got carried away there with that ye olde story. Enough, we hear you cry, tell us what is and why I should give a hoot about it. Well, luckenbooths are small silver broaches, often given to brides by their baes on the day of their wedding. With their common form of two intertwined hearts they came to symbolise love and romance, and were thought to protect the wearer from ill-meaning folk, like pesky fairies.
The wedding sark
To make this a little easier let us tell you that a sark is just a shirt. Brides would often buy their husbands-to-be their wedding sark before the big day, while the groom would repay the favour by getting the dress. If today’s prices are anything to go by, we know whose shoes we’d rather be in. Sorry, boys.
We couldn’t run up a tally of Scottish wedding traditions without mentioning a lovely little kilt, hello legs. Grooms would traditionally wear the colours of their family in a tartan that had come to represent their families of generations. It’s easy enough to find your family tartan now, and even if you don’t have a Scottish surname you can almost certainly trace your lineage back until you find one. We won’t tell anyone the tenuous link if you don’t
A sixpence in the bride’s shoe
We’re back to Scots loving a bit of money-grabbing aren’t we? We went a whole single tradition without it, but here it rears its head again. Well sixpences were often given to brides to pop in their shoe on the day of their wedding. Some people think this custom came from an earlier tradition that saw grooms pop a silver coin under his left foot. Either way, whether it’s boys or girls who are getting the good stuff, this small gesture was thought to represent financial security and prosperity. Two things which we’re kind of into, so we might just go about with coins in our shoes from now on if nobody has any protestations.
Including thistles in the wedding flowers
Lots of couples, both now and ‘then’, plump(ed) for thistles. In this nod to Scotland’s history Thistles became the emblem of Scotland way back in the 1200s and have been celebrated by us Scots ever since. This spiky sweetie is thought to represent devotion and durability in Celtic tradition making it the perfect bloom to include in your wedding flowers.
Lucky white heather
Wherever white heather is found, good luck is thought to follow. This tale is from a traditional folklore love story. Brides today often include a small broach of heather under their wedding dress, or use it in their bridal party flowers.
Two for one wedding ceremonies
Scots, we suppose, are known for being careful with their money so some could say this Scottish wedding tradition is just value for money. Traditionally couples would have two ceremonies on their wedding day. The first would begin with the couples’ village forming a procession to lead the bride and groom to the church where they’d partake in a Gaelic ceremony outdoors, in front of the church doors. They’d all then process into the church for round two: A Latin wedding ceremony. Some couples still enjoy including this twist in their wedding tale, choosing to have the beginning of their day outside (weather permitting) before going into the church for the final service.
Traditionally brides and their boys would have their hands tied together during their wedding ceremony to physically demonstrate their coming together as one. Usually performed with a cord or ribbon this classic Scottish wedding tradition is still practiced today. In fact, in 2004 the Pagan Federation of Scotland received permission to legally perform weddings, where hand fasting or tying is the central act of the ceremony. A common blessing said over a hand fasting, is:
With a tie not easy to break.
Take the time of binding
Before the final vows are made
To learn what you need to know -
To grow in wisdom and love.
That your marriage will be strong
That your love will last
In this life and beyond.
Tying the knot
It’s a commonly used phrase now, but this little number actually came from a Scottish tradition according to our very through search on Google. Couples in the past would literally take pieces of their family tartan each, tear a strips of their clan fabric each and tie a new knot with both pieces, symbolising their coming together, or as the Spice Girls so beautifully put it, it symbolised: when two become one. During the ceremony some of our brides and grooms like to have a little traditionally religious blessing. This is one of our favourites:
Lord help us to remember when
We first met and the strong
love that grew between us.
To work that love into
practical things so that nothing
can divide us.
We ask for words both kind
and loving and hearts always
ready to ask forgiveness
as well as to forgive.
Dear Lord, we put our
marriage into your hands.
This Celtic tradition is kind of sweet, in our humble opinion. During their ceremony the happy couple would draw a circle around themselves symbolizing their unity. As they drew the circle they’d say this wee blessing:
The Mighty Three, my protection be, encircle me.
You are around my life, my love, my home.
Encircle me. O sacred three, the Mighty
The bride to the left
Not often are Scots accused of being romantic, and that’s not going to change with this one either. Seen as a ‘warrior’s prize’, brides would be taken by their groom’s left hand, leaving him his right to fight off an of her family who might protest and other such rascals.
A Scottish piper
Pipers are often included in Scottish celebrations, to help give a traditional vibe to proceedings. We love nothing more than a wee piper in all his get up playing guests in and out of a wedding ceremony, and in to dinner. It’s something that just gets us feeling all patriotic for some reason, and we’re into it.
The Scottish Quaich
First thing’s first, a Quaich, if you don’t already know, is a small silver bowl with two handles used for ceremonial drinking (because if you claim it’s ceremonial you can’t be accused of having too much). In the past the two handles symbolised the coming together of two families. The silver bowl, also known as a ‘loving cup’, would be filled with whiskey and used to toast the happy couple after the legal ceremony was over. The bride and groom would first sip from the bowl before passing it to the leaders of each of their clans. Couples today still practice this ancient ritual with their top table, or even all of their guests to get the party going after dinner.
Auld lang syne
Well, there’s not much affirming our thoughts that this is a traditional wedding custom in Scotland, but going from our own experiences we’re spot on. This good old Scottish beat is often sung at the end of all kinds of gatherings – weddings, New Year, birthdays. It’s one of those songs that everyone knows the words to and will ensure you go out with a bang at the end of your night.
The lang reel
This one kind of only works if you’re getting married somewhere where all your family and friends live, but hey we’ll tell you about it anyway because we like to be thorough. A lang reel is a dance performed at the very end of a wedding party where everyone would begin to reel, making their way down the village. As they danced people would peel off at their homes, eventually leaving the bride and groom to be the last pair dancing in a little love story of their own.