Scottish Wedding Folklore & Traditions

Scotland always seems to do things in it’s own way and style – and a Scottish wedding is no exception to the rule. In the 21st century, the Scottish wedding is an intricate blend of ancient highland tradition mixed in with modern, streamlined rites. Present day Scottish wedding traditions have their origins as far back as the 13th century. Back then the medieval Celtic church would proclaim the ‘banns of marriage’ for three successive Sundays. This practice of announcing a forthcoming marriage lasted for 600 years – until in the latter years of the 20th century it became standard to ‘give notice of intent’ to a registry office several weeks before the intended event.

Medieval Scottish wedding traditions:

It was normal practice in olden times for an entire village to get involved in the preparations for the ‘big day’. 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 always been a main feature in Scottish wedding ceremonies from ancient times . A ring has no beginning and no end and as such symbolises the love within a marriage. The kissing of the bride follows on from this exchange of rings, and often leads to a cheer from the body of the kirk.

Following on from the formal church ceremony, a piper or group of pipers would frequently lead the entire group of guests down the streets, often to a relative’s house, for a non-stop night of celebration, feasting and enjoyment. Local musicians led by pipers would get the dancing started and tradition has it that the first dance, normally a reel, would involve the newly wed couple. Following on from their efforts, the rest of the guests would then dance all the way into the sma’ hours. In this respect, little has changed over 800 years – maybe apart from the dress code and the type of beer on tap.

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