Celtic wedding customs—particularly Scottish wedding traditions—have long held us transfixed by their beautiful music, old-world charm, and thoughts of stunning, gorgeous green countryside. If you are of Scottish heritage, or if you simply gravitate toward Celtic customs, here are a few ways you can incorporate Scottish wedding traditions into your wedding day:
A grand engagement party.
Scottish people love merry making, and the thought of a wedding is the perfect reason to celebrate. The engagement party is usually held at one of the parents’ home, at a hotel or club, or sometimes at a village hall with everyone in town present.
On the night before the wedding, the friends of the groom throw a Stag party, an often rowdy event involving pranks. For example, there is an old custom where the groom sits in a tub of water, and his friends “wash” his feet by smearing grease, soot and ashes all over them. This good-natured custom is meant to ensure good fortune in his marriage.
For the bride, the Hen’s night takes place, when she is dressed up with streamers, balloons, (and often soot and flour). She and her troop make their way through the streets for all to see. Her friends simultaneously rattle cans, whistle, ring bells, and clash pots and pans to make a ton of noise and create a spirit of rebel rousing. Sometimes, a friend will carry a chamber pot which townspeople can throw coins into. This is a great way to get some extra funds for the wedding celebration or the honeymoon.
The Loving Cup.
At a Scottish wedding, the couple takes their first celebratory drink as husband and wife from the Quaich, or Loving Cup, which is shaped as a bowl with two handles. It is passed down through the generations; the custom dates back to the 15the century. It symbolizes the two families coming together, and is supposed to bring happiness and good fortune to the couples who drink from it.
Scottish wedding music.
Bagpipes are the first thing that come to mind when thinking of Scottish music, but other musicians can also be involved, such as a fiddler, a string quartet, a piano player, or the clarsach, a small harp that is very popular in Scottish wedding ceremonies. It can be used during the ceremony or as backup music during the meal and the reception. Remember that playing the bagpipes involves a lot of energy, as the bagpipe player has to stand with the heavy instrument for sustained lengths of time. It is a good idea to have other types of music at a Scottish wedding to allow the bagpiper some breaks.
Scottish wedding toasts.
According to tradition, the father of the bride offers the first Scottish wedding blessing, which usually includes advice on how to be happy, with a personal story about the bride and groom. The groom usually gives a wedding toast, with a special thank you to his parents, to the bridal party, and to everyone who helped in preparation for the big day. The best man also makes a toast, as well as a member of the clergy. A typical sentiment that is echoed throughout the wedding blessings is this: “May the Lord keep you in His hand, and never close His fist too tight on you,' in order to wish the couple prosperity and long life.”