The Scottish Wedding

Continuing our world exploration of wedding customs, our tour takes us now to a country the nuptial roots of which wend back to ancient times. Some of these traditions prove quite unique and unexpected. No, we do not visit the Far East, or the vast reaches of Africa. We stop for this blog in Scotland. When I propose certain Scottish wedding traditions seem more Medieval than modern European, I can do so safely and without judgement, for this blogger’s own Celtic grandfather boasts a profile as craggy as the Highlands from which his people came.

Two church traditions are prevalent in modern Scotland, the Christian Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Scottish Catholic Church. Many marriages combine these two backgrounds, and many ceremonies reflect current trends. But there are also numerous historic touches that still color marriages in that beautiful country, as sure as a vein of gold in a tartan plaid. Here are some of them:

  • “Reeling”: No, not the dance, fun as that is. This is the custom of an engaged man stumbling around under the heavy weight of rocks in a basket tied to his back, courtesy of his friends. He can only escape when his bride-to-be consents to kiss him.
  • A bride’s feet may be washed in a basin of water containing a ring. The first girl to find the ring will be next to wed.
  • “A showing of presents” may take place at the bride’s home, with tea, sandwiches and cakes being served, or there may be a “spree,” the equivalent of a shower.
  • “Taking out the bride” may occur after the “showing” or “spree.” Sometimes the bride is dressed in a costume. She may carry a baby doll, but she and her friends definitely carry pots and pans, on which they loudly beat and sing as they walk through their town. The bride kisses villagers in exchange for money in her pot, which may also contain salt, a symbol of prosperity.
  • The groom gets a “stag night.” You can guess this often involves drinking with his friends, but what you probably won’t guess is that he’s often padded to look pregnant – and may have other embarrassing jokes played on him that could involve the stealing of his clothing!
  • Confetti and bagpipes may serenade the nuptial couple on their way to the ceremony.
  • Shortbread may be broken over the bride’s head for good luck.
  • The groom may give the bride a silver spoon engraved with the couple’s initials.
  • The reception often features more traditional music and dancing.