As well as being known for its history and dramatic scenery, Scotland is a country steeped in traditions. It’s no wonder that lots of couples like the idea of a Scottish wedding. Whether you are getting married in Scotland, and are looking for some Scottish wedding traditions to add to your day, or you are just looking for some Scottish inspo, you have come to the right place. We have put together a list of our favourites so, read on and enjoy.
Scottish traditions for before the wedding
Until the start of the 19th Century, Creeling the Bridegroom was very popular. This unique Scottish wedding tradition involved the groom carrying a large basket (creel) of stones, on his back, around the village. His friends wouldn’t let him stop or put them down until his bride ran out of her house to give him a kiss.
In southern Scotland, this tradition was a little different. After the ceremony, the couple would cut the ribbon on a basket tied to the church door. The basket then falls to the floor, bringing health and wealth to the couple.
This is a lovely tradition and involves two hearts, intertwined. Made in silver, and sometimes with precious stones, the brooch would comprise of two intertwined hearts with a crown on the top. The groom would have a Luckenbooth brooch made for his bride to wear on her wedding day. After the wedding, it would be attached to a baby’s blanket, ready for the first baby. The word Luckenbooth comes from an old Scots word for lockable stall and the brooch is believed to ward off evil spirits.
Common in Fife, Dundee and Angus, this is a strange tradition but, if looked at in the right way, a pretty wonderful one. On the morning of the wedding, the bride sits on a stool while an older, happily married woman washes and dries her feet. Maybe this was an opportunity for the younger woman to hear the wisdom of an older woman on how to have a happy marriage.
The foot washer would also drop a ring into the water for the single women to find. The first woman to find it would be the next one to get married. Quite similar to the tradition of tossing the bouquet.
Scottish wedding traditions at the ceremony
The wedding walk
This is the formal march to the church by the wedding party. Accompanied by a piper, or someone playing the fiddle, the groom leads, escorted by the chief bridesmaid. Then the bride escorts the best man with the rest of the wedding party behind.
After the ceremony, the newlyweds leave the church followed by the best man and the chief bridesmaid. The rest of the wedding party follows after.
At the door
One of the oldest traditions is the bride and groom saying their vows outside the front entrance of the Kirk (church). Once they have exchanged their vows, they then enter the church for the rest of the ceremony.
To the left
So that the groom is able to defend his lady should he need to, the bride stands on the left of the groom in the church. This is so his right hand is free to use his dirk (short sword) to fight off any other suitors. He may even need to fight his new ‘in-laws’ should they object to the union!
Although modern-day grooms rarely have to fight other suitors or their new in-laws, the bride still stands on the left of him in church.
Swearing an oath
When an oath is given over stone or water, it is said to be binding. Possibly where the saying ‘set in stone’ comes from. Couples would say their vows over a stone to make their marriage oaths stronger. In some parts of Scotland, the couple also carved their names into the bark of a tree or onto a stone. The oathing stone tradition is still loosely followed today with some couples joining hands on a stone as they say their vows.
Scottish grooms were expected to bring siller to the wedding. Siller is silver coins, 13 to be exact. The tradition follows that the groom lets the 13 silver coins slide onto the priest or minister’s palm. Then he drops them back onto the groom’s palm. The groom drops them onto the bride’s palm and she drops them back onto the groom’s palm. The final resting place for the coins is a plate held by a ministerial assistant.
The sound of the coins dropping symbolises the groom’s promise to provide for his wife. And her returning them to the groom symbolises her promise to share the wealth as well as manage, save and invest their money wisely.
For this tradition, at the start of a Celtic ceremony, the couple draws a circle around themselves, repeating a prayer of protection, known as the Caim. The prayer and the circle symbolise their unity. Caims have specific meter and rhyme that gives them a mystic air. Here’s an example:
The Mighty Three, my protection be,
You are around my life, my love, my home.
Encircle me. O sacred three, the Mighty
This Celtic tradition is a kind of temporary marriage. In rural areas, a priest might not visit a village for months at a time. Some couples didn’t want to wait to be married so, as long as the couple declared their love for each other in the presence of witnesses, it was legally binding, and still is today!!
As part of the handfasting ceremony, the bride and groom take a piece of their clan’s tartan and tie their hands together, joining them and their families.
Fun fact: This is where the phrase ‘tying the knot’ comes from!
After the ceremony
The Quaich is a two-handled lovers’ cup used at the wedding feast. It is filled with whisky by the bride and the wedding party passes it around, each taking a sip to signify the union of the two families. The Quaich would normally be made of wood, sometimes with metal embellishments.
A traditional Scottish wedding cake is two layers of brandy-soaked fruit cake. And is baked when the couple announce their engagement. The bottom tier is eaten at the wedding and the top tier is saved to celebrate the birth of their first child.
Pinning the tartan
This tradition symbolises the acceptance of each spouse into the other spouse’s family. The bride pins the rosette or crest of her family’s tartan onto the groom and vice versa.
The wedding scramble
As the bride and groom prepare to leave the reception, her father throws a handful of coins up into the air for the children to scramble and collect. This tradition is to bring the couple a strong financial future.
The lang reel
The lang reel was popular in the northeast of Scotland. At the end of the reception, the wedding party heads down to the harbour to begin the lang reel dance. Moving through the village, each couple leaves the reel when it reaches their home. Once all of the couples are home, the newlyweds have the last dance together.
- Brides will often have thistles or white heather in their bouquets for luck.
- A bride must use her right foot to leave her home. If she leaves with the left, it brings bad luck. This could be where the phrase ‘getting off on the right foot’ comes from.
- A bride has a lucky sixpence in her shoe for good luck. This brings good fortune and prosperity.
- When the bride leaves the church, a toddler will present her with a horseshoe for good luck.
So, there you have it. Our favourite Scottish wedding traditions. Which ones have inspired you?
There is not much more inspiring and Scottish than getting married on the banks of a bonny loch. Let us help you plan the ultimate Scottish wedding with Loch Venachar as a stunning backdrop. Get in touch with us today to start planning.