31 December 2021
Scotland has many unique and well-loved wedding traditions and we take a look at some of the most popular here.
A brooch featuring either a heart or two entwined hearts and usually made of silver, presented by the groom-to-be by his fiancée. This piece of jewellery has strong associations with Mary Queen of Scots, who according to one legend gave a brooch to her second husband Henry Lord Darnley.
According to historian James Paton, writing in Scottish History and Life in 1902, The Luckenbooth Brooch takes its name from the ‘locked booths’ that sold trinkets along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. This romantic piece of jewellery is still manufactured by various jewellers around Scotland and is particularly associated with the city of Edinburgh.
This tradition is strongly associated with the north east of Scotland and with Fife and involves the bride having her feet washed on the morning of her wedding by a happily-married lady, in order to bring good fortune to the coming nuptials. In some versions of the tradition the person washing the feet drops her wedding ring into the water and the first single lady to retrieve it will be next to be married.
A now largely defunct ceremony involving the groom-to-be, who was tasked with carrying a basket of heavy stones across town, his ordeal ending only when his fiancée came out of her house and kissed him to set him free. The tradition appears to have died out towards the end of the 19th century, perhaps as towns and settlements became larger and people moved around more.
Exchanging vows outside the kirk doors
This is a practice unique to Scotland, wherby the bride and groom exchange their vows outside the door of the kirk, before entering to take part in the remainder of the service, including Communion.
The wedding scramble
A Scotland-wide tradition, much-loved by children, where the groom’s father throws out a handful of coins whilst the bridge steps into the car, then stands back as local children scramble to collect the treasure. This kind gesture is believed to bring good fortune for the coming nuptials.
The skirl of the pipes
Wherever in the world a Scottish wedding takes places, chances are you’ll hear the skirl of the pipes at some point during the ceremony. A traditional ceremony begins with the bride accompanied by a bagpipe player from leaving her home through to meeting her groom at the ceremony. Afterwards, the piper leads the newlyweds and the guests on to the wedding breakfast. Popular wedding tunes include St Kilda Wedding, Highland Wedding, The Cameron Highlanders and Rowan Tree.
The Quaich (loving cup)
The Quaich (or loving cup) is a two-handled silver bowl traditionally presented at a wedding with whisky inside and sometimes engraved with the wedding date. The couple each drink from it and then it’s passed around the group for guests to enjoy.
Thanks to Royal Scots Club, Lochcarron and VisitScotland for information.
(Originally published July 2019. Reviewed May 2022)