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Scottish Wedding Traditions

Penny Bridal or Silver Bridal
These festivities, also known as Penny Weddings, were renown for feasting, drinking, dancing and fighting and were enjoyed by all except the clergy - who disapproved of such raucous behaviour. Opinions that were wholeheartedly ignored! Gifts were made to the newly weds towards the cost of the wedding feast and the wild celebrations started on the eve of the wedding with singing, toasts and the ceremony of ‘feet washing’.

Feet washing
A tub of water was placed in the best room, in which the bride placed her feet, her female friends then gathered around to help wash them. A wedding ring from a happily married woman was previously placed in the tub and it was believed that whoever found the ring would be the next to get married.

The men folk were outside the door making jokes and attempting to watch through the doorway. The bridegroom was then seized by the women and made to sit at the tub. His legs were none too gently daubed with soot, ashes and cinders - quite a painful procedure!

The Wedding Procession
The following day the bridal party made their way to the church, flower petals being thrown in front of the bride, but if they encountered a funeral or a pig on the way, it was considered bad luck and they would return home and set out again. The first person they encountered was called the first foot and would be given a coin and a drink of whisky by the bride. He would then have to accompany the bridal party for one mile before being allowed to continue on his way.

The Church
Just outside the church they would be met by the clergyman and make their wedding vows. Then a mass was held in the church, during which the clergyman blessed food brought by the guests. It was traditional for the clergyman, however shy, to kiss the bride.

The Celebrations
The guests returned to a relative’s home to share the food and drink. The celebrations were usually held outside with pipers and dancing and could last all night. A traditional reel was led by the newly weds, after which the bride danced with the most prominent person in the room, then the other guests joined in.

The couple were finally escorted to their new home and the groom or groomsmen would throw handfuls of coins on the ground.

Before entering her home, oatcakes or bannocks were broken above the bride’s head and then shared around. The bride could then be carried over the threshold in case she stumbled - a sign of bad luck.

The marriage ceremony was completed when the clergyman blessed the newly weds, their home and their bed.

The Highland custom of CREELING THE BRIDEGROOM
A large basket or ‘creel’, was filled with stones and tied to the bridegroom’s back. He then had to carry it around the entire town unless his bride agreed to kiss him. Only if she did, would his friends allow him to escape from the ‘creeling’ otherwise he had to continue until he had completed the circuit of the town.

The Shaim Spring
It was the privilege of the bride to choose the music for the ‘shaim spring’, which she danced with the bridegroom maids and best man.

In the eighteenth century the custom of handfasting was observed. A couple would live together for a year and a day, at which time they could decide whether to part or make a lifelong commitment. It was considered more important for the bride to be experienced and fertile than to be a virgin.

The Show of Presents
The bride’s mother holds open house for all those who have given presents. It is held a week or so before the wedding and the presents are put on display, each is unwrapped and has a label to show who it was given by. Light refreshments are served and it provides an opportunity for the bridal party and guests to get to know each other.

Later the bride is dressed up with a train made from old curtains or other colourful materials and decorated with streamers and balloons and sometimes her face is daubed with soot. She is also given a plastic potty to carry - which has salt in the bottom. She is then noisily paraded around the town, her friends singing, blowing whistles, ringing bells or clashing saucepan lids, all in a traditional attempt to ward off evil spirits . To bring good luck, she exchanges her kisses for money, which is collected in the potty. Today passers by may just drop money into the potty as a present for the bride.

The Stag Night
The groom is also taken out before the wedding on his stag night. Sometimes he is dressed in a padded costume to make him look like a pregnant woman and then he too is paraded around the town and becomes the victim of many practical jokes.

The Bride
On her wedding morning the bride traditionally puts a silver coin into her shoe, for luck, and then steps out - right foot first - as she takes her last walk as a single lady. For extra luck she borrows something from a happily married woman and wears something coloured blue, the colour of constancy.

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