Wedding Ceremony Customs

Some of these wedding ceremony customs have fallen into disuse, others are still used today.

At The Kirk Doors

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One of the older wedding ceremony traditions was to exchange vows just outside the front entry to the kirk, with the guests standing round, then to enter the church proper for the Nuptial Communion and blessing of the food. It was also traditional for the meenister, , however shy, to smuirich the bride.

Blessing the Wedding Food

During the Communion, the meenister would bless food brought by the guests for the celebration. Guests bringing food for the Ceilidh evolved among the wedding day customs from the Penny Wedding.

Bride to the Groom’s Left

As a warrior’s prize, a captured bride needed to be held with his left hand, so his right was free to fight off her family or foes. Interesting insight into the wedding ceremony customs, isn't it?

The Caim

To begin a Celtic wedding ceremony, the bride and groom would draw a circle around themselves, symbolizing their unity with God. As they drew the circle, they repeated these words,

The Mighty Three, my protection be, encircle me.
You are around my life, my love, my home.
Encircle me. O sacred three, the Mighty Thee.


Wedding Confetti

Thought to originate in Italy, it’s really only the word that comes from Italian. In Italy ‘confetti is a candy’. The British call it a ‘dragee’. Yanks call it a ‘Jordan almond’. In Italian, the word for paper confetti is ‘coriandoli’.

Scotland is among many cultures that sprinkle paper confetti on the bride and groom as a part of the wedding ceremony customs. It has replaced the throwing of rice, which was often painful as some folks literally ‘pelted’ the bride and groom. The throw was meant to wish the couple a fruitful marriage, with lots of strong, healthy children.

Among the confetti available today, those for Scottish weddings are somewhat unique ~ tartan plaid and shamrocks to mention two.

A Dorothy bag, also called a dolly bag, carried by the bridesmaids, is another wedding ceremony custom. The bag held the rice or confetti to be thrown at the couple.

Our source for the Dorothy bag made of silk, with decorations of beads and lace tatting, has dried up. When another is located, the URL will be posted.

Scotland Shop sells tartan confetti.

Exclusively Yours sells shamrock confetti!

Groom’s Siller

In another form of the wedding ceremony customs, the groom is pledging to ‘provide and protect’.

He was expected to bring ‘siller’, which is silver coins, to the ceremony. More specifically, he gave the priest or minister 13 silver coins, called ‘arrhae’. At one point in the ceremony, the priest or minister dropped the coins into the groom’s hands. In turn, the groom dropped them into the bride’s hands. Next she dropped the coins back into his hands. The groom then dropped the coins into a plate, held by the ministerial assistant.

The noise of the coins dropping from one set of hands to another was to be a reminder of the groom’s promise to provide materially for his wife. The bride returning the coins signified her pledge that they would share all their wealth together, plus meting her duty to manage, save, and invest their money with wisdom.

The arrhae also means earnest, or foretaste of something more to come. Like earnest money on a piece of real estate. The word is Phoencian in origin and was applied in Roman law to denote anything give to bind a bargain.

The Oathing Stone

In another form of the wedding ceremony customs, the groom is pledging to ‘provide and protect’. An oath given near a stone or water was considered more binding. This evolved into the bride and groom either holding or putting their hands together on a stone as they repeated their wedding vows. Some believe the phrase ‘set them in stone’ came from this custom.

In some areas of Scotland, the couple would carve their names on a tree or a stone. Some of these bridal stones still exist across Scotland.

The source of an oathing stone, what minerals are in it, it’s color, or other characteristics are less important than what’s said over the stone.

Where to Find a Stone

  • A stone brought from Scotland would be fantastic.
  • One collected by the couple together would also be appropriate.
  • For the groom to collect a stone as a fairing or love token would also be a nice Scottish touch for your wedding.

Prepping the Oathing Stone

  • The stone can be washed and scrubbed with a stiff brush.
  • Almond oil, available at many larger grocery stores, can be rubbed on several times, then wiped dry and rubbed to a satin sheen.
  • If you've the time and means, polishing the stone in a tumbler would be great.
  • Etching a Celtic knot with your initials, a Luckenbooth brooch design, the date of your wedding, or your clan badge are ideas for dressing up the stone…not necessary, just an added touch.

As far as the words spoken, it’s like any other part of your wedding vows. Write your own, find a poem, or a nice Scottish blessing .

Pinning of the Tartan

Following the proclamation that they were now guid-man and guid-wife, or hain and wifie , the pinning of the tartan would take place. Each family would customize this, depending on whether the bride or the groom was being accepted into the other’s clan.

For instance, if the bride were marrying into the groom’s clan, any member of the groom’s family would present the bride with clan tartan. This might have been a rosette or a sash fashioned from their tartan. It would be fastened with the clan badge to the bride’s dress symbolically accepting her into the groom’s clan. Many times the groom himself would pin on the rosette or sash. It can be quite emotional when the groom’s mother does the pinning.

Likewise, if the groom is being accepted into the bride’s family, the roles are reversed.

Whichever way you would choose, this is one of the wedding ceremony customs that’s easy to incorporate in your Scottish theme wedding plans.

Pledging To Provide and Protect

The Groom gave his bride a sheaf of wheat, symbolizing his pledge to provide for their home. The Bride gave the groom a piece of woven cloth, symbolizing her pledge to provide for their home.

The Groom gave a dagger or dirk, symbolizing his pledge to defend their home. The Bride gave a Bible, symbolizing her pledge to defend their home.

These pledges of the wedding ceremony customs are some many of us should look at in a more serious light.

Presentation of the Sword

In this tradition, the groom presents his bride with a new family sword. In time it will be given to their first born son. Or the bride’s family would present the groom with their family sword, as a sign of accepting him into the family.

Either way, the sword signified his accepting the obligation and responsibility to now protect her, as his wifie. If your romantically inclined, this could add a nice touch to your use of wedding ceremony customs.

The Quaich

The Quaich was a two-handled loving cup for the wedding feast. From it the couple took their first communion together as a married couple. They also used the quaich at the reception for their first toast together.

Symbolic of the sharing between the couple, it's an ancient vessel used by two families or clans, to celebrate a bond, with each leader partaking of the offered drink.

  • Centuries ago quaichs were made from wooden staves. By the 17th century, silver mountings or or metal quaichs were often used.
  • Today, the quaich is often of pewter or silver, with an overlay of wood. Before and after the ceremony the quaich sits on a plinth, or decorative stand.
  • The bottom was sometimes made of glass, so that the drinker could keep a watch on his companions or enemies.
  • For the more romantic, a double glass bottom held a lock of hair from his true love, sandwiched between. Thus, the owner could drink from his quaich to his ladylove.

Usually whiskey or brandy was served in the quaich.

Sir Walter Scott had a quaich that was especially precious to him. In 1745, a Bonnie Prince Charlie carried a quaich as he traveled from Edinburgh to Derby with the Scottish Army. In 1589, King James VI of Scotland gave Anne of Norway a quaich as a wedding gift.

The cup was presented using both hands, and received with both hands. This insured the safety of each warrior, as both of his enemy’s hands were busy.

How often have you sung Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve? As you sang, you "pledged a cup (quaich) of kindness for old Lang Syne", which is old time’s sake.

The Ringing of the Bells

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To ring the church bells at the end of a wedding was to joyously declare the marriage. Some couples furnish small bells for their guests to ring, as one of the Scottish wedding ceremony customs, as the new couple walk up the aisle after the ceremony. The bells could also be used at the reception.

For instance, if the bride were marrying into the groom’s clan, any member of the groom’s family would present the bride with clan tartan. This might have been a rosette or a sash fashioned from their tartan. It would be fastened with the clan badge to the bride’s dress symbolically accepting her into the groom’s clan. Many times the groom himself would pin on the rosette or sash. It can be quite emotional when the groom’s mother does the pinning.

Likewise, if the groom is being accepted into the bride’s family, the roles are reversed.

Whichever way you would choose, this is one of the wedding ceremony customs that’s easy to incorporate in your Scottish theme wedding plans.

Unity Candle Ceremony

This was symbolic of two clans joining. There were three candles ~ two tapers placed on each side of a central candle, representing the two families. The larger central candle, placed in between, symbolized the new family being formed by the marriage.

As one of the Scottish wedding ceremony customs, the wedding unity candles were often decorated with ribbons, flowers, Celtic knots, Claddagh, thistles, or Lukenbooths.

A member of each family would light an outside taper before the ceremony. After their vows, the bride and groom would use those two candles to light their central candle. As they blew out the two family candles, the implied meaning was that they intended to subject their individual needs to the greater good of their union. The candles were kept, then lit on anniversaries, or other family celebrations.

Wedding Rings

The wedding ring was placed on the third finger of the left hand, as people believed there was a direct connection to the vena amoris, or vein of love.

The circular shape of the wedding ring, since it has neither beginning nor end, was a symbol of endless love and devotion. The endless strand of the Celtic knot was also a symbol of eternity and is a beautiful compliment to the symbolism of the ring itself.

Image courtesy clipart.com

The ring was engraved with the couple’s names. After the wedding ceremony, the ring was passed around for the guests to inspect.

As one of the Scottish wedding ceremony customs the bride was often given two rings. An everyday ring to wear when doing physical work and a dress ring, which was more expensive.

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