Scottish Wedding Traditions

Scottish wedding traditions are pretty bizarre. If you’re planning a wedding and have some Scottish ancestry (or even if you don’t) you might want to check them out.

The other day my husband asked me if I knew what “hand-fast” was. Since it is really rare that I know something he doesn’t, I was pleased to share my research with him. “Hand-fast” is the traditional Scottish promise between two people that replaced the need for an actual ceremony.  I guess we’d call it common-law today.

Here’s some pre-wedding fun. The bride’s feet are washed in a tub of water by her female friends. The wedding ring of a happily married women (if such a creature can be found) is placed in the tub and whoever finds it will be the next to marry.

The engaged couple are captured one night and covered with foul substances such as treacle, feathers, soot, etc. and paraded around the village. This is called “blackening” and is very popular in Aberdeenshire.

On the nicer side of traditions, as a betrothal gift, the man gives the woman a brooch (called a Luckenbooth) made of silver engraved with two entwined hearts. This brooch is pinned on the blanket of the first-born child.

On the way to the church, flower petals are strewn in front of the bride. If a funeral or a pig are encountered on the way, the procession has to start over. The first person encountered en route is called “the first foot” and he (or she) is given a coin and a glass of whiskey by the bride and has to accompany her for one mile.

After the ceremony, the wedding party is piped home for a lavish reception. Pipers play lively tunes for hours, often the entire night. Traditionally, the first dance, a reel, is led by the wedding couple. The guests accompany the couple to their new home where the bride is carried across the threshold to protect her from evil spirits.

The first novel in this trilogy The Serpentine Path is a romance, so of course it ends with a wedding. Some of these customs (from a book called Scottish Customs by Margaret Bennett) find their way in to my story.

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