Scottish Wedding Traditions

With elaborate courtship and engagement rituals, it's no wonder that Scottish wedding traditions are equally intricate and symbolic. While most people are familiar with the Scottish kilt and the clan patterns, there is so much more to Scottish weddings than tartan. Heavy with symbolism, Scottish wedding traditions are all about ensuring the best start in life for the bride and groom.

There are many symbols associated with Scottish wedding traditions. Perhaps most famous is the Celtic knot. The lines of the design are intricate and wind around each other so there is no beginning or end. The knot can be seen embroidered in wedding wear as well as in wedding linens. This symbolizes everlasting love and the bond between the couple. The Scottish thistle is another symbol used at weddings. Since the thistle has been Scotland's symbol since the 1500s, it is a cherished and beloved token often seen on napkins, cakes and table wear.

There are many Scottish wedding traditions centered around the bride. Brides often put a lucky sixpence in their shoe to symbolize prosperity. It's also considered bad luck to wear a pair of new shoes to be married in. A Scottish bride would wear a veil, not to symbolize purity, but to hide her face from fairies out to steal her for her lovely clothes. Also, a Scottish bride can wear a variety of colors for her wedding dress, including white, blue, green or brown.

A traditional Scottish wedding has traditions that evolved from the warring past of Scottish men. The bride stands to the groom's left so he can keep his right hand, or sword arm, free to fight off her family or any enemies. The bride and groom can draw a circle around themselves to symbolize unity, protection and dedication to God. Most important of Scottish wedding traditions is the pinning of the clan tartan. A tartan sash is affixed to the bride's dress with a clasp or pin, showing that she is joining the family.

Traditionally, Scottish weddings were held near stone or near water, with the idea that any oaths exchanged near these strong natural elements would make them more binding. Often, the names of the bride and groom were carved in the stone, and many can still be seen today. Wedding vows exchanged in a church became more popular in recent centuries, where church bells would ring to announce the happy event.

Another Scottish wedding tradition that is still done today is the ceilidh, or wedding reception. It consists of dancing, feasting and singing long into the night. Often guests are given bells that they ring whenever they want to see the couple kiss. Music, storytelling and games are also part of the ceilidh.

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