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Scottish Weddings

Scottish Wedding Announcements, Past and Present
In the thirteenth century, the medieval Church announced intended marriages through a process called the banns of marriage. The banns were proclaimed in the parish church for three successive weeks during Sunday worship, and the practice continued in Scotland for over six hundred years. In later centuries, an alternative was to give notice and obtain a license to marry from a registrar. This method eventually became accepted by the Church of Scotland. In present day, the practice of banns of marriage have declined, but giving notices have become compulsory for all regular marriages. After giving notice, a fourteen-day waiting period must elapse before the marriage booking and other arrangements may be made for a civil marriage, or collecting the marriage schedule (a document which licenses the chosen officiant to conduct the marriage) for the minister or priest for a religious marriage. Therefore, eloping to Gretna Green (a location that became known for marrying without the knowledge of families and friends) actually needs preparation beforehand (notice needs to be given to the local registrar at Gretna Green, etc.)

Modern Celebrations Before The Wedding
In some regions of Scotland, usually about a week before the nuptials, a brides' mother may choose to hold a show of presents for their daughter which is somewhat similar to bridal showers in other cultures, but in this case showing wedding presents. Invitations are to an open house rather than for a set time, and the guests are the women among those who gave presents to the wedding couple. The presents are all unwrapped, assembled if necessary and set out with the card of the gift giver set up next to the appropriate gift. The interaction that follows gives the guests and bridal party a chance to get acquainted before the wedding. During this time, the guests are shown the presents primarily by the bride (the bride's maid of honor helps when the bride is busy), have conversations, and enjoy light repasts of tea, sandwiches, cakes, and other foods and beverages before taking their leave.

After the show of presents, some Scottish brides are made up and dressed in long trains that could be made from old curtains colorfully festooned in whatever party-like material at hand. Or else, they are dressed in already prepared and garnished costumes. The bride may be given a baby doll, a plastic potty with salt in the bottom, and other small items to carry in her arms. Thus adorned and made up, the bride is traditionally taken out around town by her friends and any remaining guests from the show of presents. The women make plenty of noise by singing and banging pot lids and pans to herald the bride's status. To gather luck, the bride exchanges kisses for money to be dropped into the potty as the group goes from place to place around town. The purpose of the salt-filled potty, the doll, the money, etc. is believed to be for luck, prosperity and fertility, but the true meaning of the symbolisms are uncertain.

In his turn, the groom gets taken out for a stag night which is the equivalent to the bride's taking out. Although stemming more from a British tradition than a Scottish one, the groom is sometimes dressed up and taken around town for his stag night by his male companions. At times the groom is put into a padded outfit to look like a pregnant woman. More often, he and his friends would find a bar or party place to celebrate by drinking to excess. They may indulge in a great deal of (for the most part) harmless practical joking, of which the groom is the main target. When the wild night winds down, the groom may be left in the street in front of his home partially or totally stripped of his clothes, and in some occasions tied up.

As the groom in more recent days endures the jokes at his expense, so too did the Highland groom of the past endured the jokes of his friends. In the Scottish Highlands, an old custom known as creeling the bridegroom was often practiced. A creel (large basket) filled with stones was tied to the groom's back. The bridegroom had to carry this weight throughout the entire town. His friends only allowed him to escape the creeling if his bride would come out and kiss him, otherwise, he had to complete the round of the town without removing the creel full of stones.

A Scottish Marriage of Old
In the past, the guests at a Scottish Penny Wedding took part in feasting, drinking and dancing at their own expense. The wedding celebrations started on the eve of the wedding with plenty of singing, drinking and toasting to health. On the eve, a ceremonial "feet washing" was held. The bride placed her feet in a tub of hot water, and everyone crowded around to help wash her feet. Similar to the bouquet tossing, the first person to find a ring (a married woman's ring was placed into the tub before the ceremony) while washing the bride's feet was believed to be the one who would get married next. New rounds of singing and drinking to health followed.

The following day, the entire wedding procession would start out for the church. Sometimes, flower petals were thrown at the departing bride (Today it can be confetti, tiny shapes of pretty, colored paper which contrast with the white wedding gown and veil, that is thrown when the bride departs from home or the church) The first person to be met by the bride on her way to the wedding was given a coin, and a drink of whisky. That person, called the first foot, had to join the procession and walk for about a mile before continuing on his or her own business.

Just outside the church doors, the couple would be joined in marriage by a priest. The vows and joining ceremony were spoken in the vernacular Scots. After the joining, the priest led the bride and groom, and all the witnesses from the procession into the church for participation in a lengthy nuptial mass conducted in Latin. The long mass ended with the blessing of the food and drink which had been brought along by the guests and participants, and then shared amongst themselves.

After the church ceremony, the wedding procession went back to a relative's house to celebrate. At the celebration, pipers played merry tunes and an outdoor dance and feasting would begin which could last the entire night. (Today, traditional waltzes and sometimes country dances like the Gay Gordon are played with more contemporary dance tunes, and if a Highland style of dancing is preferred, the couple may hire a ceilidh band.) The newly-wedded couple led off the dancing with a traditional reel, and then the bride danced a second time with the person of the highest rank amongst the celebrants. Afterwards, the other guests and celebrants joined in.

Toward the end of the joyous celebrations, the entire assemblage saw the young couple to their new home. As the bride and groom departed, the groom and groomsmen may sometimes toss low value coins to the ground. However, before the bride could enter her new home, an oatcake or bannocks (a biscuit made of barley and oat flour) would be broken above her head and pieces of the cake were passed around to everyone. When that was done, the bride was carried over the threshold. The completion of the marriage ceremony culminated with the priest blessing the newlyweds, their new home, and their marriage bed as well!


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