Scotland's Wedding Traditions
If you’re thinking of getting married in Scotland – or of incorporating some Scottish traditions into your special day – you’ll be excited to know that there are a number of traditions to partake in. Not only does the Scottish landscape provide a beautiful and sublime backdrop to your wedding day, but Scotland is also considered to be one of the most romantic countries in the world – for good reason! Here we’ll tell you all about our favourite Scottish wedding traditions, and explain why Scotland is famous for its wedding ceremonies.
Tying the Knot
If you have heard of the phrase ‘tying the knot’, you’ll know that this of course refers to a wedding ceremony. However, this phrase actually derives from a historical and very romantic custom, which is still incorporated into Scottish weddings to this day. This tradition is known as hand-fasting and is a really lovely ritual. Traditionally, the bride and groom provide the officiant with a piece of cloth – historically a strip of their clan tartan, but now this can be a piece of rope or ribbon.
The bride and groom’s hands are positioned one on top of the other, and the fabric is wrapped around their wrists, eventually forming a knot tying them together. Historically, a hand-fasting would take place a year prior to the official, legal wedding – marking the beginning of a 'probationary marriage' to ensure the couple are compatible. Nowadays many people simply include this loving gesture when taking their regular wedding vows as a nod to this Scottish tradition, and a symbol of their union.
Share a Dram
There are a number of smaller traditions common in Scottish wedding ceremonies, including the wedding walk. This was a formal walk taken by the wedding party to the church, following a bagpiper. You either love or hate bagpipes, but regardless of how you think about them, they have historically been used to mark significant celebrations and events, and so are an important part of Scottish weddings!
Another fun tradition is the custom of having and sharing a dram of whisky at the end of the ceremony. This was believed to bless the marriage, and so a Quaich – a two-handled silver cup – would be filled during the ceremony with whisky, and then drunk by the bride and groom once married, and then shared with their guests. Another small tradition is called the wedding scramble, which is also thought to bring financial good luck and prosperity to the newlyweds. The groom, best man or father of the bride would throw coins onto the floor for the children to ‘scramble’ to retrieve, perhaps to symbolise the importance of family and community. We think that all of these rituals and traditions are great, as not only do they add character and make a wedding ceremony very memorable, but they are also rituals of good luck and prosperity.
Gretna Green - Scotland's Most Romantic Village
As aforementioned, Scotland is known as one of the most romantic places in the world – and not just due to its dramatic and beautiful landscapes!
Gretna Green, near Dumfries and Galloway in the Scottish Borders, has become synonymous with young, runaway lovers from England hoping to get wed. In 1754, an English Marriage Act was enforced, which changed the age at which couples could get married without their parents' consent to 21. Furthermore, weddings were then required to be a public ceremony, in the couple’s home parish, with an official of the Church present. This effectively meant that many young couples - in love despite parental disapproval - were no longer able to get married. However, Scotland had no such change of law, and continued to allow anyone over the age of 15 to marry. Due to Gretna Green’s location near the Borders, it became a prime spot for young couples from England to marry, and soon gained a reputation for providing this service.
The village blacksmith would perform the ceremonies at the Blacksmith’s Forge and would seal their marriage by striking his anvil. The law changed in 1939, outlawing any marriages not conducted by a registrar or priest, meaning that this romantic wedding location and experience ceased to be.
People flock to Gretna Green to get married, and it is still possible to be hand-fasted over the famous blacksmith’s anvil – albeit with a real officiant present rather than a blacksmith!
Gretna Green's Famous Marriage Room, photograph by Niki Odolphie
Bridal Jewellery at Perre
As we have shown, Scotland is an amazing place in which to get married. Not only does Scotland have a breath-taking natural beauty, but it also has a range of traditions and customs to make your day more special, and is even home to a village famous for romantic weddings.
We are a Scottish independent jeweller based in Edinburgh, and we take so much inspiration from Scotland’s wildlife and nature in our designs. We know how important it is to look just right on your wedding day, and we have many collections which would complement both the bride and her bridesmaids. Particularly appropriate are our pearl collections, rose quartz collections and garnet collections – not only do these gemstones work well with traditional wedding colours, but they are also believed to be stones of love. However, as we know that everybody has an individual style, please do browse our Perre collections and pearl pieces find that perfect piece for your wedding day.