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Scottish weddings, marriage traditions in Scotland

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The guide to weddings and marriage in Scotland. Information on authentic traditional Scottish wedding customs and marriage in Scotland, collected from reference material. Celtic stationery, wedding vows in Gaelic and English, information on books, handfasting, clothing, blessings, stories, rings, kilts, songs, engravings, Luckenbooths and more as well as links to other sources and facilities to shop for recommended books.

Scotland has long been known as a romantic venue for a wedding, not least through the historic connection with Gretna Green. However in recent years its reputation as an A list wedding venue has been enhanced by weddings in Scotland of such celebrities as J. K. Rowling (2001), Ashley Judd (2001), Jennifer Ehle (2001), Stella McCartney (2003) and Zara Phillips & Mike Tindall (2011).


If you're reading a printout of this page, the latest version can be found online here:

?Can you recommend any books?

I recommend the following books:

Your Scottish Wedding

Your Scottish Wedding A modern bride's guide to planning her big day
Marianne Rogerson

Paperback - 160 pages (published October 2005).
Recently published - "it's the DIY manual to beat them all." Rosemary Goring, the Herald
UK based info | US based info
Scottish Tartan Weddings

Scottish Tartan Weddings A Practical Guidebook
Eric Merrill Budd.

Hardcover - 180 pages (published September 1999).
This book is extremely popular indeed with visitors to this site. More info on this book at the following links
UK based info | US based info

The Scottish Wedding Book

The Scottish Wedding Book
G. Wallace Lockheart.

Hardcover - 128 pages (published September 2002).
More info on this book at the following links
UK based info | US based info

Getting Married in Scotland

Getting Married in Scotland
Iona McGregor

Paperback - 96 pages (Published April 2000).
More info on this book at the following links
UK based info | US based info

Scottish Customs

Scottish Customs
Margaret Bennett

Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave - Polygon, Edinburgh 1995. It has 90 pages on love, courtship and marriage. More info on this book at the following links
UK based info | US based info

Large selection of wedding related ideas, books, etc . See also the list of recommendations at the right, based on previous purchases made by visitors to this site.

For a more academic approach to reading about traditional weddings, contact one of the following

Mrs Frances Beckett
School of Scottish Studies
University of Edinburgh
27 George Square
Tel: 0131 650 3060
School of Scottish Studies
Gaelic Books Council
22 Mansfield Street
G11 5QP
Tel: 0141 337 6211
Gaelic Books Council

and ask for Tocher: Tales, Songs, Tradition, No 48/49. Selected from the archives of the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh University (the world's foremost authority on Scottish customs). UK ISSN 0049-397X. The book is £6.50 including postage

This issue has 53 pages on marriage, courtship and betrothal customs from all over Scotland. Also includes songs and tunes. The issue has 111 pages total and to subscribe to for a year (4 issues) is also £6. I think it's excellent and essential for anyone interested in Scottish customs. Issue 30 of Tocher covered betrothal (rèiteach)

If you'd like to read a few samples from Tocher and look up issues where they have covered weddings or other traditions, please go to the School of Scottish Studies website.


Sponsored Links
Let's Get Married!

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? Recommended religious book

Common Order The definitive religious reference from the Church of Scotland is the Common Order: Church of Scotland Panel on Worship. This was published in 1994 by Saint Andrew Press, 121 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4YN. ISBN 1117577007 It is 700 pages and available in hardback. It covers services for all sort of occasions and has 55 pages on marriage services including wording of vows, scripture readings, order of service, marriage blessings, etc. Approx 1/4 of this book has been translated into Gaelic for those wanting a Gaelic service. The Gaelic book includes sections on weddings and has the vows. The ISBN of the Gaelic book is 0 907624 12 X and it's available from the Gaelic Books Council, its name is "Leabhar Sheirbheisean", pub St Andrews Press.

You can also ask The Scottish Bible Society if you have any questions about religious material.

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? What are the current Scottish vows?

The Church of Scotland marriage vows in Gaelic and English, (translated to Gaelic by Mairead Anna Nic an t-Sagairt at Sabhal Mór Ostaig).

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? Why is Gretna Green so popular for weddings?

The phenomenon started after an English law passed in 1754 which restricted the number of places where people could get married and stopped people under 21 getting married altogether without their parents' consent. However the law did not apply to Scotland and with Gretna's proximity to the border, it became a popular venue. Over 4,000 weddings a year take place in Gretna Green, around one in eight of all weddings in Scotland. The law was the Marriage Act 1753, full title "An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage".

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? Where can I get rings?

For genuine Scottish rings, here is some info on getting Scottish gold wedding rings. Gold rings with Celtic knotwork designs are quite popular in Scotland. The tradition of exchanging rings made of Scottish gold dates back to the 1540's. Ortak (shops in Kirkwall, Edinburgh and other Scottish cities) also have a wide range of Celtic ring designs in gold and silver.

Claddagh rings originate from a village near Galway in Ireland in the 17th Century. These are sometimes regarded as Catholic, however they are becoming popular in Scotland with Gaelic speakers of many religions. Hartmann's of Galway sell claddagh rings. I don't know whether knotwork rings were also used about that time. See Wales Direct for information on Celtic jewellery from Wales.

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? Wedding Singers

The Wedding Singer. - Singing and DJ packages by James Barlow - The Wedding Singer.

Carla McLean, Wedding Singer. Scottish folk singer songwriter Carla is available as a wedding singer in Glasgow, Edinburgh and throughout Scotland.

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? What's a Luckenbooth brooch?

This Scottish brooch usually of engraved silver in the shape of a heart or two hearts entwined and is used chiefly as a love token or betrothal brooch. Sometimes there is a crown. The heart (love) and crown (loyalty) both appear on the claddagh ring too. Luckenbooth brooches are of late 19th or early 20th century origin. Sometimes the brooch was pinned to the couple's firstborn's blanket as a good luck charm. Luckenbooths are usually worn by women.

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? What do people wear for good luck?

The traditional Scottish token of good luck for weddings is to wear a sprig of white heather (Calluna Vulgaris). For more information, see Scottish White, together with the story of why we wear white heather.

If you are looking for someone to do calligraphy for your place cards and invitations, please visit Duncan Tolmie, Calligraphic Art Services. Duncan teaches calligraphy at the University of Strathclyde.

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? Traditional Island Weddings

At the réiteach or formal betrothal, it was often said by the bride to be's father :

"Ma tha ise deònach, tha mise ro-dheònach, agus mura bi sin mar sin, cha bhi seo mar seo" which means "If she is willing, I am very willing and if that weren't so, then this wouldn't be so"

The banns were called three Sundays in sucession (this is no longer done) and on the Tuesday after the last calling the wedding would take place.

The greatest chore for a wedding was the plucking and cooking of innumerable hens presented for the party by friends of the bride and bridegroom from all over the island. A delegation was formed just to deal with this part of the feast which consisted of cold chicken, roast mutton, scones and bannocks, fresh and salt butter, new cheese and many another special delicacy of the island, with the ever-present tea, and whisky and port wine for the toasts. Chickens were considered such an essential part of these feasts that when an epidemic killed a lot of hens on the island, Seonaidh Caimbeul, the local bard, made a song about it in which he refers to the grief of prospective brides at the impossibility of making proper wedding feasts without them.

After the religious service, the wedding party was met at the church door with the firing of guns and the skirl of bagpipes, which, playing the fine tune Highland Wedding, led the procession home to the wedding breakfast. The celebration continued through the day and night. The guests sat down to the banquet in relays while songs and toasts were given, the songs often starting with a new song composed by the local bard especially for the occasion. Dancing began with a Scots foresome reel for the bride and groom and best man and first bridesmaid. Then the guests joined them on the floor and danced until morning. South Uist is famous for its pipers and a great delight of such a day was to listen to their perfect playing and pointing of the lovely tunes

Written on Canna in 1955 by Margaret Fay Shaw in her book Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist, published by Aberdeen University Press.

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? Suitable Gaelic engravings for rings

"Tha gaol agam ort" and "Mo ghaol ort" both mean "I love you"

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? Handfasting

I don't write much about this practice as it is a tradition largely ignored in modern Scotland. However, if anyone is interested in reading more I recommend this article on handfasting.

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? Scottish Weddings Magazine

Best Scottish Weddings Magazine.

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? Songs

The following are suitable Scottish wedding and/or love songs. "Amazing Grace" isn't Scottish but is widely associated with Scotland.

Màiri's Wedding (Lewis Bridal song)
Queen of Argyll
An cluinn thu mi, mo nighean donn?
Màiri Bhàn Òg
Amazing Grace (makes good processional)
Highland Wedding
My love is like a red, red rose
Green grow the rashes (Robert Burns)
Òran na bainnse (The wedding song); in Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia (Creighton and MacLeod), P98 with music and bilingual lyrics

Quite a lot of the songs or poems of Robert Burns are suitable - he was a great romantic. Some of the tunes mentioned above are available on my songs page.

On album, volumes 5,6 and 7 of The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection deal with love and marriage. This is the largest and most important manuscript collection of Scottish ballads and folksongs.

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? Wedding blessing

Mìle fàilte dhuit le d'bhréid,
Fad do ré gun robh thu slàn.
Móran làithean dhuit is sìth,
Le d'mhaitheas is le d'nì bhi fàs.

Translated as:
"A thousand welcomes to you with your marriage kerchief,
may you be healthy all your days.
May you be blessed with long life and peace,
may you grow old with goodness and with riches."

This is attributed to the Rev. Donald MacLeod, minister of Duirinish, Skye, Scotland c. 1760.

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? Where can I get a bagpiper for my wedding?

See the soc.culture.scottish FAQ Where can I get a piper?

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? Where can I get kilts?


Geoffrey (tailor) Highland Crafts Ltd
57-59 High Street
Royal Mile
Tel: 0131-557 0256
Geoffrey Tailor Highland Crafts
17 Greenwood Drive
South San Francisco
CA 940080
Tel: 1-800-253-7269

They are also always at the Texas Scottish Festival.
Someone added: They have made one of my kilts and are quite good.

Information on other places to get kilts.

For info on doing the traditional plaid outfit like the costumes in Braveheart, see this great kilt information.

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? What did women wear?

In Tocher 48/49 (mentioned above) there's an interview with someone regarding a traditional wedding in 1907. These days most Scottish brides seem to wear the same as in most of the rest of Britain. This is an edited extract, the person being interviewed (Mrs Christina Paterson) was married in Harris, Outer Hebrides in 1907. Her comments are in quotes, the interviewer's are plain text.

What would the bride wear? Would they wear hats?
"Yes, and a white veil over her face"

After the service she wore "a wreath which was put on her head when she came home, before she sat at the table for the meal. A wreath was put on her head then"

Would they be married in white?
"Oh no, certainly not. White was never heard of at that time, in those days at all. I wore a blue costume and it was made skin-tight for me."

Yes. And did you get it from the Lowlands or was it tailored?
"Oh the material came here and the bridesmaid, she was a dressmaker and she made the dress. Christina, daughter of Angus, son of John, son of Sorley made it."

And were dresses made for the bridesmaids at the same time?

Of the same material
"A dress for herself, and one for the bride, a dress for me"

And what colour was your hat?
"A blue hat too"

Blue. And what sort of top did you wear? Was it a white blouse?
"There was no blouse as such, just this tight fitting jacket. And there was silk round the neck, a high collar and stiffened with some kind of stuff and covered with silk, silk on the front more than halfway down. And silk on the cuffs. Oh, they were really nice. "

Yes indeed. But it wasn't all in one piece. You had an upper part like a jacket.
"A little jacket above and a skirt"

And was it a long skirt?
"Oh yes, down to the top of the boots. That was the fashion"

And was it boots you wore or..?
"high boots"

High Boots
"High boots done up with laces"

Did you wear home made stockings, or..?
"No, black bought in stockings"

Is that what they usually wore?
"Oh yes, usually. But I remember others getting married here and it was Highland stockings hand-made at home they were, spun white, the greyish white they are when they come straight from the sheep."

And did you wear gloves?
"Yes, yes"

They were brought in?
"Yes, Oh yes"

And now, usually, would the bridegroom, would he get a bought in suit, the same way?
"The same way, the same sort of suit"

A blue suit was it?
"No. Your father's suit was just black with narrow grey stripes. It was very nice. Made of good material. It was expensive too. I can't remember today how much, but I know at the time we thought it was very expensive. But that didn't bother us as long as it was good. Oh no.

The interview continues for several more pages. These days most Scots get married in kilts.

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? Wedding rhyme and story (English follows Gaelic)

Contributed by Mìcheil Rob MacPhàdruig

Tune available in JPEG format (48K). The tune should be played according to the following metre:
cró cummaisc etir casbairdne agus leathrannaigheacht - 2(7 to the 3rd power + 5 to the 1st power) to the power of 2+4. Even lines have one extra syllable at the beginning. Regular stress. The verse consists of two quatrains.

le Iain Mhic Fhearchair

Chaidh mi sìos do Phaibil
Ann am maduinn 's i ro fhuar;
Chomhdhalaich mo ghoistidh mi,
E fhéin is Lochlann Ruadh;
Ghabh sinn chum na tulaich
Far 'n robh cruinneachadh math sluaigh;
Ma rinn iad dearmad buideil oirnn
So m'uirsgeul dhuibh g'a luaidh.

Shuidh sinn aig an teine,
'S bha na gillean cuide ruinn;
Chaidh am muilleir spreilleasach
Le gheilleart do 'n tigh shìos,
Ag aidhbhseachadh na chunnaic e
'S nach b'urrainn e g'an dìol -
"Gu bheil an siod triuir bhaodhaisteach
Cho leathan 's tha 's an tìr."

Thuirt Domhnall mac Gille-Mhàrtuinn,
"Ciod e 'n taobh a thàinig sibh?
Nam b'e so a' bhanais
'S ann a b'airidh sibh air brill;
Ged a chumte falamh sibh
Na gearainibh a chaoidh;
Na iomraidhibh air droch fhialachd
Bho nach daoine dh'iarradh sìbh.

"Tha rud uam 's cha mhath leam e -
Na banchaigean dh'am dhìth;
Bu mhath an am an earraich iad
An uair gu ghainne 'n tìr,
Gu liteach bonnachach brochanach
Le cosamhlas de dh'ìm;
Bhiodh sògh aig daoine slàn' an siod,
Is àrach dhaoine tinn.

"'S e cùis mu bheil mi dearmalach
Na banchaigean dh'am dhìth;
Gheibhinn air an àirigh iad
Rìarach a' chrodh-laoigh,
Gu h-imeach gruthach càiseach
Omhnach dràbhagach làn mìg,
Gu meadrach poiteach blàthanach
Le plàsdaichean dhe 'n ìm.

"A nis o'n thug mi cùl riu
Tha mo dhùrachd aig a' chloinn;
Gheibhinn air a' bhuailidh iad
Ri cuallach a' chrodh-laoigh;
Bu chuid dhe ur dibhearsain
A bhith mar rium anns an oidhch' -
Mi greis a' laighe cuide ruibh,
'S 'n uair dh'fhalbhainn glug 'n am bhroinn!"

(An sin thuirt am bàrd:-)

"'S tìm dhuinn bhith dol dachaidh
'S gun ar cairtealan 'n ar còir,
Bho nach d'fhuair sinn fiadhachadh
Gu biadhtachd no gu ceòl;
Mas e so a' chuideachd
A rinn dearmad buideil òirnn;
Fàgaibh far an d'fhuair sibh e -
Fear ruadh a' c--- mhóir." **

** (probably "Cac" - excrement)

by John MacCodrum

I went down to Paible one morning when t'was very cold; my closest companion met me, he and Red-Haired Lachlan; we made for the hillock where there was a goodly gathering of people; as they missed us with the bottle, here is my tale to tell of it.

We sat down by the fire, and the lads were in our company; the slobber-lipped miller went ben with his whine, enlarging on the number he had seen and saying he could not serve them all - "There are three weather-worn fellows down there as broad as any in the land."

Said Donald son of Martin, "From what airt have you come? If this were the wedding, you would deserve the knout. Though you be left without cheer do not grumble ever; do not mention lack of hospitality since you are unbidden guests.

There is a thing that I lack and I like it not - the milkmaids are mine no more; good were they in time of spring when the land was most in want, with porridge, bannocks, gruel, and a semblance of butter; the healthy would have their fill there, and the sick their return to health.

"'Tis a matter which perturbs me - the milkmaids are mine no more; I would find them at the shieling attending the milch-kine; with butter, curds, and cheese, froth, and dregs, and plenty whey; with milk-pails, pots and buttermilk, and plasterings of butter.

"Now that I have left them, my best wishes to the lasses; I would find them on the shieling knoll herding the milch-kine; it was part of your amusement to be with me in the night; I would lie a while along with you, and there would be a gurgle inside me when I left."

(Then said the bard:-)

"'Tis time for us to go home, as our quarters are not near us, since we got no bidding to feasting or to music. If this be the company that missed us with the bottle, leave him where you found him, the red-headed big .... (shit)"


MacCodrum and two other youths appeared at a wedding in the Paible district without having received an invitation; a serious breach of convention which was apt to lead to unfortunate consequences for the offenders. The bard and his friends however were more or less ignored.

Three divisions were at that time usual at such gatherings. The living-room or "ben" was occupied by the wedding party and near relatives of the bride who had been present at the marriage ceremony (an luchd comhailteachd), the schoolmaster, and sometimes the officiating minister. The general body of guests partook of the wedding feast in the "butt" where the cattle were then usually housed. It often happened that this accommodation was insufficient, and some of the guests, young lads for the most part, had to be content with eating and drinking outside. The fire mentioned was probably built for the benefit of these last-mentioned.

The uninvited guests on the occasion in question hoped to escape detection among this crowd. But they were recognised by the miller as intruders and not given even a dram. The song lampooning the wedding and the bridegroom in particular was composed in retaliation for this treatment. The author prudently kept his identity undisclosed, but the song itself became well-known and caused great offence to the persons against whom it was directed.

Domhnall mac Gille-Mhàrtuinn was the bridegroom who had to supply the whisky and so didn't welcome an addition to the original number of guests. Gille-Mhàrtuinn is here aspirated in both its component parts, but often the second part was not aspirated.

There is a naidheachd (anecdote) about a conversation regarding this incident between MacCodrum and his father Fearchar (Farquhar) which led to a famous saying. I'll quote it in the original for you.

An uair a bha e 'n a ghille òg, chaidh MacCodrum a dh'ionnsaigh banais àraid. Tha a h-uile coltas gur h-e a' bhanais mu 'n do rinn e Duan na Bainnse a bha ann. An latha an deaghaidh na bainnse dh'fhaighneachd athair dheth ciod e a' chanais a bha aca an raoir.

"Innsidh mise sin dhuibh," arsa Iain; "beagan arain is móran uime (ime) is pailteas uisge-na-beatha." Cha do thuig athair ciod e bha e ag ciallachadh, agus thuirt e, "An da, bha banais an sin da-rìribh." Dh'fhalbh Iain, agus is ann an uair sin a dh'innis a mhàthair do Fhearchar mar a bha dà thaobh air an rud a thuirt a mhac.

(When he was a young lad MacCodrum went to a certain wedding. It is very probable that it was the wedding concerning which he composed The Wedding Rhyme. The day after the wedding his father asked him what sort of wedding they had last night. "I will tell you that," said John; "a little bread and many round it (much butter) and plenty water-of-life (whisky)." His father did not understand what he meant and said, "Well, that was a wedding for sure." John went away and it was then that his mother explained to Farquhar how there were two sides to what his son had said.)

Because of the great storm that Duan na Bainnse raised, neither parent ever admitted that they knew their son had written the poem.

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? Further information

The Domain is for sale. For more information, see here!
Scottish Weddings is the most frequently accessed part of this site. From traditions and Gretna Green to selling services, kilts, stationery and reception venues. Gretna Green - the world's most romantic wedding venue is Scotland's #1 tourist attraction after Edinburgh Castle and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and it gets approximately 700,000 visitors a year! Scotland is becoming an even more sought after location to get married after the weddings in Scotland of such celebrities as Madonna (2000), J. K. Rowling (2001), Ashley Judd (2001), Jennifer Ehle (2001), Stella McCartney (2003), Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall (2011).
Please contact us for information on this unique opportunity in a multi-million pound industry. View our other Scottish domains for sale or rent.

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Craig Cockburn
Silicon Glen, Scotland
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