Scottish Wedding Traditions: Before the Big Day

Weddings are celebrated differently across the world. Some cultures may deem a wedding to be solemn with only the barest of sounds to provide background reverberation, while others may necessitate plenty of music by way of wedding bands (both traditional and modern) to provide the jolly atmosphere that starts off a celebration.

Traditions and customs vary from one location to another, and Scottish weddings are no different. While some customs may have been lost over time, quite a number of these – some of which can be traced back to a few centuries ago – are still being incorporated in Scottish weddings of today. Such traditions may be taken for granted without the full grasp of what they symbolize, therefore, understanding their meaning and purpose can provide valuable insight, especially to the bride and groom.

What entails a Scottish Wedding Tradition?

Let’s take a look at some of these wedding traditions that were done before the wedding ceremony.

1. The Beukin (The Speerin)

Proposing marriage to the woman of your dreams may be enough to give you anxiety for days on end, but in old Scotland, the prospective groom not only had to ask the father of the bride-to-be for his daughter’s hand in marriage, he had to go through and complete a series of trials and tasks. Only after overcoming such hurdles would he be able to gain the approval of the bride’s father in order to wed his beloved.

2. The Wedding Sark

Once the wedding was agreed upon, a wedding date fixed and planning commenced, there was typically an exchange of gifts between the bride and groom. The wedding Sark refers to the wedding shirt that the bride gives to her groom as a gift. The groom, in return, had to pay for the bride’s wedding dress.

3. Creeling of the Bridegroom

A creel is a type of basket usually used to hold fish. In Scottish wedding tradition, a creel is a large basket used in the creeling of the bridegroom. This required the groom to carry a large basket filled with stones on his back as he walked all over town, and this basket could only be put down once his bride had gone out of her house and kissed him. If the bride did not offer her kiss, the bridegroom would need to carry the basket (or continue “creeling”) until he had finished going all around town.

4. Show of Presents

This was a pre-wedding celebration usually held a week before the wedding, and hosted by the bride’s mother. The intent was for the invited guests to present their wedding gifts to the soon-to-be wedded couple in order to help them get a headstart on setting up their home. Cakes and tea were the usual fare served by the host. Such a celebration corresponds to the “bridal shower” in other countries.

5. Feet Washing

Feet washing was a custom done on the night before the wedding, and this involved the bride, the bride’s female friends, and an older (happily) married woman. The older married woman would have placed her wedding ring inside a tub of water, in which the bride’s feet would be immersed. Her female friends would take turns washing her feet, and whoever found the wedding ring that was previously placed in the tub of water was believed to be the next one to get married.

The Scottish weddings of today are usually a mix of rituals, religion, romance, practicality, and beliefs. Though traditions have understandably become more relaxed in recent times, such customs and practices can still be found in modern weddings, especially among those who have such traditions deeply embedded in their family’s heritage.

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