Today’s Scottish wedding service is not as ceremonial or ritualistic, but many of the modern traditions still date back to the past. A week prior to the wedding ceremony the mother of the bride will hold a “show of presents” for her daughter – also known as the bridal shower in other cultures. During the show of presents the female guests bring gifts to assist the new couple set up a home of their own.
A somewhat more raunchy tradition is the groom’s stag night party. Just before the wedding the groom and his friends go out for a wild night of partying and drinking. Often the groom is so drunk by the end of the evening that he barely notices that his friends disappear and leave him in the street in front of his home, partly or even fully naked, sometimes they tie him up.
The contemporary Scottish bride will wear a traditional or modern white wedding gown, while the groom dresses in traditional Highland kilt, kilt jacket and sporran. The couple are either bag piped down the isle or traditional Gaelic hymns are played as they walk to the top of the alter. The Highland Wedding is played practically at all Scottish weddings.
Wedding couples may decide to recite their vows in ancient Gaelic or to recite them in modern English. Following the vows the groom often pins a strip of his clan’s tartan colors to the bride’s wedding dress to indicate that she is now a member of his family.
Following the ceremony the couple and all their honored guests head to a private home or to a restaurant for a bountiful reception feast. At the typical Scottish reception you can expect the bride and groom to be “piped” to the their wedding table, where the bride will cut the first slice of wedding cake using a dirk (a long-bladed knife) that is provided to her by the piper. As the bride slices the first piece of wedding cake, custom dictates that the hand of her new husband guides her hand. The wedding reception is filled with music, signing, much drinking and toasting to the health and happiness of the new couple. The partying can go on into the wee hours of the morning.
One custom that hasn’t changed for more than 700 years is the custom of the groom carrying his new bride over the threshold of their new home together. Today’s husband may not be aware that the custom originated to keep evil spirits from entering his wife through her feet, but the custom is performed nonetheless.
Modern Scottish wedding traditions are far more relaxed than they were in the olden days, but even today bits and pieces of the ancient traditions still make Scottish weddings the jolly and joyous occasions that they are.