Weddings topics come back around from time to time, especially when the spring or summer begins. It doesn’t mean of course that only these seasons are good to get marry in, but it is common around the world that the majority of wedding ceremonies take place during so called “warm months” (which obviously means something different for people in Scotland from those of you who live in Texas, for example ) . Last year we were writing about the wedding ceremony and its traditions. It is important for all of you with Scottish roots to know them and put into practice if possible, but it is also good to remember some basic facts about how the Scottish wedding should look. How to dress for this celebration and how to behave.
One of the most significant roles in a true Scottish wedding is the tartan or tartans. Not only the bride and groom wear tartan, but also wedding decorations often feature it. For some the question is – which tartan to choose? Traditionally, wedding guests from the bride’s side wear the host’s tartan as a token of respect. But there are many other options available. The second common approach reflects clans diversity and richness as well as clans union and tells men (and also women) to wear their own families tartans. But what if someone doesn’t have his or her own family tartan? Remember that you can use tartans from different categories: district, memorial or even universal ones. If you still feel confusion in this area, feel free to read our Complete Tartan Guide.
Another important question is: How to dress for a wedding? For some of you it’s not a question at all – you’ve probably taken part in a Scottish wedding before, maybe more than once. But let’s be precise and consolidate our knowledge.
The groom’s wedding outfit is complete, which means that it should include all the appropriate Scottish outfit accessories. The most important is a made to your measurements kilt, preferably an 8 yard one, which has an excellent swing. You not only look perfect but also feel comfortable. It is acceptable to wear 5 yard kilt, too. Along with the kilt a formal Prince Charlie Jacket and 3 button waistcoat is usually worn, as well as a white wing collar shirt, and black bow tie. It is also nice to wear a fly plaid in the same tartan as your kilt. A fly plaid is a very formal piece of fringed tartan worn over the shoulder which is fastened with a brooch. It is important to remember not to wear this accessory unless you are a groom or a best man, or have been specifically requested to do so – you can’t upstage the groom. Your wedding outfit (no matter which your role is during the ceremony) should be completed with:
- plain kilt hose and
- ghillie brogues – kilt shoes with no tongues and long laces.
Other accessories which a wedding outfit includes are:
- (normally full dress) sporran,
- leather belt with a belt buckle (why not wearing your clan crested one for this occasion?),
- pin for your kilt (same question here),
- Sgian Dubh.
The bride’s outfit is not that complex. To make a dream come true and looks like a real Scottish princess a bride wears a wedding dress. There is no official tradition stating what the dress should look like, so the bride will choose how she decides to incorporate her Scottish roots in her wedding outfit. She can wear a tartan dress or a dress with a tartan hem. The popular tradition called “sashing of the bride” says that the bride wears a sash in her husband’s tartan, presented to her by her mother-in-law. However, it is very important to wear the sash on the right shoulder as the left one is reserved for the clan chiefs. The bride may also decide to wear only a tartan ribbon or a shawl. Don’t forget to add some tartan touch to your dress even when you’re not the bride!
Scotland is a special and unique place to be married. Not only does it have breathtaking landscapes, but the law here allows you to choose any wedding ceremony location! It’s because what matters is the person conducting the whole ceremony, rather than place. You can therefore enjoy romantic views when saying “I do”. This good news will please both Scottish people and people living elsewhere in the world considering Scotland for their nuptials.
Even if your Scottish roots go back to time immemorial, showing off your heritage during this very special event is a great way to honour your ancestries, and instill the love of Scotland in the youngest generation. Respecting the wedding traditions and wearing a full Scottish outfit are the best ways to do this!
Our last post was about kilt accessories. Now, it’s time to focus on incoming celebrations. Tartan Day, a modern celebration of Scottish heritage, is held annually on April 6th – the same date in 1320 on which the Declaration of Arbroath was signed, declaring Scottish independence and sovereignty. Originally centred among the vast Scottish diaspora in Canada and the United States, Tartan Day as a way to remember and honour their ancestor’s roots, Tartan Day celebrations are now spreading across the world, though some nations celebrate on different dates, such as Australia’s Tartan Day taking place on July 1st.
Tartan Day events include organised parades, complete with ranks of bagpipers proudly marching in their full Highland regalia, Scottish Highland dancing competitions or displays, and performances from Scottish bands, screenings of Scottish films, and exhibitions of Scottish art and photography. In addition to these more public events, there may also be more spiritual and reflective activities such as the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan, and the Calling of the Clans.
The Calling of the Clans can be a very emotional experience for many clan members, whether they were born in Scotland or to emigrant families. This ritual will often take place on the first night of a Gathering, or other large Scottish event, and involves representatives from each of the clans present stepping forward to declare their clans name, and having the members of that clan in the audience call back with their clan name, or a cheer, to let the chief, or other representative, know that they are present and proud to be a member of their clan. It is a simple event but very meaningful for many people, as it allows them to declare their clan affiliation publicly – and possibly get the chance identify other clan members they have not met before, as is very common nowadays, with the original clans spread out all over the world! Historically the Calling of the Clans was used to gather and unify friendly clans the night before a battle, the various different groups would confirm their allegiance to their birth clans, but agree to act as though part of one large clan for the good of the whole. Though of course Highland battles are no longer a feature of Tartan Day (one would hope at least!) the feeling that all the clans can still come together to feel unified under a banner of friendship and a shared community is still wonderful to experience.
The Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan is very much a modern tradition – and also very much a Scottish-American creation, rather than originating from the homeland – but it is lovely nevertheless, and is inspired by historical events. The legend behind the modern Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan service is that, during the time that the Act of Proscription (a law forbidding the wearing of Highland clothing) was in effect, Highlanders would sneak tiny scraps of tartan fabric into church, the “kirk” in Scots, to be blessed by a minister. There is a book of Scottish folklore and prayers by a Mr Carmichael which makes mention of “Consecration of the Cloth”, but no contemporary evidence exists to confirm exactly when this ritual started, or why. The modern ritual dates only from around 1941, and is of course celebrated publicly, in fact at a “Kirkin’”, the whole church service may be dedicated to Scottish heritage and the friendships shared between different countries through common ancestry. As with the Calling of the Clans, clan representatives will be present at a Kirkin’, and at a predetermined time during the service, they will approach the altar in turn to offer up a length of tartan fabric to be blessed or prayed over. The Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan service has been celebrated most often in Presbyterian churches, but other Christian denominations have also participated in recent years, and it is in particular a popular aspect of the massive New York Tartan Day celebrations!
We feel it is truly wonderful that so many people all over the world like to remember their Scottish roots, and pay homage and respect to old traditions, while creating new ones to pass on to their own children, so readers, how will you be celebrating Tartan Day this year?