"You May Now Kiss the Bride..."



Scottish Wedding Check List

  • Buy folder/large wallet to keep all of your weddings bits together - ideally with separators labeled: venue, music, food, guests etc.
  • Start collecting ideas - collect bits from magazines that you like, start coming up with ideas
  • Decide on appropriate budget
  • Book official to preside over ceremony, talk to minister of church
  • Select and book venues for both wedding ceremony and reception
  • Set Wedding date
  • Choose and tell bridesmaids and maid of honour
  • Choose and tell best man
  • Decide on number of guests
  • Choose caterer/wedding planner, if required
  • Decide on menu for wedding meal and/or evening buffet (including special requirements)
  • Arrange bar if needed and select and negotiate quantity and rates for wine and champagne - tasting is advised
  • Select and order wedding dress. If making, buy material and decide on design
  • Choose and order dresses for bridesmaids, or if making get measurements, buy material and decide on design
  • Interview and book photographer, (and video if required)
  • Preview and book musicians for both wedding ceremony and reception
  • Book wedding night accommodation for bride and groom
4-6 Months Prior To Wedding
  • Decide who's doing what jobs - allocate tasks
  • Draw up guest list - divide into attendees of entire wedding and evening only
  • Order kilt outfits
  • Arrange meeting with Minister to go over hymns and speeches at service
  • Choose wedding rings
  • Order invitations, or if making - design and complete making invitations
  • Book honeymoon
  • Estimate numbers and speak to hotel regarding rooms for guests who require accommodation
  • Select florist and decide on flower arrangements for bride, attendants (including button holes) and venue
  • Speak to photographer about locations you wish to be photographed in - decide on what kind of photos you wish the photographer to take
  • Book transport to and from the wedding ceremony for wedding party
  • Book hair/make-up trials
  • Mothers should select their outfits
2-4 Months Prior To Wedding
  • Send wedding announcement to local newspaper
  • Buy accessories for bridal party (shoes, tiara and so on), allowing time for dying shoes if required
  • Buy gifts for attendants
  • Select and order wedding cake
  • Book piper and organist
  • Send out wedding invitations
  • If decorating hall - decide on decorations and decoration of tables
1-2 Months Prior To Wedding
  • Obtain marriage licence
  • Fittings of wedding dress and those of attendants
  • Decide seating allocation
  • Make final decisions on readings and hymns (if required) for the ceremony
Final Preparations
  • Confirm guest numbers for accommodation and for catering purposes
  • Arrange any last-minute beautician appointments
  • Final dress fittings
  • Run through arrangements with wedding party and ensure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities
  • Assign someone to bring 'emergency repair kit' to wedding, which includes sewing kit, hair clips, safety clips and anything else you think you might need
Final Checks
  • Flowers (bride, bridesmaids, buttonholes, transport, ceremony, reception)
  • Transport (wedding party and guests)
  • Venue Arrangements (including catering and accommodation)
  • Musicians (for ceremony and reception)
  • Photographer
  • Clothing (bride, groom and attendants)
  • Cake
  • Rings
  • Speeches
  • Useful phone numbers
  • Hair and make-up
  • Marriage documentation
  • Honeymoon arrangements
  • If disappearing straight away on honeymoon from the wedding will need to assign people to take presents, flowers etc home from wedding. (8)


                A Scottish wedding is known to have an intricate blend of ancient highland tradition mixed in with modern, streamlined rights.  Scottish weddings today use traditions that date back as far as the 13th century. Then, medieval Celtic church would proclaim the “banns of marriage” for three successive Sundays.  Celtic Scottish wedding practices were part of ceremonies for many hundreds of years and had roots in pagan rituals. Tying the knot originated from the bride and groom ripping their wedding plaids (clan tartans) and tying the two strips together as a symbol of the unity of the two families.  According to Gaelic tradition it is unlucky to marry in the month of May.  The remote Scottish Islands have Celtic wedding traditions and superstitions unique to their culture. On Barra, for example, it was traditional to sprinkle water on the marriage bed and bless it. In Mull, it was customary that the young couple sleeps in a barn for their first night and in Lewis they lived for a week with the bride's parents before going to their own home. (7)  It was normal practice in olden times for an entire village to get involved in the preparations for the “big day.”  People would line the streets to the church to cheer on the happy couple before they took their vows.   The exchange of the rings has always been a main feature in Scottish wedding ceremonies.  The exchange of rings represents no beginning and no end and therefore symbolizes the love within a marriage. The kissing of the bride follows on from this exchange of rings.  Following on from the formal church ceremony, a piper or group of pipers would frequently lead the entire group of guests down the streets, often to a relative's house, for a non-stop night of celebration, feasting and enjoyment. Local musicians led by pipers would get the dancing started and tradition has it that the first dance would be led by the newlywed couple.  Following, the rest of the guests would dance all the way into the night in the late hours.  When the wedding celebrations were over, the married couple would then leave to spend the night in their new home. (7)


The Hen and Stag Party:

                 Before a Scottish bride is married, her mother holds an open house for a traditional "show of presents."  This is much like our Bridal Showers.  Invitations are sent to those who gave wedding gifts to the couple and the wedding gifts are unwrapped and set out for viewing. After showing and presenting the presents the bride-to-be is dressed up along with her friends, and escorted through her town, singing and banging pots and pans, celebrating the bride's wedding day. This tradition is what is now called, “hen night.”
                  Meanwhile, the groom is taken out for a night on one of the evenings preceding the wedding. The Stag Night is meant to be a celebration of the last night of freedom (much like our bachelor parties), and a way of reassuring friends that being married doesn't mean that they are shut out of your life. The groom, like the bride, is dressed up and taken around town by his friends.  There is harmless practical joking, making the groom the target.  It’s basically what boys do when they want to have fun.  When the night winds down, the groom is stripped of his clothes and covered in soot, treacle and feathers and left overnight tied to a tree or post. In some rural areas an open lorry is hired and the groom is paraded through his local area with noise and celebration.


Scottish Wedding Attire:

                The Highland dress normally consists of the kilt, kilt jacket, tartan, sporran, ghillie brogues shoes with a black knife in them and heather. In Scotland, each clan has its own tartan and the ways of wearing it. The groom is also said to wear the motto of his clan in a pin. The heather is supposed to bring good luck for the couple.  Either the groom or the bride wears a brooch, called as the Luckenbooth brooch. This brooch is later pinned to the blanket of the first born of the couple. This brooch is normally two intertwined hearts made in silver. The bridesmaids are dressed in the color chosen by the bride. The bride's father and the best man are dressed in the traditional Highland dress. (9)
                   The Scottish bride will usually wear a traditional white or cream wedding gown, a tiara, shoes, and a veil. The groom’s party and her father may come to the wedding in full Highland dress in the traditional clan tartan of their clans. She might wear a horseshoe on her arm for good luck, or one may be delivered to her as she arrives at the ceremony. Bridesmaids may wear whatever the bride has chosen to match her dress and it may include a little tartan accessory. Bouquets may include tartan ribbons or bows.  Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue is a regular tradition used all around even in Scotland.  Something old may include a gift from the mother to daughter to start her off for married life, and symbolizing the passing on a bit of mother's wisdom.  Something new is a gift symbolizing the new start married life represents.  Something borrowed is an idea something is borrowed from a happily married couple in the hope that a little of their marital bliss will rub off on the newlyweds.  Something blue has two ideas attached to it.  Roman women used to border their robes with blue as a sign of modesty, love, and fidelity. Also blue is the color normally associated with Mary the mother of Jesus who is often used to symbolize steadfast love, purity, and sincerity.

Wedding Ceremony:

                 The open right hand is a symbol of strength, resource and purpose. The coming together of both right hands is a symbol that both the bride and groom can and will depend on each other and the resources that each brings to the marriage. It also represents the merger of their lives together into one.  After the couple says "I do", does the exchange of the wedding bands, having gold wedding rings.  Gold wedding rings are an important part of the wedding tradition in Scotland.  This tradition started back around 1500 A.D.  The gold band symbolizes the love has no start or no end.   Often the wedding bands have Celtic knots on them.   It used to be that only the bands were worn by the bride, but as times have changed, the bridesmaids wear them now.  It can be worn either way.  In a marriage ceremony, the bride has her way.  The wedding is almost always held in a church at a service. There is a tradition where the hands of the bride and the groom are tied together symbolizing solidarity to one another. The service is normally conducted in either English or Gaelic. The wedding is usually followed by a wedding reception. The newly wedded couple cut a cake at the reception party.   The first dance is saved for the newlywed couple.  The couple gets to have the first dance.  Followed afterward are the best man and the chief bridesmaid.  The parents of the couple also dance at the first dance, but the partners are swapped. Soon the guests join in and everyone is dancing soon after.  There is a lot of drinking and eating.  Drinking is a huge custom of the Scottish wedding.  While everyone is celebrating, the couple sneaks off to a private location for their first night as a married couple.  This is not the honeymoon, but the night before. 

After the Wedding:

                 After the wedding ceremony, it is traditional for flowers, petals, or pretty paper confetti to be thrown at the departing couple. In some areas, the couple throws coins to the children who have gathered outside the church to watch. This is called a “scramble”. This is the reason children make a bee-line for local weddings. As the couple leave the ceremony the groom dips his hands into his pockets (or sporran), and throws all his loose change out on the ground for the children to scramble for. (8)  Another tradition seen during the evening wedding festivities is when the bride throws her bouquet of white roses, over her left shoulder. The other single women lined up to catch the bouquet symbolizing they are the next ones to wed.  Traditional wedding reception festivities can easily last all night and the newly-wed couple lead off the dancing. Before the evening is finished the bride and groom leave as quietly and secretly as they can and go to a pre -arranged destination for their wedding night - often leaving for the honeymoon the next day. At the end of the evening guests gathers together in a circle before leaving and singing "Auld Lang Syne".