Wildly romantic and full of magical landscapes, Scotland is the perfect place for adventurous lovers to elope. The wee cherry atop o’ the non-traditional-wedding-cake is that Scotland also has a rich and wonderful history of traditions when it comes to love and marriage.
Getting married in Scotland comes with a fair amount of freedom about where and how you get married. This is a fantastic opportunity to create a ceremony which is truly unique to you. So if you are planning a Scottish elopement (whether you’re a local or a visitor to this great country) then consider honouring some of the ancient local Celtic traditions. But only if they speak to your heart!
It’s a popular ceremony tradition in Scotland and where the original saying “tying the knot” comes from. Your hands are bound together by a handfasting cord whilst you say your vows. Get the full skinny on handfastings on this blog here.
Acknowledge the Elements
Ancient Scotland has a strong affinity with the four elements and nature’s cycle. Acknowledging them can be done in a number of ways but commonly the celebrant will give honour to fire, earth, air, water as part of their ceremony introduction. And this could simply be a nod to each element or it can involve an explanation of how each element represents love in their unique ways. It can involve gifting tokens for each element or simple words.
When I got married, we asked four of our closest friends to honour an element each by bringing a token representation (i.e. a rock for earth) and speaking about how that element relates to love.
Acknowledge the Seasons
Similar to the elements, some couples choose to honour the seasons. In a similar way to the elemental ritual above, you can acknowledge them in a variety of ways. This can through readings, giving thanks to each season or using visual representation.
Jump the Broom / Besom
Jumping the broom is another common phrase for getting married that you may have heard of and it can be as literal as it sounds! After the vows, you’re invited to jump over a broom / besom / withies (willow sticks). This represents overcoming the first hurdle of your marriage by jumping over it together hand-in-hand.
The oathing stone ritual is where your vows are said with both of your hands upon a stone. Taken from the ancient Celtic custom of “setting an oath in stone”, it’s believed that holding the stone during the vows in turn casts or sets them in stone. It’s also believed you can encase the vows forever by throwing the stone into water.
When I got married, we asked each guest to hold an oathing stone so that our vows were held in many stones. Later, as a group, we threw them into the nearby stream. We’re not escaping those vows any time soon!
Before the start of the ceremony, the celebrant may choose to ward off bad spirits and negative energy from the ceremony space by burning sage.
Drink from a Quaich
The Quaich, Scotland’s cup of friendship and love, has been used throughout the centuries to symbolise the coming together of people. You can fill the two-handed cup with a drink of your choice: usually whisky, mead or you can combine two drinks symbolising the two of you becoming one. In wedding ceremonies, the sharing of the cup symbolises the joining of families and in vow renewals it strengthens the bond you have already made.
Sometimes it’s just shared between the bride and groom, in some traditions it’s shared with the Mother’s of the bride and groom and in other traditions, it’s shared around the full guests.
Stand in a circle (caim)
It used to be common that couples would get married enclosed by a circle of their guests. By getting married in the centre of a circle it symbolises their unity and creates a sacred space.