The Scottish culture is extraordinary. It differs from most other folk cultures around the world. The kilt and tartan fabric is just a tiny part of unique local traditions. But what about the traditional wedding in Scotland? Is it also unique and worth attending? Actually, there are many curious Scottish wedding traditions that people still follow through even these days. Let’s find out which ones.
Right foot forward
This is a tradition that extends way back. The phrase “right foot forward” is actually a reference to the bride’s feet. Basically, when the bride leaves – wherever she has to go to – she is told to go the right foot first. And she's supposed to do that throughout the whole day. Anytime she's moving off: to walk over to see someone or walk out of a building or walk into a room, she's to go right foot first. And it's, basically, just something to do with luck.
A little sprig of white heather in a wedding bouquet
It is a tradition for a bride to put a little sprig of white heather in her wedding bouquet. It can be visible or it can be hid amongst other flowers. Again, it's just a token of good luck. People think that it's a symbol for luck, and it's just something that people can quite easily slot in there – just to check your boxes!
The wedding scramble
When the bride has gotten out of her house, or wherever she's getting ready, followed by her dad who's going to escort her down the aisle, and gotten into their waiting car, the dad will throw a handful of coins to the street by the car for the kids who watch the bride leave to scramble for and gather up. And the reason they did that is because it was believed that throwing coins into the air and having other people collect them, would bring about financial good fortune for the new happy couple.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue
It is believed that a bride should have something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue on her during her wedding ceremony. This tradition is well-known and used throughout Europe and America. And actually, these are lines from an old poem. But there is one more line in this poem: “and a lucky sixpence in her shoe”. A sixpence was an old coin that was around in 1551-1970. And the idea was that the bride would put a lucky sixpence into her shoe and she would keep it there during the day. It is another symbol of luck. This tradition originates from Britain but has been adapted by people in America, where they put a 1 cent or a little penny into a bride’s shoe as well.
The thistle has been a symbol for Scotland since about the 1500. And there's two different stories as to how that came about. The first is that during the Viking Age, as Vikings were attempting to attack Scotland, they stepped on thistles with bare feet (because they’d taken off their shoes to walk quietly) and cried out, which alerted the Scots. The second story is similar. It tells that in the 11th century, the Danes tried to attack a Scottish castle. They jumped into a moat around the castle, anticipating it to be full of water, but it was full of thistles instead. That’s when their attack has ended.
So, the thistle has been a symbol for Scotland and for Scottish people for a long time. That’s why people tend to incorporate it somewhere into their wedding. For instance, a bride can have thistles in her wedding bouquet, and they look beautiful. Or people incorporate thistles into their tartan, napkins or table linen, it can be embroidered anywhere – just little things. And these thistle images have nothing to do with luck or anything like that. It has everything to do with national symbols and traditions.
Tartan is the name given to a woolen cloth that is woven into different patterns that usually involves some form of check and/or linking lines. They come in lots of different colors. And there's, actually, tartans that are specific to each clan in Scotland. And clan is a surname of families in Scotland. It used to be tradition that people would use and incorporate the tartans of their clans into their wedding. Though today, people tend to just pick a tartan that matches their wedding colors and that is nice for them. But still, incorporation of tartan into a wedding ceremony and party is very common in Scotland.
Commonly, the last song at a Scottish wedding is the “Loch Lomond”. For the Loch Lomond, the bride and groom and their immediate family go to the center of the room or dance floor, form a circle, and interlink hands. And then everyone else at the wedding, all the guests form another circle right around them – usually, it’s considerably bigger. And everyone just sings along, swings hands, and stamps their feet or claps their hands. That continues on for most of the song, but then, when it picks up toward the end, both circles go in and then go out, everyone jumps in and then jumps out. It’s a fun really. Everyone just has a good laugh.
So, these were some of the most popular and interesting wedding traditions from Scotland.