Jun 22 2010
Pic: MDV Weddings
|This is the follow-on post about Scottish Weddding customs couresy of Scot Clans Weddings.
Tocher or Dowry
The offer of material wealth as an aid to courtship is found in several old songs such as:
JOCKEY SAID TO JENNY
Jocky said to Jenny, Jenny wilt thou do it?
Ne’er a fit quo Jenny, for a my tocher good
For a my tocher good, I winna marry thee
E’ens ye like quo Jocky, ye may let it be
I hae gowd and gear, I hae land enough
I hae seven good owsen ganging in a pleugh
Ganging in a pleugh and linking ower the lee
And gin ye winna tak me I can let ye be.
Pledges or sutries and the luckenbooth
To formalise the promise of marriage or betrothal an exchange of love tokens was given. This was usually silver, and something like a divided sixpence or in the poorer class by the exchange of spoons. The idea of silver as a betrothal token was taken a step further in the late 17th Century by the introduction of Luckenbooth Brooches. These were small in size and were principally made of silver, frequently engraved and occasionally enriched with garnets, crystals and coloured glass. They derived their name from the Luckenbooths, a narrow range of buildings close to St Giles Church in Edinburgh where many of the jewellers and silversmiths of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had their booths. The Luckenbooth Brooch took on the form of two hearts intertwined. This custom pathed the way for the giving of engagement rings in the 19th Century. Luckenbooths are also pinned to a babies shawl to give good luck.
Trial marriages are not a new invention. To the couple unsure of their compatability, the old custom of handfasting proved popular. Handfasting has a long tradition, being traced back to the 1500s. In its earliest form it was like an engagement, an expressed intention of becoming man and wife by the physical act of placing ‘hands on fist’. From that it developed into a trial marriage which was to last for one year and one day. When that time was up the couple were then obliged to get married properly or to make the decision to go their separate ways, no stigma being attached.There is a practical reason for handfasting. A lot of Scottish communities were based on crofting and fishing. There was a need for wives to produce sons to help with the work. Handfasting allowed an exploration of fertility. Any child produced during the handfasting time was considered legitimate. If the marriage did not go ahead it looked like the child became the responsibility of the partner opposing the marriage.
Carrot Sunday or Dumhnach Curran
The wild carrot has long borne a symbolic reputation for human fruitfulness in the Gaelic world and, in the West Highlands particularly, the Sunday before St Michael’s Day, which falls on 29 September, was known as Carrot Sunday, or Dumhnach Curran. On that day girls would present their intended husbands small bunches of carrots tied with a red ribbon. When St Michael’s Day arrived, it was given over to dances and celebrations.
Choosing The Day
The time chosen for the marriage was important. June has always been the most popular and May was a month to be avoided as the proverb ‘Marry in May and rue the day.’ The moon was also an important consideration, it was a good omen if it was increasing in size, while a waning moon is a bad omen for the bride’s future happiness:
A growing moon and a flowing tide
Fortune smiles on a happy bride.
The marriage day was usually a weekday, rarely a Saturday and never on the Sabbath. The choices have been put into verse are contradictory, as the following will show:
Monday for health / Monday for wealth
Tuesday for wealth / Tuesday for health
Wednesday best day at all / Wednesday no luck at all
Thursday for curses
Friday for crosses / Friday for losses
Saturday no luck at all / Saturday best day of all
The Biddin and The Banns
When the date of the marriage was fixed, it was and still is necessary to put in the banns or ‘the notification to the minister to proclaim banns of marriage. This was variously called ‘the Contrack night’ or ‘the beuckin night’. The bridegroom, if at all possible, presented himself at the home of the bride along with a few friends. Accompanied by the brides father or other relative, the young man went to the session clerk to give in the name, for proclamation or as it was called ‘to lay down the pawns’.
An intended marriage would be announced informally by the local children singing the following:
Braw news is come to town
Braw news is carried
Braw news is come to town
Jennys to be married
First she got the kail pot
Syne she got the ladle
Syne she got a dainty wean
And syne she got a cradle
We give grateful thanks to Scot Clans Weddings for this information and urge you to consider their site for your own wedding needs. You can read more from these wonderful folks later in our schedule.
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