Scottish Wedding Traditions
Many cultures and religions have traditions that are performed during wedding ceremonies and receptions, for example Jewish cultural tradition is to smash a glass under one’s foot once the vows have been said. This is to remind the couple that marriage has highs and lows, and to stick by each other through the peaks and troughs of life.
The Scottish tradition of hand-fasting dates back to medieval times, and is also thought to have came from Celtic and Pagan rituals. Gaelic scholar Martin Martin describes hand fasting as an ancient custom of the Isles where “a man would take a maid as his wife for the space of a year without marrying her, and if she pleased him all the while, he married her at the end of the year and legitimised her children, and if he didn’t love her, he returned her to her parents”. Not exactly the stuff of Hollywood rom-coms!
By the 18th century, the Church of Scotland no longer recognised unions formed by consent and consummation, even though civil authorities did. So the way around this was to perform the ceremonies in public. This was until 1939 when Scottish marriage laws were reformed and hand-fasting was no longer recognised.
Modern interpretations of hand-fasting are ones of love and the binding of two souls. It has seen a revival over the years due in part to more and more couples wanting to personalise aspects of their wedding and make it unique to them. It was also featured in the Stark wedding of Game of Thrones, further romantising this ancient practice.