THE WAY WE WED; Brides Urged to Put Spice into Getting Spliced

By Reid, Melanie | Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), April 30, 2000 | Go to article overview

THE WAY WE WED; Brides Urged to Put Spice into Getting Spliced


Reid, Melanie, Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)


BRIDES are being urged to ditch dull wedding ceremonies and celebrate their big day with a good old-fashioned knees-up.

Author Iona McGregor wants couples to follow their ancestors and make weddings more fun.

Her appeal comes after examining ancient nuptial rites and comparing them to today's po-face services for her new book Getting Married in Scotland.

She said: "I think it's a wonderful idea. We could revive all kinds of wedding traditions we have lost."

And she pointed out that before weddings became the serious business they are today they were extremely bawdy affairs - especially in Scotland.

Iona added: "Particularly in country districts people were much more open about sex.

"The tremendous shielding of women only came in with the Victorians."

Weddings these days tend to be much more sedate occasions - with most of the high jinks reserved for wild stag and hen nights.

And while most of us mere mortals can't quite match up to Posh and Becks' excesses the cost of the average wedding still adds up to a staggering pounds 13,700 - even without thrones.

These days the image of the bride in her billowing white dress and groom in his kilt getting hitched in church is becoming less and less popular.

The new fashion is to go abroad for wacky weddings. Forget tradition, think of the most bizarre activity imaginable, and tie the knot while you do it.

Add wow to your vows by getting spliced while skydiving, scuba diving or even bungee jumping.

In the States, where theme weddings are a flourishing industry, they are obsessed with Scottish-style ceremonies.

A whole website is devoted to answering queries from anguished brides in Arkansas about what tartan their brother-in-law should wear to be "correct".

But the Americans don't seem so keen on the real old Scots celebration - riddled with superstition, drunkenness and weird and wacky traditions.

Things like feet-washing and bundling are two that would flummox today's brides. Bundling, an old custom in the Highlands and Western Isles, would see engaged couples being wrapped in separate blankets and bundled into bed together.

Sometimes a bolster was placed between them or the girl might even be stitched into a pillowcase.

This was carried out with the full approval - and sometimes the presence - of their parents.

Feet-washing was a custom universal in Scotland until the 19th century.

After the marriage banns were announced, friends and relations would go to the respective homes of the bride and groom to wash their feet in a tub of water. There was singing, dancing, food and much drink as everyone took a turn at the washing.

In Orkney, they put salt in the water. In Shetland, if they were wealthy, they used wine for the groom's feet.

The ceremony is similar to ones in Scandinavia and the Middle East from medieval times.

At some point in the 1800s, feet-washing began to merge with the general pre-wedding celebrations and today often forms part of the humiliations inflicted upon brides and grooms-to-be at their stag and hen nights.

Feet washing later became linked with blacking or blackening, where the young couple were smeared in soot before being washed.

In the years after the Second World War the protesting groom ended up smeared with cocoa, treacle or shoe polish.

In the factory towns of central Scotland feet-washing evolved into the rowdy event "jumping the chanty", when the bride was dressed up and wheeled around with a chamberpot filled with salt.

That tradition is still a mainstay of many a rowdy hen night along with the banging of saucepan lids to scare off evil spirits.

If today's brides had been around in the 1700s, their biggest worry would have been the humiliation of having their guests follow them into the bedroom, holding mock fights, drinking whisky and taking away their clothes. …

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