Wedding Traditions of Western Europe’s Upper Northwest Region
Wedding traditions within the Western European countries of England, Iceland, Ireland and Scotland are just as steeped in tradition and pageantry as anywhere else on Earth. However, like everything else, some traditions may alter in time and become a more modern celebration.
In England, on the day of the wedding, it is customary for young girls to scatter flowers in front of the bride and her party as they walk together towards the chapel. Other wedding traditions in an English wedding may also include:
– It is considered good luck for the bride if she sews to the hem of her dress a good luck charm. A traditional charm would be the silver horseshoe of royal British brides.
– Wedding vows may be done at the doorway of the church so that all on lookers can watch the nuptials take place.
– The reception cake includes the fruitcake. At the top of the cake is a layer known as the “christening cake” which is saved and served at their first child’s baptism. Along with the fruitcake, the groom’s cake is also served.
Although Iceland weddings have taken on more of a western culture, it still is steep in tradition, such as:
– It is not unusual for a long engagement in Iceland to take place, as many engagements can last as long as three years or longer.
– Weddings are generally done in one day, but there was a time where the wedding was a week long process. It would start the day before the church ceremony with many speeches, songs and drinking.
– The groom’s arrival includes him being surrounded by local nobles, relatives and his best man, as church bells would then be rung announcing the groom’s arrival.
– At the reception, the head table is propped much higher than the rest of the tables in a royalesque manner, as they look down at the rows of guests. The table generally includes the new couple, along with the priest, fathers of the married couple, best man and any toastmasters that will be toasting the new couple.
– The type and size of the feast will depend on the wealth of the bride and groom. The more they have, the bigger the feast will be.
– Traditionally, prior to the conclusion of the reception, the bride would be taken to her bridal bed, where the bridesmaids would then undress her completely, leaving only her headdress. The groom would then bring her a present. Today it is often that both would exchange a gift. After the groom removes her headdress, he would then lie with her in the bed and the priest would perform one final prayer, and to seal their marriage they would drink out of the bridal cups.
In Ireland, it is customary for the bride to wear a Claddagh ring, which has the motto of “Let love and friendship reign.” Worn on the left hand, symbolizes the woman is married. However, worn on the right hand, you would have to see which direction the heart is facing. If it’s facing toward her, then she is engaged, but if it is facing away from her, she is available and looking.
Other Irish wedding and reception traditions include:
– An old wedding day tradition would be for the couple to walk together to the church while on lookers, not only threw rice at them for blessings, but also such items as brushes, pans and pots.
– The white wedding dress was introduced in 1499, where prior to that, the bride’s dress was blue.
– Having the bride wear her hair in a braid on her wedding day symbolizes feminine luck and power.
– The reception may include such things as the “Jaunting Chair” in which the groom is hoisted into the air showing he is now married.
In Scotland, many of the past traditions have been altered, but often can be mixed into modern day weddings. Some Scottish traditions include:
– The groom and his party wear the Scottish kilt, sans the undergarments
– Today’s engaged couple still make formal announcements of their intent to marry, which is their way of honoring the past where the tradition of “banns” was more formal and prolonged.
– Often prior to the day of the wedding, the groom’s friends go out drinking until the groom is so drunk that his friends may leave him in front of his house naked and sometimes tied-up.
– On the wedding day, the town may form a path for the couple to walk thru leading them to the church behind bagpipers.