The full highland wedding fling

Published date: 9th May 2019

Most of us have seen the big Highland event in Four Weddings and a Funeral – kilts, dancing, crowds of guests, torchlight procession and fabulous setting. Admittedly the hellish (fictional) marriage ended shortly afterwards, and one of the (similarly fictional) guests died, but still, it was a helluva bash.

That’s just one version of a Highland wedding. In Inverness recently a real couple had an equally stylish do that was reported to have cost £1 – spent on her 60s vintage dress sourced via Freecycle. Hollywood starlet Talulah Riley married Paypal founder Elon Musk in 2010 at Dornoch Cathedral, their celebrations held afterwards in Skibo Castle as Madonna’s and Guy Ritchie’s were before them. If you go for a Highland big day your version is likely to cost somewhere between those two extremes. We hope that the following pointers about such dos are helpful, and maybe a little entertaining too.

The biggest thing to note at the outset is that thanks to the flexibility of Scots marriage law, provided your officiant is in agreement, and you secure any necessary permission, you can marry indoors or out, by the sea, a loch, in the hills, at a castle or a cottage. The scope is enormous. But do remember that the weather can be unhelpful (and the midges at some times and places downright vindictive), so a plan-B to plan-A outdoors is worth considering.

Of course you can have a Highland-style wedding elsewhere in the UK, though the scenery will not match the real thing.

What are the essential elements of such a wedding? There are no formal rules, but we’d argue that you need to have several from the following to qualify as Highland.

First and foremost the groom must be kilt and all (it’s not often his outfit gets as much notice as hers). Kilts cost a fortune, but you can hire them – do you know your clan tartan? And as every Scottish gentleman knows, the reply when asked by inquisitive guests: ‘What is worn beneath the kilt’ should be: ‘Nothing, it is all in perfect working order.’

The bride should be in white, her bouquet containing a sprig of heather for luck, and generally a thistle flower or two.

How about Celtic knot rings as a permanent reminder of the nature of your big day?

If you haven’t got a piper it hardly seems Highland. Traditionally the piper will play as the bride enters the venue, and the newly married couple leaves. He (or she) should play a tune or two at the reception as well, and some will have their routine of toasting the couple with the Quaich off pat.

The celebrations may well include a Ceilidh, which is no hardship for anyone with a sense of fun: the dancing gets energetic, the atmosphere may verge on the raucous by the end, but only the incapable or terminally dull will refuse to skip a reel or two.

And though it is not written in stone, it would feel wrong surely if at least one toast were not made with a wee dram of the hard stuff. The good news is that a bottle of Scotch contains about 12 to 14 singles, depending on who is pouring and the steadiness of their hand. You’ll do well to get nine glasses out of a bottle of bubbly. A decent bottle of scotch will cost about as much as a half-decent bottle of champagne, so it’s a canny toast as well as an enjoyable one.

Some other traditions can add a touch of whimsy and style to a Highland wedding. Everyone knows the jingle about old, new, borrowed and blue, but not so many know the last part, ‘And a silver sixpence in her shoe,’ which is more observed in Scotland than the rest of the UK. Though the health and safety officials would frown on it, another tradition still seen on occasion in Scotland is the wedding scramble, where the bride’s father throws coins for kids to collect, with all the subtle gentility for which avaricious children are noted.

And let’s end with a beginning – the first dance, Highland style. Not a fling, but a march, the grand march, piper playing as the couple strides to the floor, with parents quickly falling in behind, then best man with maid of honour and bridesmaids, and any guests brave enough to join in. It’s stirring, and it’s not the overblown and overdone I Will Always Love You-oo-oo…

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