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Celtic Wedding Traditions

Celtic Wedding Music And Dance

by Marc Choyt 22 Nov 2016 0 Comments

Whether the location is in a church or some more natural setting, nothing strikes the right note in a Celtic wedding like having a piper pipe before the bride as she walks to the place where she will be wed. The tradition dates back hundreds of year. Clan chiefs used to and some still do have their own designated pipers to lead them in official functions.

Today, as back then, association between a traditional Celtic wedding and bagpipes creates an enduring and romantic impression in the heart. Not only does it honor the bride, it also creates a sense of both ceremony and celebration. Of course, you can have pipers play during the receiving, when the guests arrive, or at any particular phase of the wedding.

The question then becomes, where do you find such a bag piper to provide your perfect Scottish wedding music? Why,, of course. It is a list of pipers from all over the world. But maybe bagpipes are not your cup of tea. You might prefer the sound of the Irish Uilleann pipes which are usually not quite as harsh as the Scots pipe can be. You may even be one of those iconoclastic Celtics for whom the sound of bagpipes is the equivalent of scratching a blackboard with your fingernails. Imagine, then, the lovely melodies of Celtic harp, guitar, flute or fiddle creating an atmosphere that will bring romance and ritual to your special event. In this case, you may choose to have a Céilidh band. Céilidhs were very traditional in context to courting and weddings.

Many a man and women fell in love with each other, dancing in the gathering places in the Celtic nations where even now this musical tradition is alive in well. The flute, fiddle, tin whistles, accordians, harps and bodhrán (drums) are what make up most these bands that perform Irish wedding music. Today, they are hired to play at social events and in public places by individuals, organizations and even schools. Even with the popularity of clubs, they remain important in rural areas of Ireland and Scotland—particularly in rural regions that continue to speak Gaelic.

When the music begins, it always inspires dancing. Traditionally, there are set dances, in which four couples take part, facing each other in a rectangular form. Couples exchange places or partners, while keeping in step with the music’s beat. With some more modern Scots, however, the céilidh dances are more often performed in a circle, where the woman moves over to the man in a series of repetition of steps. There’s a variation of this same dance in Ireland which is called Céili Dance. Such dances are often named after things that happen in daily country life, and also, important historic events—battles, army regiments, etc.

The English also have their own Ceilidh events and social dance traditions which are high energy and related to Contra dances. Even if you cannot afford a live band, you can at least select music to play on a stereo system that will get people’s feet moving a little bit. Music and dance are linked to Celtic. To have the right music at your wedding is critical. Not only does it honor the bride and groom, it also creates a sense of both ceremony and celebration.

As much as live music at these weddings to lift the spirits, music may be interrupted in order to have someone tell a story about the wedded couple. Perhaps there’s a bard in the audience who knows something about the magic salmon, or can recite a bit of poetry which he or she knows by heart. Songs and stories go together—often both are linked to particular places, or event, and hearing them over and over inspires a deeper connection to the soul and the land.

Weddings, more than anything else, are always an occasion to celebrate life. Few events are more affirming than a couple’s commitment, in love, to each other. Music and dancing all to the occasion, lifting the spirits of everyone at the wedding.

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