Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Wedding in Scotland

My glorious mini-hat
Having got together my own outfit for the Easter Monday wedding, I began to think about other people's clothes. Thus, Polish Pretend Daughter got an email explaining that--contrary to Polish mores--it is customary in the United Kingdom for women to wear hats (however small) to weddings.

PPD was grateful for this advice and, soon after her plane landed in Scotland, bought a cunning little confection of red net. After that, I seriously hoped most of the woman would indeed wear hats. One can rely on Englishwomen, but one never knows with Scots. Scotland's shops are filled with glorious frocks, but does anyone wear them?

Actually, the Easter Monday bride wears them. She has become a byword in the parish for her excellent and super-feminine dress sense. In fact, I was told that So-and-So believes that the bride clearly "comes from money"; "you can tell from her clothes", etc. Meanwhile, although she was born on the Continent and has married a Scot, she is very much an Anglophile, and therefore I was going to wear a hat even if I were the only woman to do so and the groom's Glasgow relations threw rocks at me.

Another exotic feature of Scottish life is the rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Benedict Ambrose also pondered his wedding guest clothes and worried aloud about his lack of a day jacket. He has a splendid kilt and the waistcoat and jacket necessary to Scottish evening dress, but his traditionalist's soul shrank from the idea of wearing a Prince Charlie jacket at 11 o'clock in the morning. He mused aloud about wearing his grey suit (which I hate) instead---and I forbade him to make any appearance before 5 PM. So it wasn't just his health: it was also the joy of seeing B.A. in his proper Scottish evening dress, the clothes that suit him best.

When Easter Monday dawned, the attic of the Historical House buzzed with wedding guests flying about ironing shirts, fixing hair and finding earrings. Poor Quadrophonic had a terrible hangover from drinking ruby port with his Polish Pretend Nephew the night before. PPN, meanwhile, was smugly chipper, having consumed milk thistle or some other witches' brew before indulging. However, Q looked very well in his borrowed grey suit and silver tie. I have to admit, though, that his outfit could not compare to that of Franco-Polish Pretend Son-in-Law.

B.A. called us a cab, and off we went in style. It was chilly, but the sun shone for the bride, thank heavens. Q regarded me with the jaundiced eye of a homicidal maniac, so I stopped voicing such observations.

When we got to church, I looked around eagerly for hats. The mother-of-the-bride had a lovely big hat, and the mother-of-the-groom had a sweet wee fascinator, and there was enough of a sprinkling of other hats and fascinators that PPD did not poke me and say "What about that £10 you made me spend?" Meanwhile, the groom, his brothers, his father and perhaps some of his friends wore kilts, and so looked splendid.

I did not see the bride until she appeared on her father's arm, of course, and she was a vision in soft net and white lace, with lace sleeves to the elbows. We all sat frozen in our pews, which made me panic a little, as were we not supposed to stand for the bride? However, my next thought was that if we all remained sitting, we could all see the bride, so I stayed down.

The wedding service and the following Mass were done all according to the Extraordinary Form, and the Continental guests kept the sighing, muttering and yawning to a minimum that surprised and edified me. (The homily, given by a visiting priest in Glaswegian, was about the disciples on the road to Emmaus and contained no reference to the martyrdom, red or white, likely to be visited upon the happy couple by the venomous, anti-Christian state.)

When Mass was over, the guests queued up in the carpark to get into the parish hall, eat the nibbles and, especially, drink the champagne. The sun shone strongly enough that one could linger outdoors without freezing to death, but I was happy when the chartered buses arrived to cart us off to the reception hall. I clambered aboard with my now-cheerful brother, who attempted  a snooze while the driver wended his way from Edinburgh's West End to Darkest Musselburgh, getting lost among the stone country walls in his hunt for the coaches' entrance.

The warm drawing-room upstairs.
We arrived at Carberry Tower to the sight and sound of a fully uniformed piper outside the front door, which cheered my tradition-loving heart. Indoors there was another queue for champagne, and then we all went into the formal gardens behind to have our photos taken. It was still cold, so when we decently could, Quadrophonic and I went indoors and found a warm drawing-room upstairs.

Dinner was served in a marquee beside the house, as there were too many guests to serve inside the house. There was a bit of a wait, which I ceased to notice when B.A. appeared, resplendent in Scottish evening dress. The meal was seriously British: smoked haddock tart, lemon sherbet as a palate cleanser, roast beef with scalloped potatoes and veg, and sticky toffee pudding with champagne sorbet. It was all quite good but ran overtime, so B.A. and I hoovered our puddings and went in search of the arrived "evening guests" or, rather one particular evening guest, i.e. Polish Pretend Son. We found him and took him to the warm and cozy drawing-room where--to our great joy--coffee and petits fours were to be served. We had first dibs, scarfing the miniature "millionaires' shortbread" in particular and draining cups of life-restoring coffee before the other guests arrived.

We dance a sedate Gay Gordon.
This was in preparation for the ceilidh, or Scottish dance party, which followed downstairs. The bride is a keen Scottish country dancer, and indeed there is nothing so festive in Scotland as a live ceilidh band. This one began with the tune to "Mhairi's Wedding".

For generations Scottish schoolchildren have been taught Scottish country dances in P.E. (Phys. Ed.) classes, so most Scots know how to do them. It's the only dancing my highly unathletic husband will do, and for once I had to actively restrain him from dancing. The sedate "Gay Gordon" was fine, but when he reappeared to attempt an energetic "Strip the Willow", I shooed him back into the hallway.

When the band left--too soon, alas!--we queued up in an adjoining room for corned-beef stovies and wedding cake. We sat about eating them, and then there was recorded rock music, to which PPD and F-PPSiL danced elegant tangos. Benedict Ambrose was by then rather tired, so he called a taxi and I gathered up all my little Historical Household chicks--except PPS who was coaxed from the Men's Schola and their bottles only with the greatest difficulty--and sat in it.

Then B.A. went to bed and the rest of us rejected any more Scottish ceremonial in favour of Polish wedding music, Polish cheese and Polish vodka. This, paradoxically, may also be characteristic of Scottish life, as the Poles are--after the English--Scotland's largest minority group. By 2 AM, Disco Polo  had given way to Pieśni Patrioticzne, and after crying tears of vodka to "Dziś do Ciebie Przyjść Nie Mogę",* the last survivors retired on a satisfactorily gloomy note.

As most of my readers are in the USA, I hope this gives an authentic yet exotic picture of Scottish life. Lest it seem overly civilised, I should note that certain guests took the half-empty bottles with them when shooed from the dining hall to the drawing-room and that a small amount of outside beer may have been smuggled in. That there was no fighting or unrestrained snogging is a testimony to the sterling characters of the bride and groom, who either were a good influence on everyone else, or don't associate with pugnacious snoggers, or were clever enough to know that nothing restrains a Scottish crowd like a cash bar. The choice between getting tipsy and saving money throws us into a confusion and renders us docile--and relatively sober.

*"I Can't Go to You Today (Because I Have To Hide From the Germans in the Woods, Where They Will Probably Shoot Me.)"


  1. The exotic picture of Scottish life is a big part of the blog's charm. A splendid account—thank you!

  2. Agree with hip! And oh my goodness, I LOVE your hat!!! Drooling over the picture, and wishing I had some kind of event I could wear something like that to! (We might have to have a fancy dinner at home or something. :)