Dychwelyd i wlad eich hynafiaid; gwaed yn galw i waed.
Return to the land of your fathers; blood calls to blood.
Wales is a country rich in folklore and tales and has evolved its own traditions and ways of doing things! Many of the traditions developed within the rural farming communities before industrialisation changed the lives of many. Families were often poor but hard working and usually religious; a husband needed to be able to provide for his wife and family and a bride needed to be fertile to ensure a large healthy family that could help to work the land! Many of the old Welsh wedding traditions grew out of this.
Incorporating some of these traditions in your own ceremony today can be a lovely way to acknowledge your Welsh roots – or you might just love the tradition and want to include it anyway- your ceremony – your choice!
I’m sure you are all familiar with the love spoon – strictly speaking these are a Welsh courting tradition rather than something for the wedding day. The oldest known in the UK is in St Fagan’s Museum near Cardiff and dates from 1664. Their origin is not clear but they certainly quickly became something that young men would present to their ‘intended’. I like to imagine the young men sat by the fire with his betrothed’s family (heavily chaperoned!) whittling away at their love spoons as they tried to make conversation! Carving a love spoon enabled the young men to demonstrate to their potential father in law just how hard working and skilful they were.
The different symbols carved into the love spoon had different meanings:
Horseshoe – Good Luck
Bells - Marriage
Beads – the number of children they hoped for
A cross - Faith and believe in God
Locks - security
Your fiancé may not have to prove his worth in quite the same way nowadays but they do still make lovely presents!
Imagine waking on your wedding morning to the sound of bird song – and then being congratulated by a male member of your family – just about the luckiest start to your wedding day that a Welsh bride could hope for! The origins of these belief’s aren’t clear – perhaps it comes from waking up in your family home with your forthcoming marriage supported and blessed by the man of the family – it was very important to have the approval of your family and community in pre-industrial Wales.
Traditionally every Welsh bride included some Myrtle in her bouquet. This is perhaps one of the old Welsh traditions which is more easily incorporated into a modern wedding and even Kate Middleton had Myrtle in her bridal bouquet!
Myrtle symbolises the love between you – brides used to give a cutting to their bridesmaids and if the cutting bloomed within a year then the bridesmaid would soon be a bride.
The tradition of Jumping the Broom originated within the Welsh Romany community. Originally it was a custom which was associated with fertility as couples jumped over a bunch of flowering broom. This spread into the wider Welsh community and besoms or broomsticks replaced flowering broom. You can read more about this tradition in our Jumping the broomstick blog.
The English tradition of the bride throwing her bouquet for a female guest to catch was a little different in Wales. Welsh brides would wear a pin on the shoulder of their dress and would throw this over their shoulder at the reception and whoever caught it – or perhaps more sensibly carefully picked it up – was assured of becoming a bride within the next year!
A very lovely tradition was for flower girls to lead the bridal procession back to their home or to the venue for the reception. The throwing of natural petal confetti along the bride and Groom’s processional route dates back to the pagan tradition of throwing grain which was a symbol of fertility. This is of course still a very popular custom at all wedding ceremonies today – why not check out some of the natural petal confetti mixes (all made using the language of flowers) produced by our sister company Keslowena!
Some of the old Welsh traditions may be easier to incorporate into a modern wedding ceremony than others but all are interesting and give us some insights into what life must have been like for couples 2-300 years ago. Whatever you want to include in your ceremony today we can work with you to make sure you get just what you want and that you have a ceremony which is completely personal and just perfect!