Scottish wedding tradition – The Quaich

Scottish wedding tradition

One of my favourite Scottish wedding traditions is when the bride and groom, just before they say the wedding vows, take a drink from a loving cup, or Quaich as it’s known.

It is hard to guess from its appearance exactly what a quaich is. You would be forgiven for thinking that it was a small decorative bowl with little other purpose, beyond being pleasing on the eye. In fact, the quaich has a much more interesting beginning than that of a posh ornament.

Celebrating the Scottish heritage

Scotland’s cup of friendship, has previously been used through the centuries to offer a welcoming drink at clan gatherings or other family occasions, a farewell drink to friends and visitors, and of course, as a way of celebrating the Scottish heritage of a bride and groom on their wedding day.

Quaich is a Scots rendering of the Gaelic word cuach, meaning cup. The two-handed design of this drinking vessel incorporated trust, on the part of both giver and receiver. It was offered and taken with both hands therefore the drinker could not hold a weapon at the same time.

If you shared a cup like this with somebody, you couldn’t do harm or injury to the other, so you got the term, loving cup. James the 6th gifted this to his bride to be and thereafter sharing a loving cup became part of Scottish ceremony.

We don’t know for certain but some claim that before the invention of the quaich, Highlanders would drink a dram of whisky from scallop shells and that this was the inspiration for the quaich’s unique shape. A quaich most commonly contains whisky or brandy, although larger vessels existed which were used for drinking ale.

During a wedding ceremony, often two drinks would be poured into the quaich, a drink of the bride’s choosing, then one of the grooms, symbolising the coming together of two entities. The mixing of the desired drinks becoming one.

The quaich is sometimes handed to the bride by the groom’s parents then to the groom by the bride’s parents, with all taking a sip of its contents, as a symbol of welcoming new members to the family.

To take this a step further, quaich’s have been passed around the wedding party (or in some cases all the guests) with each person taking a sip of its contents as a symbol of sharing in the happy couple’s love and happiness.

Although personally, I would hate to think a good malt whisky was being ruined by mixing it with another drink, there are no rules to this. It’s each to their own. I did create a wedding script where the happy couple decided to have pink champagne in the quaich as a way of symbolising their commitment to one another.

This is of course, as mentioned a perfect element to have just before the vows to give a little Dutch courage. Often whilst the bride and groom drink from the quaich, the celebrant or an esteemed guest will read a wedding poem. My favourite example is below.

Strike hands with me, the glasses brim,
The dew is on the heather.
For love is good and life is long,
And two are best together.

Bless the union of these two,
Eager for marriage, eager for love.
May they begin life together,
Live that life together
And come to the end together.

Bringing together of two families

It gives me goose bumps just reading this poem. I own my very own loving cup which has pride of place on my shelf and is desperate to make its wedding debut. I have a very nice bottle of special addition malt whisky which is way too good to drink at any other time than the bringing together of two families, which I would be willing to share a dram or two of, maybe. It would be an honour and a privilege to perform a quaich ceremony.

The Quaich can also be used at the reception for the couple’s first toast together, or even as part of a naming ceremony. If you have heard of “wetting the baby’s head”? This is a Scottish idiom which refers to celebrating the birth of a baby by having a dram and quaich’s are the perfect vessels for doing so.

They also make excellent wedding or anniversary gifts as they can be engraved with clan crests, messages of goodwill or as a record of the date.

For more information on the Quaich tradition or if you have any other ideas on how we can make your ceremony unique and one to remember please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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