Updated: Aug 16, 2019
I wonder how many of you will get engaged during the Christmas and New Year period? If you do, perhaps you’ll plan to have your wedding at the same time of year - wedding venues always look amazing when they are decorated for Christmas, don’t they?
As we know, the tradition of having a decorated tree was started in Victorian times, along with many other things that we now take for granted as being part of Christmas, such as “decking the halls” (ie: decorating our homes) and, even, Christmas crackers.
But did you know that there are lots of local traditions across the UK, often dating back many centuries? Some of which you could adapt and incorporate in your wedding celebrations, or maybe even in the ceremony itself - if you are going to use a wedding Celebrant.
Here are a few of my favourites:
Sussex - The Sussex Carol
This upbeat, jaunty carol is often included in local carol services, and is a regular in the famous ‘Nine Lessons and Carols’ at King’s College, Cambridge. The tune is thought to date back several hundreds of years and was well-known throughout the UK, but became known as the ‘Sussex Carol’ because the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams happened to hear a version of it in Sussex, and made an arrangement of it which became extremely popular.
Idea: You could include it in your ceremony as an opportunity for everyone to sing along. Or, perhaps you will have Christmas carols playing whilst all your guests are arriving - so, you could add this one to the playlist.
Sussex - Wassailing (from the Anglo Saxon ‘waes hael’, meaning ‘good health’)
A very ancient custom, which took place during the period from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night, and which is suggested as one of the possible origins of singing Christmas carols.
Groups of men would go around the apple orchards, singing to ask for a plentiful harvest the following year, and rapping the trees with sticks to banish demons. When they had wassailed the whole orchard, they would go to the house of the owner and sing outside his door, until they were invited in to enjoy the wassail bowl - a drink made of ale, sugar nutmeg and roasted apples.
Idea: You could include a loving cup symbolic ritual as part of your wedding ceremony - using ale or cider (as a nod to the wassail tradition) or any other beverage of your choice, whether it’s alcoholic or not!
Cornwall - The Cornish Bush
This is another pagan ritual, and it represented new life during the winter solstice. The Cornish Bush (or kissing bunch) itself was made of holly, ivy and mistletoe, which was wound around a circle of withy (willow), and then an apple and a candle was placed in the centre.
The whole thing was suspended in the centre of the home on 20th December, and the candle would be lit just before midnight. People would then dance in rings below the wreath to welcome the light (and the solstice) - and the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is thought to have started here!
Idea: Foliage chandeliers are very popular, so if your venue has room to suspend one, you could incorporate holly, ivy and mistletoe - either in the ceremony room (perfect for that first kiss at the end!) or elsewhere in the venue.
Yorkshire - Yorkshire Christmas Pie
Game pies are always popular at this time of year, but the Yorkshire Christmas Pie really was in a league of its own. It was a colossus of a pie, made with a standing crust (no mean feat by itself, as any fan of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ can confirm!) and filled with a series of progressively larger fowl, which could include pigeon, grouse, chicken, duck, goose or turkey, boned and wrapped around the smaller ones with stuffing between each layer.
Multiple-bird roasts date back to Roman times, and it’s not clear where the association with Yorkshire came from, but the county was famous for goose pies in the 18th century, so perhaps it originated there.
Idea: Maybe have a multiple-bird roast at your wedding reception - perhaps without the robust crust, though!