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LIVING TRADITIONS

To have

and to hold

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A wedding is an exciting time in any culture. Each island has its own beliefs and customs which make the preparations in the weeks leading up to it, the ceremony and the celebration on the day itself very special. Thursday was believed to be the luckiest day and was the traditional day to wed in the Outer Hebrides, and also in Orkney, until the 1970s.  

Although Christianity reached all the islands between the late 6th and 7th centuries, many pagan traditions survived and were adapted to fit in with Christian traditions and practices, some of which are still with us today. In the late 1600s, Martin Martin recorded that it was customary for couples to have a trial marriage of a year and a day to see if they liked being married before going through the religious and legal ceremony.  

In Shetland and Orkney, a couple would have a contract night a few weeks before the wedding.  This was where both families got together and everything for the wedding was planned.  Once the formalities were completed the families would often have a party.  The couple were seen as married from then on although they had not yet gone through the legal ceremony. 

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