White flags are traditionally used to mark the route of the bride, and sometimes the groom, to the church in some of the Outer Hebridean islands. These are always homemade flags, hung out by neighbours, using a sheet, towel or torn pillowcase and are always white. It is unclear if white was originally used to symbolise the bride, or the surrendering of their love to each other. This tradition is especially strong in North Uist.
Alcohol was a staple at all island weddings even when it wasn’t as plentiful as today. Whisky was the main drink offered but sometimes also local ales. Orcadian celebrations were not complete without wedding cogs. The cog was a hand crafted, circular, double handled, wooden drinking vessel. There are two different types.
A cog-gilt-cog was placed on each wedding table, which traditionally sat 24 people. Menye-cogs would be carried round by the bride and groom to their guests using the long handles, and most importantly following the direction of the sun. The bride’s menye-cog was especially potent as the contents involved a mix of alcohols, spices and sugar, created to family recipes.
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The knitting of special stockings to be worn by the bride-groom on his wedding day was a local custom in the Outer Hebrides. It is not known where or when it first began and the patterns found on such stockings are not typical local patterns. They are similar to patterns found in Norway and Fair Isle.
Another custom involving wedding socks is described in an essay written by a Lewis school pupil in 1907. The boy was amongst the group invited to ‘put the groom to bed’ on his wedding night. As the groom began to undress the lamp was put out and the person who was first hit by the groom’s wedding stocking would be the next to marry! A similar custom also happened in Shetland, with the bride’s stocking being thrown at the young women present. Another custom was for young women to start knitting socks for their husbands-to-be during long winter nights. These were saved up and presented as gifts to their husbands when they married.
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