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Everything You Need to Know About a Quaich Ceremony for Your Scottish Wedding

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There are many traditions surrounding Celtic and Gaelic weddings, and modern couples wanting to honour their Scottish ties have no shortage of options to choose from.

One such tradition that goes waaaaay back – but is still very prominent in the modern Scottish Wedding – is the quaich ceremony, AKA, ‘the passing of the quaich’. If you’re not familiar with this act, all will be revealed!

Everything You Need to Know About a Quaich Ceremony

Let’s take a closer look at the history of the quaich, as well as where to purchase one.

The Quaich Ceremony Explained

The word ‘quaich’ derives from the Gaelic word, ‘Cuach’, which loosely translates to ‘cup’, and the quaich ceremony is simply that – the drinking from a cup filled with the couple’s beverage of choice. In traditional times, this would typically be whisky or brandy. However, modern couples sometimes favour something different, such as champagne/prosecco, coffee/tea, or wine.

This ceremony often takes place after the register has been signed, when the duo is officially married, or before/after dinner during the wedding toasts – which is effectively exactly what the quaich ceremony is – a toast.

emily and george edinburgh elopement quaich ceremony
emily and george edinburgh elopement quaich ceremony

Photography by Wildling Weddings

History of the Quaich

The quiach ceremony dates back to circa 1589 and was supposedly first included during the wedding of King James VI and Princess Anna of Denmark.

The purpose behind the ritual was to signify and establish trust, as, during the Middle Ages – and no doubt for centuries before – drinking publicly was considered incredibly risky, especially for higher-up persons of significance (such as royalty), owing to the possibility of being poisoned by a foe.

In traditional Scottish times, prominent families were known as ‘clans’, many of whom often rivalled each other, so when members of two clans tied the knot, the quaich ceremony (which entails the couple – and other members – drinking from the same chalice) was incorporated to prevent anyone from poisoning members of a rival clan!

The reason the chalice traditionally had two handles (as opposed to one/none, like most other cups or goblets) is so that the drinker had to hold it with two hands, meaning there would be no spare hands to draw a weapon!

Thankfully, nowadays, the ritual is more of a nod to yester-year tradition than anything poison- or- weapon-related!

What is Involved in a Quaich Ceremony?

The ceremony is really very simple and does not involve elaborate rituals or a multitude of props. All you need really is a quaich (funnily enough!) and a beverage of your choosing (ideally one that both you and your partner like).

After that it’s up to you what you do to add to your own mark on the ceremony (if you wish to). Many couples like to invite guests to toast the moment, while others wish to have a poem or prayer read by the host.

The quaich act traditionally takes place after vows have been spoken and documents have been signed, but really – like every other aspect of your special day – it is up to you both when you wish for the ceremony to take place.

Where to Get a Quiach

Quiaches aren’t hard to come by, so do put a little bit of your wedding budget aside for one, as the average price range for a quaich can vary from around £30 to £200, depending on the material.

Those with Scottish heritage may be lucky enough to have one passed down to them through the bloodline. However, if that’s not the case, you have plenty of options. Some of our favourite quaich retailers include:

Many couples opt to have their names and the date of their wedding engraved onto their quaich, which can be a super romantic touch.

Incorporating the Quiach Ceremony into Your Wedding

Using the loving cup, or the cup of love, in your wedding is a simple yet romantic way of keeping old school Scottish traditions alive.

Taking a joint sip from your quaich is a great way to symbolise the bond you have with your sweetheart, honour your ancestry, and get the party started ! But the quaich ceremony is more than just a swig of your favourite bevvy. 

It’s a time-honoured ritual that many couples take very seriously by incorporating it into the wedding speeches, toasts, or vows, and more often than not, a poem, prayer, or some kind of romantic statement is read by the ‘host’ (which could be the officiator/priest or a member of the bridal party, such as the father of the bride).

Also, once the couple has taken a sip from their quaich, they may wish to recite a few words to each other to symbolise the trust and union of families. How the ceremony is approached is down to each individual couple; there is no right or wrong way to go about it.

emily and george edinburgh elopement quaich ceremony
emily and george edinburgh elopement quaich ceremony

Photography by Wildling Weddings

Quaich Pronunciation

The Scots take their Gaelic history very seriously, and while the official language of the country is English, non-natives may be surprised to learn that Gaelic is still a strong part of the culture – particularly when it comes to weddings!

If you’re wondering what the correct quaich pronunciation is, it is ‘quake’. Those wanting to keep things on the super romantic side can use one of its pseudonyms, including ‘the loving cup’, ‘the cup of love’, or ‘the love cup’.

Quaich Ceremony Script

Again, there is no strict scripture you must follow during your quiach ceremony; the floor is yours and the dialogue is up to you both and whomever else you wish to speak during the ritual.

You can either work with your speaker/s to create your own quaich ceremony script, or you can opt for a traditional number. Some examples include:

Example 1

“[Name] and [name] would now like to take this time to toast their new life together. It is a tradition in Scotland to toast friendship and love with a quaich. This small pewter cup has two handles symbolising love and partnership. 

As you both hold on to this cup, reflect on how your love for each other makes you stronger. Your marriage today is a partnership, which prepares you for the challenges and triumphs life will bring you.

[Name], as you drink from this cup, know that you have a [husband/wife/life partner] to have and to hold. Please take a drink from the quaich.

[Name], as you drink from this cup, know that you have a [husband/wife/life partner] to love and to cherish. Please take a drink from the quaich

As you have shared from this cup, you have promised to share all that the future may bring. And may the sweetness that life brings be all the sweeter because you have drunk from this quaich together.”

Example 2

“The quaich which I am holding is a traditional drinking cup which is unique to Scotland. Drinking from a quaich was part of a long-established tradition of hospitality. [Name] and [Name] would like to continue with this tradition today. 

As their first act together as a married couple, they are going to drink from this quaich. In doing so, they are symbolising their commitment to sharing everything in life and sealing the bond between them, whilst signifying the blending of their families.”

Or for something a little more traditional:

Example 3

“May the best ye’ve ever seen

Be the worst ye’ll ever see

May a moose ne’er leave yer girnal

Wi’ a tear drap in his e’e

May ye aye keep hale an’ he’rty

Till ye’re auld eneuch tae dee

May ye aye be jist as happy

As we wish ye aye tae be.”

(Examples courtesy of argyll-bute.gov)

Quaich Toast

In olden times, the quaich would be passed around the room to be sipped from by the heads of each family to symbolise trust between all attending clans, which is still very prominent in modern weddings, and oftentimes, the sippers will also give a toast to the happy couple.

FAQs

A quaich ceremony is a Scottish matrimonial tradition that involves a couple sharing a drink (usually whisky) from a two-handled silver dish. 

 

Sometimes known as ‘the love cup’, this chalice is used to express the sharing of trust between the couple in question.

The quaich is simply a two-handled cup designed to be shared between two families and is representative of mutual trust. The quaich needs to be big enough to contain enough liquid (traditionally spirits, but not exclusively) for everyone required to take a sip.

The act of ‘passing the quaich’ is simply the married couple and their families sharing a drink from the same cup (quaich) and typically occurs after the signing of the register (although many modern couples are flexible about when the passing takes place).

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