St. Dwynwen’s Day
As a relaxed wedding photographer based in North Wales I am of course super interested in Welsh Wedding Traditions.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Welsh Wedding Traditions is probably St. Dwynwen’s Day and Llanddwyn Island not far from Newborough Beach on Anglesey. It’s where Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, lived in the fifth Century.
Legend has it that she was one of the prettiest of Brychan Brycheiniog’s 24 daughters. She fell in love with a prince called Maelon Dafodrill, but unfortunately her father had already arranged for her to marry someone else.
Dwynwen was so upset that she begged God to help her forget Maelon. He sent an angel to visit Dwynwen when she was asleep. The angel carried a sweet potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and to turn him into a block of ice.
God then granted Dwynwen three wishes. Her first wish was not to turn Maelon into a block of ice. Her second wish was that God meet the hopes & dreams of true lovers. And thirdly she wished that she should never have to marry. All of her three wishes were fulfilled, and as a thank you, Dwynwen fully devoted herself to God’s service for the rest of her life.
She founded a convent on Llanddwyn, where a well named after her became a place of pilgrimage after her death in 465AD. Visitors to the well believed that the sacred fish or eels that lived in the well could foretell whether or not their relationship would be happy and whether love and happiness would be theirs.
Love Spoons & Welsh Wedding Traditions
Who doesn’t love Welsh Wedding Traditions and a good wooden love spoon, right? In pre-industrial Wales courting was an important, and often lengthy, process. Maybe sailors invented the love spoon, often far away from loved ones on long sea voyages. Activities like carving & decorating whale bones would at the very least have helped to pass time.
An alternative explanation might be young men sitting – fully chaperoned! – in front of the farm house fire with their future wife and he family passing the long evenings by carving and whittling at pieces of wood.
Often intricate spoons were decorated with keys (symbolising the key to the man’s heart), wheels (symbolising the hard work he’d put in for his wife) and beads (symbolising the number of children he would like) and are now synonymous with Welsh courting customs and Welsh Wedding Traditions.
All Welsh brides believed that it was lucky to wake up to birdsong on the morning of their wedding and it was considered luckier to be congratulated by a man first, not by another woman.
The throwing of confetti as the happy couple leaves the church developed from a pagan ritual where grain was tossed at a newly married couple to wish them a fertile union.
Welsh brides also believed that if, by some chance, their wedding dress was torn on the wedding day then it denoted a bright & happy future. Something I more than agree with 🙂
Wedding dresses, incidentally, were historically not white. Brides traditionally wore their *best* dress for the wedding and it wasn’t actually until Anne of Burgundy (the Duchess of Bedford) was married to Louis XII of France in 1499, clad in a white dress, that the colour became popular.
One peculiarly Welsh tradition was that of kidnapping the bride on her wedding day. The bride’s family did this, just before the ceremony. The groom and his family would set off in hot pursuit and would *rescue* the bride. One version of this custom declared that whoever actually freed the bride would themselves be married within the year (although part of me thinks that’s weird as obviously the groom would be expected to rescue his precious future wife first?). I’ve also heard of German brides being *kidnapped* and taken to the nearest pub. It is then customary for the groom to find her and pay for everybody’s drinks before she is released.
The Bridal Bouquet
The bridal bouquet usually contained a cutting of myrtle, a traditional symbol of love. The bridesmaid carried the bouquet after the ceremony and if she then planted the myrtle (and if it bloomed) it indicated that she would soon marry herself.
Do you know of any other Welsh Wedding Traditions? Shoot me a message – would love to hear all about them! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Babs Boardwell is a relaxed wedding photographer based in North Wales. My style is informal authentic story telling with the odd group shot and portrait thrown in. To enquire about any of my wedding packages and/or availability look for the Contact Me tab and send me a message xoxo