Celtic Pipes & wedding traditions on Holly’s hot wedding tips

Celtic Pipes & wedding traditions on Holly’s hot wedding tips

Do you ever wonder why we have different traditions we do for weddings? I do, so I met with the Denver bagpiper Randy Arent to learn more about Celtic wedding traditions, and bagpipes at weddings. Read on to find out what I learned from Randy.

Interesting Bagpipe tips:

  1. Bagpipes have a limited range and a unique key
  2. There are only 9 notes on a bagpipe
  3. Not all songs work on bagpipes
  4. Bagpipers can produce unique tunes for each part of the processional, like a tune for the parents, one for the wedding party, the groom, and something special for the bride.
  5. Please give your bagpiper 3 months’ to learn any new music.

Celtic Traditions

  1. The wedding walk- the wedding party is preceded into the church by bagpipes.
  2. Hand-fasting – Is the tying of a knot between the brides and groom’s hands. Responsible for the phrase “tie the knot”
  3. Unity Candles
  4. The wearing of Kilts
  5. The bride is welcomed into the groom’s family with a Rosette of the clan’s tartan, worn on the right shoulder. If she marries into the Chief’s family it is worn on the left shoulder. An extra special touch is to have the mother of the groom pin the tartan rosette on the bride.
  1. The Scottish Quaich is the ‘Loving Cup.’ It is a two-handled silver bowl which is filled with whisky, by the bride, and then passed around for the wedding party to sip after the vows. Often the Quaich will be tipped over above the head to show that the contents have been drained.
  2. Placing a sixpence coin in the bride’s shoe has long been a tradition.
  3. Another traditional dance is the Grand March as the first dance at the reception. It begins with the bride and groom marching to the sound of bagpipes or a live band. The maid of honor (or chief bridesmaid) and the best man join in, followed by both sets of in-laws, and finally the guests!
  4. Traditional dances include The Lang Reel. It is started in the village and completed with the wedding couple’s last dance.
  5. Blackenings – A somewhat rare tradition was a ritual performed on occasion of the Stag Night–The unlucky groom-to-be is captured by his friends and is stripped to the waist before bound and ‘blackened’ with feathers, soot and flour! He is then noisily paraded through town by his friends who make the experience as embarrassing as possible.


Thank you to Randy Arent for sharing his wealth of knowledge. You can contact Randy at 303.514.5656 http://www.denverbagpiper.com/ . You can read the complete transcript below.

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Holly Collins
WEDDING DANCE instruction
author of
Holly’s hot wedding tips, 
Historically Accurate Princess Dances,
Winner of the Knot best wedding dance,
Champion Ballroom Dancer & Coach
owner of
Adventures in Dance


Full transcript:

Hi MOM! Good morning Andy so you’re from Denver bagpiper.(.Randy à) Yeah I’m a Denver bagpiper.(Holly à) Excellent, how long have you been bagpiping? (randyà) 20 something years. (HOllyà) Wow. That’s only two decades, I got you by 1. (Randyà) Well I know I got friends that have been playing a lot longer than that. (Hollyà) that’s great and you do weddings and events and fun things huh? (Randyà) Weddings, and funerals, and landfill openings, and divorce parties, we’ve done those, birthday parties. (Hollyà) Everything (Randyà) Yeah. (HOllyà) Wherever you need a loud pair of pipes. (Randyà) If everyone wants something that’ll be outstanding and everyone will know about, yeah. (Hollyà) So what don’t brides and grooms know to ask you when they’re coming to look for a bagpiper service? (Randyà) What don’t they know? Most everything they don’t know, what they don’t know is we only have 9 (notes?). That’s all we have a very limited range. We also have our own weird key that I don’t want to get into because it’s not a western instrument. So there are things that we can’t play, and there are things that have been arranged for bagpipes that shouldn’t be played. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. (HOllyà) What’s the weirdest thing you’ve been asked to play? (Randyà) Lady Gaga. (HOllyà) So that’s in the don’t play. (Randyà) Bad romance it doesn’t play it’s just noise. There is actually music out there for it. I’m often asked to play (Pacabell’s cannon) (Hollyà) Not enough notes for that? (Randyà) There are enough notes, considering the range its not half bad. But it’s not a bagpipe tune so it’s doesn’t sound the same the way people play it in their heads, and that’s an issue. The wedding march, everyone wants the big brass fanfare, it isn’t going to happen. I’m not a brass instrument. I much prefer to play music that is written for the particular instrument. (Hollyà) For the bagpipe yes that makes perfect sense for that limited range, and then you have a whole list I assume of things that you do play that are good. (Andyà) No I don’t there are too many, I’ve been playing for 20 years. There’s a lot of tunes that I will recommend that I play for weddings but well could you play this, I haven’t played this for years. I’ll dust it off and play it. (Hollyà) Great that’s wonderful, so know a lot about Celtic wedding traditions (Randyà) Some. (Hollyà) Some, so tell me what you know about Celtic wedding traditions. (Randyà) There is no (Pan?) Celtic wedding tradition there is no wedding tradition for all over Ireland. Second, seven Celtic nations who’re all a little bit different. Northern Spain there is Galicia, they’re talking about andoras maybe another one in whales, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, northern France, and Cornwall. So most of them are on the British islands and there are some that have similar traditions but not all. (Hollyà) What are the traditions that are most similar across all? (Randyà) You know I’ve had a lot that make me very happy I’d say are hand fastenings. I like those a lot some of those are quite elaborate with the knots. Apparently that’s where the “Tie the knot” phrase came from. I’m not seeing unity candles so much, it’s not just because I play a lot of Celtic weddings. I’ve played for anybody and I will see no unity candles. What I’ve seen is unity candles might be on their way out. I don’t know, I’ve seen a lot more hand fastenings than unity candles at a non celtic wedding. A tradition that I really like and always get a charge out of is when I show up in a wedding and I’m not the only guy there in a kilt. (Hollyà) That’s great I know my step father has a kilt so we used to go to Scottish festivals every year. (Randyà)I get a big charge outta that one, the groom was in a kilt and all the fella’s they’re all wearing some sort of kilt, and when they’re guests show up in kilts too. That can just be marvelous and it’s not my job to make sure they’re worn properly but if the pleats are in the front I will mention that, which I have had to do. What I see quite often are brides being welcomed into a clan, if it’s a Scottish wedding. I brought this, this is my wife’s rosette, not being Scottish I have no clan so I wore her coat in return. This is the rosette that she wears on her right shoulder she’s not a chieftain’s wife so she wears it on her right, the rules and this stuff. So quite often the groom will come over and pin a piece of Tartan to the new bride (Hollyà) and it’s in the clan colors so she’s part of the clan. (Randyà) It’s really nice when the mother of the groom does it. Because there’s always a little tension between mothers of the bride and mothers of the groom so there’s a little familial stuff but the grooms mom pins this to the bride and it’s very nice, it kind of smooth’s the waters a little bit. (Hollyà) That’s nice, excellent. (Randyà) and I’ve seen that quite often it can be a rosette, it can be a swath of tartan it can be a full sash, presumably I think that’s very cool, I like that. (Hollyà) So you also have a dish here would you like to tell me about that? (Randyà) this is a quake don’t ask me how it’s spelled its Gaelic it’s a drinking cup it’s a loving cup, and there’s usually something like the water of life (scotch) and there’s a little blessing and the bride tastes first and then the groom and they pass it around and everyone takes a sip, right at the wedding. Part of the traditions with quakes is to take it and drink everything and take it and hold it over your head upside down to show that you emptied it, drank it all, and then it gets filled up and passed to the next person. And everyone in line get a drink out of these so by the time the nights done it’s quite the party. (Hollyà) Well how fun is that? Any other unique traditions? (Randyà) well something that I like to do personally when I play at weddings is give every member at the party, a tune. We call them tunes not songs, so I will break up the wedding party into groups and the groups comes in and gets a tune. And then comes in the tenants and they get tunes, there are maybe six of them and they’re taking forever to get there so I’ll pipe a tune for them. They get all set up and then there will come the ring bearer and the flower kid and I’ll play something because they walk in. (Hollyà) So a special tune for each little group and it changes. (Randyà) So after the flower girl and the ring kid come in it’s the bride with her dad, and I’ll step out in front, after clearing this with her, and lead them in and peel off to the side. That way I’m in place for the precession and then I lead them back out. (Hollyà) Wonderful those are great traditions. What are the best tips you have for a bride and groom working on music for their wedding? (Randyà) Lead time, lots of lead time. If it’s a tune that we don’t know. We have to learn it, and we don’t have a music stand so we have to memorize it. So we need the lead time (Hollyà) How long in advance do you need to know? (Andyà) I like to know at least 3 months in advance. I’m sorry sweetheart but yours is not my only wedding. (Hollyà) That makes sense to have 3 months out if you’re learning new tunes but if it’s already an existing tune you got it no problem boom and you have what you usually do and have great recommendations for brides and grooms who’re coming in and want bags and bagpipes. Or do brides and grooms that come in to hire you already have a familiarity with bagpipes? (Randyà) Not usually, there’s kind of a joke that have 4 tunes we have Scotland brave, amazing grace, we have one that sounds like Scotland brave, and then we have that other one that nobody knows the title of. Because they all sound the same to everybody so we only have 4. Amazing grace is a downer for a wedding I’m sorry it’s not a good one, so is Danny boy it pulls the energy plug and that never comes back. But, being the hired help if that’s what you want I’ll play it. (Hollyà) right sentimental reasons for certain families. Well that was fabulous thank you so much for coming this has been incredibly informative and very fun. I’m sure your mother will enjoy watching this. (Andyà) Well my boss at home will get a kick out of it.