Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Marriages in Scots

Although this took place two years ago, the marriage of Colin Wilson and Fiona Henderson has just been tweeted by @scotslanguage on Twitter. It shows footage of the first non-religious wedding ceremony to take place in Scotland in the language of Scots, more specifically the Doric of the north-east, rather than in English. It apparently took some organising as the couple were first refused permission to have the ceremony carried out in their own tongue, but subsequently received an apology from the Registrar General over the issue. The full story is at www.scotslanguage.com/books/view/22/1196

Scots wedding from scotslanguage on Vimeo.

(The exchange of vows is about 5 minutes in!)

For those not in the know, Scots is not the same language as Scottish Gaelic (Gaidhlig), but a separate dialect of the old Germanic tongue that later became English. It was actually referred to as 'Ynglis' or 'English' in Scotland in medieval times, but over time evolved separately to its southern linguistic neighbour. Gaelic ironically used to be referred to as 'Scottish' but later was given the more derogatory title of 'Erse' (meaning 'Irish'), with 'Ynglis' becoming known as 'Scots'. The wedding above now apparently sets a precedent in Scotland for others to be able to do the same.

Incidentally, when it comes to civil marriage, Scotland again differs, as in so many areas legally and genealogically, with the rest of Britain. In England and Wales you could marry in a civil ceremony from July 1837, with the establishment of civil registration. In Scotland, it did not happen until the Marriage (Scotland) Act of 1939 established the practice, despite the commencement of civil registration in 1855. The reason was simple - we didn't need it. You'll often read in family history books and publications that 'irregular' marriage, i.e. a ceremony performed without the prior proclamation of banns (or marriage license) and by the Church of England, ended with Lord Hardwicke's Act of 1753. Again, this was only in England and Wales, with this English law not having any relevance to Scotland at all (with the exception of driving hundreds of elopers over the border to Gretna and other border marriage centres!). Irregular marriage here continued mainly until the reforms of marriage law in Scotland in 1939, and even then was not totally abolished - it was not until the Family Law (Scotland) Act of 2006 that it completely went away, with the abolition of 'marriages by cohabitation and repute'.

So there you go - Happy Valentine's Day!


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