North Wales Wedding & Elopement Photographer
Being a professional wedding photographer based in North Wales, it’s probably no surprise that I am fascinated by Welsh Wedding Traditions.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Welsh Wedding Traditions is probably St. Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh equivalent to the English Valentines 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.
Welsh Wedding Traditions
Legend has it that she was the prettiest of Brychan Brycheiniog’s 24 daughters. She fell in love with a prince called Maelon Dafodrill, but because nothing is ever straightforward in legends, her father had – of course! – already arranged for her to marry someone else.
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Dwynwen was so upset she begged God to help her forget Maelon. He thought about it for a while, then sent an angel to visit Dwynwen while she was asleep. Little did Dwynwen know that the angel carried a potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice.
As legend has it, God then granted Dwynwen three wishes. Her first wish was for Maelon not to be turned into a block of ice. Her second wish was for God to meet the hopes & dreams of true lovers. And thirdly she wished that she should never have to marry. When all of her three wishes were fulfilled, and as a thank you to God, Dwynwen fully devoted herself to his service for the rest of her life.
Welsh Wedding Traditions
Gwynwen founded a convent on Llanddwyn and a well named after her ended up 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 own relationship would be a happy one and whether love and happiness would be theirs.
Remains of Dwynwen’s church can still be seen today and Newborough Beach is a beautiful setting for a pre-wedding mini adventure shoot.
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. It is quite possible that it was sailors who invented the love spoon. They were often far away from loved ones on long sea voyages and activities like carving & decorating whale bones would, at the very least, have helped to pass time.
Or maybe some of the younger men could be found sitting – fully chaperoned of course – in front of the farmhouse fire with their future wife and her family passing the long evenings by carving and whittling at pieces of wood.
These often intricate little 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). They are now synonymous with Welsh courting customs and Welsh Wedding Traditions.
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 definitely 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) married Louis XII of France in 1499, clad in a white dress, that the colour white 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 marry within the year. 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 they release her.
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. If she then planted the myrtle, and if it bloomed, it indicated that she would soon marry herself.
So there we have it – some of the most popular Welsh Wedding Traditions.
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Babs Boardwell is a wedding & elopement photographer based in Llangollen, servicing Wales and the surrounding areas. Often provides services for weddings across the whole of the U.K. Specialises in capturing artistic portraits paired with unique storytelling moments to produce natural, romantic wedding photography. The Clwydian Range is home but available for travel across the whole of the U.K. Also available to book as a North Wales Family Photographer.