Marriage ceremony enhancements

Civil Ceremonies

Our Civil Ceremonies in the Scottish Borders guide is available here.

Love letter and box ceremony

This ceremony involves the couple writing a love letter to each other in the weeks before the ceremony and preparing a special box filled with romantic items such as a CD of their favourite songs, photographs, pieces of poetry and other mementoes.

The couple keep one of the two keys to ensure that one cannot open it without the other.

The box will then be opened on the couple's first anniversary, or an anniversary of their choosing.

What you will need

  • a lockable box
  • two padlocks with keys
  • two love letters sealed in separate envelopes

Oathing stone ceremony

The oathing stone is an old Scottish tradition where the couple place their hands upon a stone while saying their wedding vows. Taken from the ancient Celtic custom of setting an oath in stone, inclusion of the oathing stone ceremony in the vows can be deeply moving.

What you will need

  • collect a stone suitable for use as an oathing stone
  • prepare the stone and have it engraved if desired


Hand-fasting is an ancient Celtic/medieval custom in which a man and woman come together at the start of their marriage relationship to declare of their own free will that they intended to marry.

While facing each other, the couple will join hands while a cloth is tied around their hands in a knot. This is where the term ‘tie the knot’ came from.

What you will need

  • a cloth or ribbon suitable for hand-fasting

Unity candle ceremony

The bride and groom or civil partners use individual candles which they will in turn use to light one unity candle. Family and friends will then be invited forward to light their own candles from the unity candle flame in a symbolic act of togetherness and the merging of both families. This ceremony is suitable for all civil ceremonies.

What you need

  • one large candle (this is the unity candle)
  • two smaller candles (one each for the bride and groom or two civil partners) and tapers to light them
  • enough tea light candles for everyone you wish to light a candle from the flame of the unity candle
  • a suitable heat resisting container for the unity candle

The sand ceremony

The couple provide three containers of coloured sand, one colour for the groom or first civil partner, one for the bride or second civil partner and one for the celebrant.

The three containers of sand are then poured into a fourth larger container at different points in the ceremony, each symbolising a different aspect of the couple, their relationship and their families.

What you need

  • three containers of sand, a different colour in each
  • one large container capable of holding the sand from all three smaller containers

The rose ceremony

The couple give each other a rose but this ceremony can also involve the bestman/witness or other person bringing the roses forward and doing a reading.   

A fitting example being Robert Burns' A Red, Red Rose.

This ceremony is suitable for both weddings and civil partnership ceremonies.

What you will need

Two roses.

Including children in a ceremony

You may like to involve children in your ceremony in some of the following ways:     

  • have them bring the rings forward 
  • have them do a reading/poem/song
  • tie the knot for a hand-fasting ceremony
  • giving a child or children a ring or gift as a welcome to new family unit
  • holding the stone in an oathing stone ceremony

Remembering absent loved ones

There are many ways you may like to remember loved ones on your day, such as asking your Registrar to mention loved ones in your ceremony. You could also:

  • light a candle in memory of an individual or a group of individuals
  • a table of remembrance with a photograph of your loved one(s), you can also include a memorial candle here  
  • have a friend or family member do a reading or small speech in memory of the person/people
  • include a favourite song of your loved ones within your ceremony music

Pinning of the tartan

This could see the bride being presented with her groom’s clan tartan by a member of his family or by the groom himself.

Likewise, if the groom is being accepted into the bride’s family, the roles can be reversed.

What you will need

  • tartan sash
  • tartan rosette
  • clan badge

The quaich ceremony

Symbolic of the sharing between the couple, the quaich is an ancient vessel used by two families or clans, to celebrate a bond.

The groom drinks from the quaich and then offers it to his bride. The order in which it is then passed is a matter of choice although historically it would have been the leaders of each family or clan who would have passed the quaich around.

What you will need

  • a quaich (which can be engraved)
  • preferred drink to fill the quaich

Ring warming ceremony

Gives loved ones the opportunity to hold and imbue the couple’s wedding bands with a wish, blessing or prayer for your marriage.

What you will need

  • wedding ring(s)
  • run a string or ribbon down the rows of seats, then as part of your ceremony you can have someone introduce the ring warming and start the rings on their voyage through your sea of guests
  • other options would be to simply tie the rings together or to use a little dish to pass the rings along the rows

Guest Vows

Guests are asked to join in on the vows, after the couple makes their vows to each other.

Registration enquiry

Telephone: Monday to Thursday 8am-5pm, Friday 8am-4pm, Saturday 9am-12noon

Address: Council Headquarters
Newtown St. Boswells

Telephone: 0300 100 1800