Another popular wedding ceremony ritual is one where the couple drink to each other from a traditional Scottish quaich. The Scottish word ‘quaich’ comes from the Celtic word meaning ‘cup’. It is a wide, shallow two-handled bowl, and in very ancient times it was used to welcome guests, to establish trust, putting them at their ease about accepting food and drink from their hosts. And then in 1589 a quaich was given by King James VI of Scotland to his wife, Anne, from the royal house of Denmark, on the occasion of their marriage, and since then quaichs have often been used in wedding ceremonies. You can buy some lovely quaichs – the most usual ones are made of pewter, but they can be of silver, horn, pottery or even wood, and all these materials could of course be engraved with the names of the couple and the date.
When husband and wife share this cup, it clearly symbolises the sharing of their life together in the future. To give added depth to the symbolism I often create a mixture of whisky and water, where the mingling of the liquor and the water symbolises the coming together of husband and wife. As the water and the whisky in the mixture complement each other, so do the two persons in the partnership. Like the mixture, they too will be transformed into a new whole – something deeper, something richer and something bigger than the two separate beings they were before. And this has an alchemical significance when you consider the fire of the whisky and the cleansing, healing qualities of the water. In alchemy, the strong, dynamic qualities of fire are traditionally associated with the masculine and the receptive qualities of water with the feminine, although it should be said that there is no need to identify too closely these so-called masculine and feminine qualities with male and female, as in alchemy the male and the female are in themselves symbolic. It might be more helpful to talk here about the harmony of yin and yang, held in balance to create perfection. And as one husband-to-be confided to me, ‘Marriage is like whisky – and whisky is better with water’…
Each of the couple may drink from the quaich saying something like:
‘(Spouse’s Name), I drink to our marriage:
To our undying love, peace, joy and prosperity!’
But it is also possible to use the quaich in a more inclusive way by using Irn Bru or some other drink that is also suitable for children, so that if children are already present in the lives of the couple, they too can be included in this symbolic ritual.