A Scottish penny wedding

broadside small

We have bought a Belfast-printed broadside (AP.el.214.02) entitled ‘A Scottish penny wedding’ dating from the 1840s. It contains a large wood engraving printed from nine individual blocks. The illustration shows a lively wedding scene in a barn with the bride and groom dancing to fiddle music and guests eating and drinking merrily.

There were three sorts of wedding in Scotland in the early half of the 19th-century: the free wedding, where only a few select friends were invited and the guests were not to be the cause of any expense; the dinner wedding, where a dinner was provided by the marriage party; and the penny wedding, also known as the penny bridal, where each guest contributed financially or by way of food towards the dinner and then paid for their own drinks. Since a penny wedding could go on for several days, by the end of the festivities it could actually bring in a tidy profit for the newly-weds! Penny weddings were particularly common across rural Scotland, despite the disapproval of the Kirk.

Beneath the wood engraving is athree-column poem called ‘Twas on the morn of sweet May-day’. Also known as ‘Jockey to the fair’, this wedding-themed song often appears in 18th- and 19th-century chapbooks.