34 Ways to Add Tartan to Your Wedding Without Wearing a Kilt

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (26/07/2020)
Categories: | Scottish Weddings  |  Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Traditions |
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A flower girl wearing a white dress with a
                      tartan sash and a wreath of baby's breath on her
                      headAll the men in the wedding party looking glorious in tartan kilts is the iconic mark of the formal Scottish wedding. However, there may be a number of reasons why the kilt may not be the best choice in your circumstances
                  • The groom has no Scots connections or ancestry
                  • The groom just doesn't want to wear a kilt
                  • The marrying couple are both brides
Having kilt-free wedding does not mean that you have to have a wedding that is devoid of that powerful symbol of heritage and family connection - the tartan - because there are many creative ways to incorporate tartan (or tartans) in your ceremony.

Ways to add a touch of tartan for the men in the wedding party

There are many alternatives to wearing the kilt.
  • Tartan Trews
    Trews have a long history as an alternative to the kilt. While they are a Highlands cultural tradition, and a practical alternative to the kilt in winter, because of their association with the uniforms of Lowland Scottish regiments in past centuries, many people assume that no-one in the Highlands would wear trews. Not true.They are part of the official uniform of several Scottish Regiments and may be seen at every formal ball in Scotland
  • Tartan Jackets
    A modern innovation, a tailored tartan jacket worn with dark tailored trousers looks very smart.
  • Tartan Vests (Waistcoats)
    Vests are ultra-versatile as wedding wear. They can be worn in the traditional fashion under a jacket, to make a three-piece suit, very useful in colder weather. In warmer climates, such as sub-tropical Brisbane, they can be worn without a jacket for a more comfortable but more formal look than a shirt alone. 
  • Tartan Cummerbands
    Traditionally worn with a formal tuxedo or dinner suit, a cummerband, and matching bow tie can add a pop of color to the black and white of the suit and shirt. For tropical wear, a cummerband can be worn with shirt and trousers alone.
  • Tartan Ties
    Both bow ties and regular ties are available in a wide range of tartans.
  • Tartan Pocket Squares
  • Tartan Braces
    Clip on woollen braces (suspenders) are available in a very wide range of tartans. Important to note that they are designed for trousers so are not suitable for kilts.
  • Tartan Belts
  • Tartan Rosette worn instead of a boutonniere
    Rosettes are easy to make from tartan ribbon. All that is required is a needle and thread and some tartan ribbon or silk, wool, or polyviscose fabric. Be aware that the range of authentic tartans available as either polyester or silk ribbons is limited, and that many plaid ribbons may be labelled tartan, particularly around Christmas.
  • Tartan ribbon
    incorporated in the traditional white heather and/or thistle boutonniere
  • Tartan shoes
    Yes, men's shoes incorporating tartan are a thing, You might have to mail order from Scotland.

Ways to add a touch of tartan for the women in the wedding party

In Australia, when a couple has a Scottish wedding, wearing of tartan is usually seen to be the province, or prerogative, of the men. It definitely doesn't have to be that way.
  • The traditional Arisaid wedding dress
  • A Tartan Train
    A white dress with a tartan train can look spectacular
  • A Tartan Corset
    Worn over a wedding dress can look spectacular
  • A Tartan cape, shawl or wrap
    A great solution to what to add to a wedding or bridesmaid's dress to keep warm in the colder weather
  • Tartan Skirts
    Bridesmaids could wear tartan skirts with a plain top
  • Waist Sashes
    Either knotted or tied in a bow at the backHigh heeled tartan shoes
  • Shoes
    While you can buy tartan heels, any reputable shoemaker will be able to cover any style of shoes with tartan fabric
  • Tartan Ribbons incorporated into or attached to bouquets
  • Tartan Ribbons in the hair
  • Tartan Clutch Purse or Dolly Bag
    as an alternative to a bouquet

Ways to add a touch of tartan for the children in the wedding party

Traditionally, flower-girls wear dresses with sashes while ring bearers and pages wear outfits that coordinate with what the flower girls are wearing, however, in many weddings what the boys wear is very similar to what the adult males in the wedding party are wearing
  • Tartan  Sashes
    • Swap the plain sashes for tartan for the flower girls
    • If the boys are wearing traditional page boy outfits, a tartan sash, tied in the front as they were in the 18th century, works. If they are wearing more modern page boy suits, it is usual that they should look like miniature versions of the adult men in the wedding party.
  • Decorate the petal basket with tartan ribbon
  • Choose a tartan ring cushion, or a ring cushion or box trimmed with tartan ribbon
  • Add tartan ribbons to the flower girls' chaplet flower wreaths

Ways to add a touch of tartan to the ceremony space

Whether or not your wedding party embraces wearing full Highland dress or not, adding touches of tartan to your ceremony space adds to the ambience of the occasion because it signals to your guests, from the minute they arrive, that they can expect a ceremony that honours your heritage.
  • Dress the signing table with tartan
    There are a number of ways to add tartan to the signing tableSigning Table with
                          Scottish National Tartan undercloth and white
                          on white embroidered linen topper cloth.
                          Maroon marriage register, green and white
                          handfasting cords, and a bottle of hand
                          sanitizer on the table.
                  • Over a tartan undercloth place a plain or embroidered topper.  I use a vintage linen tablecloth embroidered with thistle motifs
                  • Over a plain undercloth place a tartan topper cloth
                  • Place a tartan runner across a bare table or over a plain undercloth
                  • Use a tartan pen to sign the documents
                  • Incorporate tartan - ribbons, fabric, wallpaper, or paint - into your ceremony backdrop.
  • Add tartan ribbons to the aisle decorations
  • Use a tartan runner for the aisle
    Tartan carpet is available either by the roll, used for fitted carpets, or in the form of rugs. Your choice of tartan may be limited
  • Tartan chair sashes
    Dressing the chairs with tartan sashes can look spectacular. If you do not wish to decorate all the chairs, use tartan sashes on the front row for the parents/family. If both families have a Scottish connection,  using the appropriate clan tartan for each family is a gracious way to personalise the chairs.
  • Add tartan ribbon to the corsages for the mothers and other honoured female guests
  • Trim Ceremony Programs (Orders of Service) with tartan ribbon

Don't forget the fur babies

West Highland White Terrier wearing a
                      tartan kilt and tamA wide variety of pet-specific tartan clothing and accessories is available if you choose to dress your fur baby in tartan. You will be spoiled for choice regardless of whether your fur kid is a dog, a cat, a horse, or some other animal.

Everything from tartan dog and cat collars, kilts, vest, jackets, even horse rugs is available in a wide range of tartans. And there is no sensitivity about animals wearing tartan, so if you wish your fur baby to wear a clan tartan, go for it.

Choosing your tartan

While most people immediately think clan tartan, with the exception of the Royal Stewart, that is reserved for the Royal Family, anyone can wear any tartan, and it is seen as a compliment to the host to wear that family's tartan when visiting. That said, in a wedding, being a formal occasion where two families are uniting, each family wearing their own tartan is the norm. Tradition has a member of the groom's family "sashing" the bride with the groom's clan tartan to symbolise her welcome into the family.

When the kilt is worn, it is very common in Scotland for the groom and groomsmen each to wear their own family tartan. While they may not match, the fact that the male side of the wedding party has the same silhouette and the different tartans share design characteristics, mean that they do coordinate, spectacularly.

Oh, and don't forget, if you are Irish, Welsh, or Cornish, there are family and regional tartans for you to choose from too. There are also more general tartans, such as the very popular Scottish National, Flower of Scotland, and Black Watch tartans, together with place tartans from around the world. There is an Australia Tartan, and the Brisbane Tartan (predominantly blue and yellow which reflects our official city colours). For grooms and wedding parties who would prefer to stick to a monotone grayscale palette, there is always Highland Granite, which looks very smart.
Thanks for reading!

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PS if you want to know more about marrying in the Scottish tradition, head over to https://www.bluebonnettartanweddings.com.au

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