Before the wedding – the ‘blackening’

balintore harbour easter ross,If you are planning a wedding in Easter Ross have you thought about your hen or stag night? Here in Balintore we celebrate an upcoming marriage with the ‘blackening’ – a Scottish marriage ritual to beat any pub crawl. 

Scotland is famous for its prenuptial ceremonies and traditions and many have been around for hundreds of years. There’s ‘Carrot Sunday’, where the bride gives a small bunch of carrots to the groom for fertility, and the ‘Fairings’ where the groom gives his bride-to-be small gifts and love tokens.

The best man and maid of honour have their own responsibilities. In the ‘biddin’ they give a verbal invitation to the community to attend the nuptials. The best man was responsible for cleaning, whitewashing and preparing the grooms house. The bridesmaids sew pillows and make other domestic items for the new home. These traditions have changes over time to suit our modern world.

What we have here, in the seaboard village of Balintore in Easter Ross, is the ‘blackening’.

This time last year I was preparing 8½ John Street, my holiday cottage, for guests attending a local wedding and it reminded me of my own wedding plans.

Blackening ritual Balintore Easter RossSix year ago David and I were preparing for our own wedding. Before the big day my daughters had made sure that we had all the pre-wedding fun available.

There was hen-night for me and a ‘Hag’ night for David, where instead of the usual guys, the girls took the groom out on the town, but there was also the ‘blackening’.

In the week before our wedding David and I were ‘kidnapped’ by the kids and taken outside to the street where many of our friends and neighbours had gathered. A seat had been put on a trailer to make our ordeal more comfortable. We shared the space with bucket upon bucket of gunk.

The kidnappers had previously collected anything they could think of that would stick and smell. Compost, tea leaves, cold baked beans, porridge, flour, treacle, eggs, seaweed.

There were cheers and squeals of laughter as David and I were covered with the muck. I’m sure there was a special wee glint in my girls’ eyes as they poured the festering yuck over our heads.

We were hauled slowly around the village followed by cars filled with well-wishers cheering and blasting on their car horns. Each time we thought the ‘baptism by gunk’ was over another bucket would appear and be tipped over us.

Getting washed in Balintore harbour after the wedding blackeningPassers-by waved and cheered and shouted good luck wishes. When the driver decided we had been humiliated enough he drove to Balintore Harbour where we were ‘encouraged’ to jump into the water.

Although the water was cold it did get rid of most of the muck. We walked home to have a blissful hot shower and then joined those who had followed us in another, better known, Scottish tradition – a wee dram.

The Blackening, in one form or another, can be found throughout the highlands. It’s possible that this tradition is loosely based on the washing of the feet of the bride and the daubing of soot, ashes and cinders over the grooms’ legs.

In some areas they blacken the bride, in some the groom but here in Balintore, Shandwick and Hilton we ‘blacken’ them both.

If you are coming to a wedding in Easter Ross, 8 1/2 John Street provides luxury accommodation for your stay and is an ideal base for any Scottish Highland holiday.