[From Mona Miscellany second series Manx Soc vol 21]


" As merry as a marriage bell. "—OLD SAYING.

The rites, ceremonies, and customs adopted by different people in their various localities are so great, that we may naturally expect to find some of them peculiar to the Isle of Man, yet it may be said that many are derived from the former rulers of the isle, as also adopted from intercourse with the neighbouring coasts.

Marriages of the better class are conducted much in a similar manner to what they are in England. Seldom, indeed, do we hear in any case, of banns being proclaimed for three several Sundays in the parish church; for the most part the party interested goes to a surrogate with his friend, and obtains a licence at a small cost, and in due time proceeds to the parish church to have the ceremony performed by the parson. The bishop of the island has the power to grant special licences to marry at any convenient time or place, when the parties most interested can fix any hour most convenient to themselves. This privilege, I believe, is only possessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is at the weddings of the small statesmen, and some of the better class of labourers in the country districts, that the old customs are yet to be observed. When the lover has made up his mind to ask the consent of his sweetheart’s parents, he is accompanied to the house by his most trusted friend, called in Manx his "Dooinney-Moyllee," his spokesman or go-between, to talk over the old folks, and induce them to give their consent to the match, and also to make the best arrangement for a marriage portion for their daughter, as most of them have some means at their disposal, if not in ready money, by other ways. If too poor to advance money, it is often arranged that the young folks shall remain with the bride’s parents for a twelvemonth or so, until they are in a position to furnish a cottage for themselves. When all these preliminaries are arranged, preparations are made for the wedding feast, for which their relations and friends send ample store of fowls, hams, etc., making up a substantial entertainment. Occasionally the expenses are paid by the men individually present.

Formerly wedding processions to the church were preceded by a fiddler playing the "Black amid Grey," the only tune struck up on such occasions. It was prevalent in the time of Charles II., as is given in Waldron’s Isle of Man, Manx Society, vol. xi. p. 314, in note.

In proceeding to the church it was the custom for the men to walk first in a body, and the women after them, the bridegroom’s men carrying ozier wands in their hands as an emblem of superiority. Before entering the church the whole party marched three times round it, but these customs are now falling into disuse, and the particular tune is now omitted, yet the fiddler still often forms one of the wedding party and proceeds with them to the church. At the present day, having grown more polite, or more probably wishing to improve the occasion of having a choice companion, they proceed arm in arm without the ozier rods, amidst showers of old shoes, firing of guns, and blowing of horns.

After the ceremony, on coming out of the church, money is thrown amongst the idlers, who generally congregate about, for which they scramble. This is also done in passing any public place on the way home. On returning home, some of the most active of the young people start off at full speed for the bride’s house, and he who arrives there first is considered "best man," and is entitled to some peculiar privileges in consequence. Occasionally, when the wedding party is attended by their friends on horseback, some severe riding takes place, and it is well if all ends without an accident. After the feast, the remainder of the day is spent with the utmost hilarity in dancing and other amusements.

It has been said by a learned divine that the firing of guns, sometimes charged with feathers, "was to indicate the vanity and vexation of spirit incident to the state into which they have newly entered ;" but the Manx look upon the old shoes to indicate "good luck," and the firing of guns and blowing of horns was to drive all fairies and evil spirits away.


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