There is a bewildering choice of very good live entertainment to choose from these days but a ceilidh or barn dance is still as popular as ever with newlyweds. A ceilidh goes with a wedding as carols go with Christmas and there is something very special and magical about celebrating a wedding evening with family and friends in that most traditional of ways.
When a barn was the biggest indoor space in your village it made sense to use it for big social gatherings and what better way to celebrate major happenings than to dance, drink a few jars of cider and let off steam with friends and family?
‘Ceilidh’ is simply the Gaelic word for ‘party’. In Scotland and Ireland a ceilidh would usually involve having a few drinks, singing, story-telling and dancing. Mostly this would take place in the biggest building in your village. You’re ahead of me aren’t you?
In England these days the words ‘Barn Dance’ and ‘Ceilidh’ are interchangeable although use of the word ‘Ceilidh’ has become fashionable of late, possibly because not all dances take place in a barn.
At an English ceilidh (or barn dance!) there is always a ‘caller’. The caller walks the dancers through each dance a couple of times before the band strikes up and everyone then dances the dance they have just walked through while the caller calls out the moves for as long as is needed. A simple enough idea, but it works.
In Scotland there is not usually a caller because it is assumed the dancers will have gone to lessons or dancing clubs and will therefore already know the dances.
A good caller is courteous and very patient and has a collection of dances to suit all abilities. It is safe to assume that at a wedding there will be people of all ages and abilities. There may be people who will have travelled long distances and may be tired. There may be others who are bursting with energy. It’s almost a certainty there will be absolute beginners who have never been to a ceilidh before. The caller’s job is to look, listen and learn and provide a selection of dances that will involve and entertain all the guests, and then make that happen!
A skilful and entertaining band will provide music that fits the dances precisely and will give energy and lift to the dancers.
Ceilidh bands come in all shapes and sizes. Some play only traditional instruments, fiddle, whistle, accordion, for example, and others add electric guitars, drums and so on. The choice is literally endless because new bands are emerging all the time as new generations take up the tradition.
Some play only English tunes. Some play all American. Others play Scottish or Irish. A typical English Ceilidh though, is a mixture of English, Scottish & Irish traditional tunes and dances with perhaps a smattering of North American ones thrown in.
If you want all your guests to let their hair down and enjoy a relaxed, informal evening of fun, frolics and outrageous laughter after they have behaved themselves throughout the more formal parts of your day, if you have invited those whom you know will join in with the spirit of the event and help make it a memorable and joyful occasion for all, but especially for you both, then yes, a ceilidh is very probably exactly the right choice for your wedding.
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