There is a bewildering choice of very good live entertainment to choose from these days but a ceilidh (pronounced : kaylee) 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 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 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.
First Published in Guides for Brides – The on-line Wedding Directory.
Reviews and letters
‘It was so nice to see everyone joining in and causing chaos! So much better than having a disco where no one dances.Many guests have told our parents its been one of the most enjoyable weddings they have been to, so thank you so much for helping make it happen. I have never seen some of our more quieter guests so animated.Thank you once again for such a lovely evening you really did help put a perfect end to a perfect day.’ Nadine and James
‘Thank you for being so straightforward to deal with. It makes my life so much easier when I know that someone is going to reply to my emails without me having to chase them!’ Farmington Institute.
It was just perfect and everyone seemed to have a fantastic time with the kilts twirling! Some of us southerners were a bit slow on the uptake but enjoyed every step of the learning. Jo & Duncan
‘We just wanted to thank you for playing at our wedding, you were absolutely brilliant, our evening do could not have been better. The music you played was perfect, the dances were easy to follow and enjoyable which made for a very lively atmosphere. Many guests that never normally join in were dancing, and all of our families were mixing and dancing together, it was wonderful. Many guests have said how much they enjoyed the dancing, some saying it was the best reception they have ever been to. We really mean it when we say that we cannot rate you highly enough.Once again thank you very much.Kind regards.’ Anna and Ollie
‘I love this band. They play great music and really want to help make the event that they are playing at go well. This is the second time that I have asked them to play – this time was my daughter’s wedding – and the caller made sure that the Uruguayans and South Africans, neither group knowing anything about a ceilidh, at the wedding knew the dances. They are very good and relaxed about it all.’ Nick
‘A big thank-you for the fantastic evening. The feedback from the partners and guests was very positive. The band was great, it was so good to hear real musicians playing, and Diane has the patience of a saint!!! The whole evening was absolutely fantastic and the fun and laughter we all enjoyed was just what we all needed. Despite the snowy conditions, there’s nothing like stripping the willow to provide a warm glow on a bitterly cold evening. Please thank the band on our behalf, we will not hesitate to contact you again, and we would strongly recommend others to do the same if it’s a warm, friendly, fun evening that they are looking for.’ Audrey, Waitrose Social Club Treasurer.
‘The band were absolutely fantastic and incredibly talented at engaging the guests in ceilidh dancing. Paul and his team made the whole process straightforward and easy; from his very prompt response to my initial query, to finding our out-of-the-way-venue on the night. The dance floor was full for the whole evening, testimony to the band’s fabulous music and Diane’s ability to engage with the guests and explain the steps of each dance. No mean feat with an English – and slightly inebriated – audience! I have received incredibly positive feedback from those who attended the Burns Night, with the ceilidh dancing coming in as the favourite part of the evening. If you’re in need of a ceilidh band – look no further.’ Joanne, Officers’ Mess RAF Halton.
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