A Highland Fairy Tale: We Strip the Willow

You guys, the Ceilidh band was the highlight of our reception. It was the most fantastic, upbeat, crowd-pleasing, ruckus good time I’ve ever had at a wedding and yes, I’m completely 100% biased, but I absolutely LOVED it. And I know I wasn’t the only one!


Our ceilidh band, known as The Gunn Slingers, consisted of four guys playing two guitar type things, a drum set, and an accordion. Neil (the guy in the kilt) is also the caller and he’s from Scotland but lives in Minnesota now. We found his band by pure luck and the fact that Mom Sword was able to stalk him at the Minnesota Scottish Fair in 2012.


I am eternally grateful for Mr. Sword’s Scottish friends, both those from the UK and those living in the US, because it was so nice to have a group of people who actually knew what they were doing from the get-go! Dancing the Ceilidh was difficult at first, but all of us Americans were able to watch what they were doing and that made it so much more fun!

Basically, the caller explains the dance steps one time and then the music begins and the men start stomping their brogues (shoes) together in rhythm, and it’s GO time!

Here’s me trying to keep up in one of the first dances—I’m so classy.


Then there were some people who made it look easy, like my in-laws and MOH Big Eyes and BIL.



I danced every single song because it was my wedding dammit, but I probably should have relaxed more often because dancing the ceilidh is exhausting! Thank goodness I’d already decided to avoid drinking on my big day or things could have gotten ugly. In between every song I basically collapsed on the bar and begged the bartender for a glass of ice water. There was no down time and I just HAD to dance with everyone!

My favorite song was the Strip the Willow dance because you basically spin and spin and spin until they grant you mercy and stop playing music. It’s fantastic. The dance starts by everyone grabbing a partner and standing across from them in two lines.


The first couple enters the middle and they spin each other while linking arms, then they separate and each spin with a partner from the opposite line and then back to middle to dance with each other, and then to the next person in the line and so on and so forth with the next pair starting immediately after the couple in front of them “strips” down the line. It’s utter mayhem and it never stops.

My partner was Cousin Singer and he was awesome! We got to be the first couple at the top of the line. Whoo-hoo, being the bride rules.


But since you spin your way down the line, I got to dance with almost everyone!



And I found out later that the goal of many a Scottish guy is to swing his gal so hard and so fast that he lifts her off the ground. Looking back, that makes total sense because the guys who’d done this dance before were the craziest!


It was awesome watching everyone else Strip the Willow too!




Action shot of Mr. Sword



It was so great to see the dance floor so full with our favorite people. Of course there’s always those few that just don’t dance, but our wedding was definitely a good example of almost everyone participating and that made us really happy.


I’m pretty sure The Gunn Slingers would have played all night if we had asked them to but after about five songs, it was time to switch back over to the DJ and get the party going in a whole new direction. Up next, the anniversary dance!

PS: I cannot wait until Mr. Sword’s Wee Sis gets married in Scotland next year, because then I get to attend a ceilidh IN SCOTLAND IN A CASTLE. Yes.

All photos by Crystal Liepa Photography.

Did you have an unconventional band at your wedding or another type of organized dancing? Do you want to dance at a ceilidh now!?!


Skipped some of the Sword saga? It’s OK, catch up today!

Teaser video!
Final preparations, snow, and tears!
Ladies’ Luncheon!
Elevators of anxiety!
Rehearsing and screaming!
Burgers and surprises!
Kisses at midnight!

The Big Day
Bacon for bridal baby!
Hair and makeup!
Men in kilts!
Tiara and bouquet!
Becoming a bride!
Champagne toasts!
First look!
Cold couple portraits!
The Swords with swords!
The men pose!
The women pose!
Altogether now!
Elevator madness!
Big reveal!
Family photos!
Posing with our flower girl!
True Scotsman indeed!

People processing!
Bridal cry/laugh walk!
Ceremony readings!
Vows and handfasting!
Receiving line!

Cocktail hour!
The pretty details!
Grand entrances!
We get roasted!
Parent dances!
First dance fake out!


Mrs. Sword

Wedding Date:
March 2013
Gallery of the Day: August 21, 2013
As The New Englanders Say, "Ey, Let's Have-a Bridal Showah!"
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  1. Member
    Oxfordnerd 490 posts, Helper bee @ 9:05 am

    We had a ceilidh too and it was amazing!!! I did also love being top of the strip the willow, it’s just such a fun dance! Our Canadian guests had a blast once they worked out that ceilidhs are not about getting the steps right but all about just going in head first and jumping along with the music. If there’s one thing I’m glad we splurged on at the wedding it was the band and the caller. I LOVE your photos, the enthusiam and fun is just jumping right out of the photos!

  2. mspony Bee
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 9:14 am

    This looks amazing. These pictures make me wish I was one of your guests to enjoy all the fun!

  3. mstreasure Bee
    mstreasure 1655 posts, Bumble bee @ 10:32 am

    This looks like so much fun! I went to a ceilidh when I lived in Ireland, and it was quite the cardio workout.

  4. bluewhale Bee
    bluewhale 638 posts, Busy bee @ 10:42 am

    I want to go to a party where this happens!! Looks like a blast!

  5. sword Bee
    sword 1029 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:27 pm

    @Oxfordnerd:Whoo-hoo! We’re Ceilidh buddies! So worth the splurge. 🙂

    @Mrs. Pony: YES, I would have loved having fellow Bee guests!

    @Mrs. Treasure: Ya, seriously! How fun!

    @Mrs. Blue Whale: Ceilidh bands should be at any and every party, they’re soo fun.

  6. mswaterfall Bee
    Mrs. Waterfall 1403 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:36 pm

    This truly does look like a lot of fun!

  7. Member
    shortbread 290 posts, Helper bee @ 3:17 pm

    Your guests were so lucky to have a ceilidh band.

    Our ceilidh band at our St. Andrews wedding was the highlight of our big day. Our US guests had never seen anything like. I’ve never seen so many people on the dance floor and stay until the bitter end of the ceilidh as I did at our wedding. I was blown away to be able to sit back and watch our guests have so much fun.

  8. sword Bee
    sword 1029 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:22 pm

    @Shortbread: Oh man that sounds amazing! So great to hear that! 🙂

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