Thinking about serving pie and mash at your wedding reception? There’s a surprising number of nods through history to suggest that this classic dish is actually a traditional and fitting way to feed your guests.
It started with a pie
If you were at a wedding in medieval times, you’d be more likely to receive a slice of pie than a slice of cake, but the very first wedding pie recipe published in Britain in 1685 wouldn’t have delighted many of us today!. The filling of the ‘bryde’s pie’ consisted of lamb’s testicles with a healthy dollop of spices.
There was also a wedding tradition around this time of hiding a glass ring within the pie’s filling. If an unwed lady discovered the ring in her portion, folklore dictated she would be next to marry, similar to today’s custom of catching the bouquet.
Pies were not just a celebratory affair reserved for the wedding day either. In his diaries, Samuel Pepys recalls attending numerous anniversary celebrations in which mince pies (one for each year the couple had been wed) were served to those attending to join in the congratulations.
Pie and Mash History in Wales
Until the end of the 19th century, in the Gower Peninsula of South West Wales, the big day was celebrated in a tradition known as ‘bidding weddings’, which derives from ‘Beading’ or ‘Bridewain’ weddings. Both the bride and the groom were referred to as ‘brides’ and once the banns were called in church, the couple would keep the community guessing as to who would be invited, or ‘beaded’, to the wedding itself.
A ‘beader’ would then be appointed to issue invitations. Instead of popping cards into the post, this individual would visit each house carrying a staff decorated with ribbons and repeat the ‘bidding rhyme’ to those who were invited to the wedding. Tradition dictated that both of the ‘brides’ would leave the house together on the wedding day, led by a fiddler to the church. After the ceremony, the wedding feast would consist of ‘bidding pie’. A local farmer was selected to supply meat from a sheep to go into pies baked by women from the village.
Even more ingenious perhaps is that each guest at a bidding wedding would be charged a sum of money for a slice of the pie. At the feast, the ‘bidder’ would have the important task of recording the proceeds. At the end, the newly-wed couple would be presented with the cash intended to put towards setting up their new home.
Meanwhile, in Victorian England and Scotland
In 1828, a chap named Carr described ‘penny weddings’ held in North Yorkshire. Despite slowly going out of fashion, such betrothal ceremonies were still those where guests paid to attend. He would say, “The bride’s pie was so essential a dish on the dining table after the celebration of a marriage, there was no prospect of happiness without it”, and that “it would have been deemed an act of neglect or rudeness if any of the party omitted to partake of it”.
During the Victorian era, elaborate pies became the principal dish at many weddings in Scotland too. The meat pastry, delicacy known as a ‘bridie’, originated in Forfar in the 1850s and is still popular to this day. The name of the minced steak pie is thought to have derived from the frequent appearance of bridies on wedding menus and the fact it was said to bring luck to the bride.
In the early 1800s, a published cook, by the name of Mrs Frazer, included the recipe for ‘Bride’s Pie’ in seven editions of her book, ‘The Practice of Cookery, Pastry and Confectionery’. The recipe called for two boiled calf’s feet, beef suet, apples, raisins and a splash of brandy and champagne. The ring hidden in the midst of the pie to predict the next bride was still a requirement.
Continuing the pie tradition at weddings today
Pies may not feature heavily in today’s wedding customs, but we think they should! For wedding food on a budget, and a ‘proper’ way to feed a hefty guest list, pies make a fabulous and fun addition to the big day feast. As we’ve seen, the wedding pie has been served for centuries and has folklore all of its own.
Why not book pie and mash van hire for your reception, wedding lunch or wedding breakfast? You can embelish the meal with the tales of wedding pies through time; just add a disclaimer to the invites if you’re going to hide a ring in one of them! Contact our team to learn more about our pie and mash van hire services.