PEI Wedding Reel | Bowing Down Home

About this tune

In many districts with a strong Scottish heritage, the bride, groom and other members of the wedding party opened the wedding celebration by performing a wedding reel, a dance whose elaborate footwork required that all participants be adept step-dancers. According to George MacPhee, this dance was always performed to a certain group of tunes, which included Christy Campbell, Christy Miller, and another tune known only as The Prince Edward Island Wedding Reel.

They used to go in to dance the wedding reel; that would be pretty near the opening of the wedding, getting it going. The wedding party get up and done their dance, the bridesmaid and the best man and the bride and groom. They always had somebody that could step dance good, [who] they took in the dance with them. They'd [all] go around and then they'd stop in front of each other, and they'd step dance.

The custom of dancing a wedding reel immediately following the wedding supper was brought to the Island by Highland immigrants, and as originally danced it was a variant of the Foursome, or "Scotch" Reel. Essentially, the dance begins with two couples standing at opposite ends of the floor: bride with best man, and bridesmaid with groom. Over the course of the dance, and after much complicated stepping and maneuvering, bride is united with groom, and bridesmaid joins best man.

Various fiddlers recall seeing a much-reduced version of the wedding reel danced sporadically into the 1940s and 50s, but by the 1960s it was almost certainly gone from the Island scene. As the art of step-dancing began to decline, the custom of dancing the wedding reel was prolonged by appointing stand-ins, as Jimmy Banks describes: "Them wedding reels, you generally had to get a good step-dancer. If the bride and groom wasn't good to dance, they generally stood on the end and got some of the older, good dancers for to dance in their place."

Notation for this tune as played by “Old Peter” Chaisson is in Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.

Tune Selections

Chaisson, Peter - 'Old' - The Marquis of Huntley / Big John MacNeil / PEI Wedding Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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Cheverie, Omar - PEI Wedding Reel Accompanied by: unacc
Northeast Kings
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MacPhee, George - Christie Campbell / PEI Wedding Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
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McPhee, Hughie - PEI Wedding Reel Accompanied by: unacc
Northeast Kings
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