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Roping Out Wedding Custom, Derbyshire

There is a veritable congregation of British wedding customs, but one of the most intriguing and amusing is that of ‘roping out.’ Forget any sinful and unworthy thoughts. What happens is that after the wedding ceremony has taken place at a church either friends and family, or more often local children (and in the past local lads after the cost of a free pint) would bar the way out of the church precincts to the newly-weds. Where the church is blessed with a lych gate (the little roofed gates at the entrance to quainter churchyards) that is tied with string, or for the posher types lace; elsewhere a rope is held across the pathway, or if the vicar frowns upon such things (a court case was brought after such an event in Ashford in the Derbyshire Dales in 1905, the apparently humourless and possibly soulless incumbent not seeing the funny side of the practice) outside the church grounds.
It is the duty of the bridge-groom to lob a few bob to the rope holders in order to clear the way.
Much speculation surrounds the meaning of the custom. It relates perhaps to paying back a little of the dowry; or indeed continues the idea of paying the bride-price. Another thought is that it neatly symbolises the end of the rituals and a return to reality. The simplest idea is that some enterprising children long ago thought up a way of extorting a bit of cash when everyone was in a good mood.
The Yorkshire Dales village of Kettlewell (between Grassington and Hawes ) certainly keeps up the tradition of tying the lych gate with string after a wedding ceremony; though I know a few Yorkshiremen (and women) who would prefer to climb out rather than fork out.

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1 Response to Roping Out Wedding Custom

From Roger de Mercado on 7th June 2013
The newspaper report of my parents' wedding at Hathersage said "The Derbyshire custom of 'roping in' the bride was performed at the lych gate." I have always wondered what this custom was! St Michael and All Angels still has its lych gate.

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