Old and young women and men dance in this crowded, boisterous scene of revelry at a Scottish country wedding. Alongside food and drink, dance is a key element of the marriage celebrations. This picture's title refers to the custom whereby guests at a wedding party contributed to its costs and helped the married couple to set up home together. Like his precursor David Allan and his younger, brilliant contemporary David Wilkie, Carse was attracted to the joyful vitality of his native country's festive customs. Such lively scenes of everyday life proved popular with aristocratic patrons and exhibition visitors based in London.
This painting is one of Carse's most ambitious and elaborate exercises in social genre. It was first shown to the public at the British Institution in 1819 while the artist was living in London. Carse evidently revelled in the raucous merriment and boisterous vitality associated with this distinctively Scottish custom whereby guests covered the costs of the wedding feast and any surplus was used to set up the couple in their new home. Carse filled his composition with all sorts of humorous narratives. On the right of the picture two farmers or shepherds are gorging themselves on ham, while a third pulls down his bonnet to say grace. Behind them a pair of men are bickering over their voluntary contributions as the hat is passed round.
Carse was an assistant to David Allan before the artist's death in 1796, and undoubtedly received preliminary artistic training from him. Allan's influence on Carse's small, vivacious genre scenes is evident. In 1801, he attended the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh, but this training did not yield the benefits and success that it did for his contemporaries like David Wilkie, and later in life Carse described himself as 'a painter, chiefly of domestic, familiar and poetical subjects'. Carse's pictures combine an honest realism with charm and wit. He was adept at capturing the different manners and customs of town and country folk, and recognised that the distinctions between these two ways of life were rapidly becoming fainter.