Irish Wedding Traditions
Do you dream of an Irish wedding but due to current travel restrictions, cannot make it to Ireland? Or maybe you want to bring in some old customs into your modern day wedding. There are plenty of ways to ensure your day is full of the charm and luck of the Irish by including some Irish wedding traditions and customs, some of which have been around for centuries. Below are some of my favourite Irish wedding traditions.
The Claddagh Ring
The Claddagh ring in a gorgeous symbol of love, friendship and marriage. It was first produced in the 17th Century and is the traditional Irish wedding ring. It is a heart topped with a crown and held by two hands. The hands represent faith, the crown honour and the heart love. Nearly every teenage girl in Ireland had a Claddagh ring at one time or another, I think I still have mine! It is the perfect way to embrace some Irish heritage.
Braided hair is an ancient Irish symbol of feminine power and luck, and is thought to bring Irish brides luck for their marriage. The hair is often braided with ribbon or lace woven through the braids.
Blue Wedding Dress
Contrary to belief the national colour for the State in Ireland is Blue and it also the colour representing St. Patrick, our Patron Saint. The traditional Irish bride also wore a blue dress as it was the colour of purity before white. I love this Irish tradition as it is easy to incorporate with a blue band on your dress or a fabulous pair of blue shoes if you’re not feeling completely brave to go all out blue.
Another one of my favourite Irish wedding traditions. The bell chime was said to ward off evil spirits, restore harmony and remind the couple of their wedding vows. A nice way to incorporate this is to give out little bells or bell wands to your guests at the ceremony and use them instead of confetti as the couple is leaving.
The magic handkerchief symbolises fertility and the bride should have it with her throughout her day either by incorporating it in to her dress, carrying it in her bouquet or sleeve. Once the wedding is over the magic handkerchief was traditionally kept and made into the christening gown of their first born child.
Traditionally Irish brides would carry a real horseshoe for good luck, turned up so the luck would not run out. Now brides will either carry a small porcelain one within her bouquet or have one displayed in the ceremony or reception venue.
Irish brides would often wear a wreath of wild flowers in their hair rather than a veil and their bouquets contained herbs and wildflowers to match. Again, different herbs had different symbols, lavender for example symbolised love and devotion.
A very simple way to add a bit of Irish-ness to your day, simply have an Irish blessing or toast read out during the speeches. There are so many to choose from, but one of my favourites is:
May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings
Slow to make enemies Quick to make friends
But rich or poor, quick or slow,
May you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.
Child of Prague
We Irish are a superstitious lot! Irish mammies traditionally put a Child of Prague statue upside down in the front garden the night before the wedding, as it is thought to guarantee good weather on your wedding day. As the Irish weather is the one thing you cannot guarantee this Irish wedding tradition is a bit of a leap of faith, but I have yet to meet an Irish mammy who didn’t put one out the night before.
A hand-fasting is an ancient ritual that symbolised marriage in Celtic countries before Christianity. The couples hands are draped and bound in ribbon or cord and tied and it is where the term tying the knot originated. This ritual is becoming more and more popular today with many couples enhancing their ceremony with a hand-fasting and it is a lovely nod to the past.
Bonus Custom!! Yum Yum
Not yet a tradition, but soon to be is to have crisp sandwiches instead of an evening buffet or favours. For the non-Irish among you who haven’t a clue what I mean, a traditional Irish snack consists of a packet of Tayto (has to be Tayto) crisps (potato chips) with a couple of slices of bread and butter, usually accompanied by a mug of tea. You see more and more couples forgoing the evening buffet and giving guests pre-made packs consisting of bread, butter and a packet of Tayto. This is especially popular amongst the diaspora who are missing home. A snack before bed after a night out, Christmas evening watching a movie, and now weddings, all made better by a crisp sandwich!!!
And there you have it, some of the more traditional customs and a yummy bonus one. We Irish love our customs, our symbolism and anything that we think will bring us a bit of luck. It is easy to incorporate a bit of the heritage and culture of one of the most magical places in the world into your special day.
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About Yvonne Cassidy
Yvonne Cassidy is an independent, Ethical Celebrant and Chairperson of The Irish Ethical Celebrants Society. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.yvonnecassidyweddings.com