13 Irish Traditions for your Wedding Day
Traditionally in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is considered the luckiest day of the year to be married. Whether you have ancestral roots in Ireland or just want to add a little luck o’ the Irish to your celebration, here are sharing 13 ways to bring some lucky Irish wedding traditions to your wedding day!
Tradition #1: The Claddagh Ring
The Claddagh ring represents the three essentials of marriage. The hands represent friendship. The crown represents loyalty. The heart, of course, represents love. As this is a generational tradition in Ireland, the ring is often passed from mothers to their daughters. The ring is worn on the right hand when single. The point of the heart looks south of the fingertips until the ring’s owner is in a committed relationship, thus flipping the ring. Upon engagement, the Claddagh ring moves to the left hand with the heart’s point still facing north, and once married, the ring is flipped again and remains on the left hand with the heart pointing downward.
Tradition #2: The Handfasting Ceremony
One of the most famous traditions to come from the emerald isle also where the term tying the knot actually comes. This ceremony tradition of wrapping the couples hands in fabric, knotting their hands together, literally tying a knot to bind them in matrimony. This gesture of the love knot represents unity through thick and thin.
Tradition #3: Honor Irish Poetry & Literature
Storytelling is an inherited and long lasting tradition in Ireland. They are quite proud of their rich history of romantic authors, poets and creatives. Writers such as WIlliam Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce are wonderful sources of inspiration to include in your ceremony script. The Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) has a fabulous website with abundant resources to learn more about the history of literature. We particularly appreciate their podcast highlighting past and present in Irish literary figures.
Tradition #4: Incorporate Irish Lace
The Irish have a rich and storied history of lace, particularly helping with the restoration of their economy in the 1800’s after the Great Famine. Local regions of Ireland have different distinct pattern qualities. These techniques have been passed between families over many generations. In fact, Irish lace has had a place in many Royal Weddings over the years. Queen Victoria transformed bridal fashion with her white Irish lace gown for her 1840 wedding to Prince Albert, and in more recent times, it was used again by Princess Diana, Duchess Catherine Middleton and Duchess Meghan Markle. However, if Alexander McQueen isn’t in your budget or style, Irish lace can always be incorporated on table surfaces or carried in a bouquet wrap, which is also traditionally used in christening the couple’s first child, known as the 'magic hanky'. Don’t feel you have to limit yourself to fabrics! Beyond fashion, lace patterns can also be incorporated into cake design, or as a laser cut accent on your stationery suite.
Tradition #5: Braided Hair and Fabrics
Think of the creative and functional ways braids may be included in your hair, or possibly other decorative moments to weave fabrics. In Celtic tradition, braids represent feminine power and good luck. So embrace your inner Khaleesi and proudly include delicate, intricate or more relaxed bohemian-styled braids for your wedding look.
Tradition #6: Wear a Blue Wedding Dress
The traditional Irish bride wore a blue wedding dress rather than white. This color was a symbol of purity in ancient times before white became the universal symbol for virginity.
Tradition #7: Ceremony Music
Bagpipes are commonly thought of as Scottish, but in Ireland, the Uilleann pipes are softer and sweeter in tone. This makes for a wonderful recessional once you are married. Or for a striking and classic splurge, hire a Gaelic harpist for romantic and classical strings at your wedding or even a stunning string quartet to play some traditional tunes.
Tradition #8: Garlands & Greenery Galore
Ireland has over 40 shades of green, so if you want an Irish wedding, incorporate them! For a splurge, create oversized floral installations of green and white flowers at your ceremony or reception entrance; or simply go with an oversized floral arrangement that can double as ceremony and reception decor. The more green, the better. It’s a touch of bringing the outside inside, and draping more of the outside along the outside!
Tradition #9: Hang a Wishing Ring
For a personalized touch, add a wishing ring. The Iris are quite steeped in Fairy tradition and superstitions. A wishing ring contains all of the blessings written in Gaelic and English to be bestowed upon the bride and groom. As guests walk under, they can select a blessing and present them to the couple.
Tradition #10: Feature Horseshoes
Most Irish traditions stem from superstition. The belief in the power of the fairy folk (Tuath dé Danann) is still quite strong throughout their entire culture. A horseshoe is often gifted for good luck, representing a bit of magic and protection. Aside from gifting your guests horseshoes, a small horse shoe charm works nicely on a bouquet wrap, or they can also be incorporated into decorative items like a cake wedding topper, escort cards or table numbers.
Tradition #11: Irish Folk Dancing
If you’re a lover of Irish step dancing and jigs, then bringing in an Irish dance group would be the ultimate form of reception entertainment for your guests. It’s a one-of-a-kind way to incorporate traditional Celtic music through the form of dance. Your guests will love to join in and might learn a few dance moves, too.
Tradition #12: Irish Cocktails
There are many ways to say Sláinte! Host your own Irish whiskey tasting bar mixing classics like Bushmills and Jameson amongst lesser known distillers like Hyde or Laphroaig. Be sure to include a brief history lesson or locale note in signage behind the distillery too. We always enjoy the Black Velvet as a signature drink (1 part Guinness to 1 part dry champagne or sparkling wine). Of course, Irish Coffee at the end of dinner will always be a classic.
Fun facT!! Irish Coffee was created originally to be served on the transatlantic plane journey from Shannon Airport to NYC.
Tradition #13: The Honeymoon
Last but certainly not least, the honeymoon. Did you know that this tradition actually began in in ancient Ireland when newlyweds were toasted with a mead made of honey? They were given enough of this tasty brew to last them for 30 days...the same length of time as a moon’s cycle...hence the honeymoon! The cocktail represented luck and fertility, and to ward off any evil fairies.
Ireland is full of history, pride, folklore, and traditions. Which of these was your favorite?