Irish Wedding Traditions

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here are some of our favorite ways to honor your Irish heritage in your wedding day.
Claddagh ring

Claddagh Ring
The claddagh ring is one of the most well-known Irish wedding traditions. Typically passed down from mother to daughter or grandmother to granddaughter, the ring represents love, friendship, and loyalty. Single ladies wear the ring on their right hand with the point of the heart facing the fingertip. When in a relationship, the ring is flipped around so that the point faces the wrist, symbolizing that her heart has been captured. And when the woman becomes engaged, the ring is moved over to her left hand, with the point of the heart facing the fingertips. The ring is flipped around at the wedding. You can also incorporate the claddagh in your invitations:

Choose Your Date Wisely
In ancient times, Irish couples were cautioned against marrying between May and August - the busiest time in Irish life. As the saying goes,

"Marry when the year is new, always loving, kind, and true.
When February birds do mate, you may wed, nor dread your fate.
If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you'll know.
Marry in April when you can, joy for maiden and for man.
Marry in the month of May, you will surely rue the day.
Marry when June roses blow, over land and sea you'll go.
They who in July do wed, must labor always for their bread.
Whoever wed in August be, many a change are sure to see.
Marry in September's shine, your living will be rich and fine.
If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry.
If you wed in bleak November, only joy will come, remember.
When December's rain fall fast, marry and true love will last."

Handfasting
In this ancient Celtic tradition, the hands of the bride and groom are literally tied together to symbolize the joining of husband and wife. It's the origin of the phrase "tying the knot."

Food & Drink
During your cocktail hour, add a corned beef carving station. Start off dinner with a potato soup. Be sure to stock the bar with plenty of Guinness, Bailey's Irish Cream, and Jameson, and display an appropriate Irish proverb. My favorite: "An Irishman is never drunk as long as he can hold onto one blade of grass and not fall off the face of the earth." Sláinte!

Carry a Horseshoe
Add some good luck to your wedding day with a horseshoe. Make sure you keep the horseshoe upright, resembling a "U" - otherwise, legend says the luck will run out! Incorporate a horseshoe in your bouquet, wear a horseshoe necklace, or sew a small porcelain version inside your gown.

Flowers
Many Irish brides traditionally carried wildflowers and/or wore a wildflower wreath in lieu of a veil. Add a sprig of English lavender; it symbolizes love and devotion. And herbs stand for the bride's fidelity to her new husband. Another one of the most popular wedding flowers in Ireland is the Bells of Ireland:

Entertainment
Have a harpist play traditional Irish music before your ceremony - the harp was the national emblem of Ireland from the early times to the end of the 19th century. Make a bold statement by having bagpipes as you exit the ceremony or during the cocktail hour.

Irish Blessings
Kick off the evening by having the father of the bride offer an Irish blessing:

May your mornings bring joy and your evenings bring peace.
May your troubles grow few as your blessings increase.
May the saddest day of your future
Be no worse than the happiest day of your past.
May your hands be forever clasped in friendship
And your hearts joined forever in love.
Your lives are very special,
God has touched you in many ways.
May his blessings rest upon you
And fill all your coming days.

Bells
A traditional wedding gift for Irish couples, the chime of the bell is said to keep evil spirits away. Ring a bell together after reciting your vows. As you venture into married life, keep your wedding bells in a safe place at home; if you argue, ring the bell and it'll remind you of your wedding vows. Other ways to include the chime: Hand out bells to your guests and have them ring away as you exit the ceremony or reception. Use mini bells as place card holders, or use modified bells as candle holders or vases.

Wedding Cake
The Irish wedding cake is a hearty fruitcake made with honey and soaked in an Irish whiskey, then frosted with a sweet white glaze. Top the cake with shamrocks or four-leaf clovers for good luck.

Your Look
Though green is the color most commonly associated with Ireland, it's actually blue that's said to bring good luck to the bride on her wedding day. The groom, of course, should wear a kilt. And incorporate a braid in your hair; it's an ancient Irish symbol of power and luck.

Honeymoon
What better place to honeymoon than in a traditional Irish castle? In Gaelic, "honeymoon" is "mi na meala," meaning "the month of honey." It was customary for the newlyweds to spend a month alone together drinking mead, a wine made of fermented honey. The sweet wine is said to boost virility and fertility - babies born nine months after the wedding were attributed to the mead!

Tell us: Will you be incorporating any Irish traditions in your wedding?

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