Irish Wedding Traditions

The use of Irish wedding traditions is a beautiful way for the bride and/or groom to celebrate their Irish heritage. What’s wonderful about Irish wedding traditions is that there are so many to choose from and most can be incorporated in ways that are meaningful to the bride and groom. According to tradition, the luckiest time of year to get married in Ireland is New Year’s Eve, a chance to say goodbye to the life you had as a single person and welcome in a new year and a new love. ‘When December’s showers fall fast, marry and true love will last.’

On the wedding day it was traditional for the bride and groom to walk together to the church. This symbolized equality in ancient Ireland that was at the heart of the wedding ceremony. (The groom often referred to his wife as his ‘co-lord’ and women often kept their family surname) In ancient Ireland the typical attire for the bride consisted simply of her very best dress. If the family could afford it she donned a blue dress, which was the traditional color for a wedding dress in Ireland. In later years, brides wore white dresses adorned with beautiful Irish lace. The wedding ceremony itself is steeped in tradition. A tradition that still exists today is the use of the unity candle. This consists of a central candle accompanied by two slim candles which the bride and groom use to light the central candle together. This symbolizes the sacred union between the couple. Another Irish wedding tradition is the use of the claddagh ring as a wedding ring. The claddagh ring features two hands clasped around a heart adorned with a crown. The fourth finger of the left hand with the point of the heart worn inwards symbolizes that the wearer’s heart is taken. A groom may say “With these hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my love.” Handfasting is another Irish wedding tradition with Celtic origins. Handfasting involves the officiant tying together the hands of the bride and groom (commonly with a ribbon) as they recite their vows. Once they have recited their vows the officiant removes the tie, thus symbolizing that the couple are now bound together in their hearts.

The traditional Irish wedding reception consists of a feast of Irish fare (common dishes are Colcannon, Irish stew, Boxty, Irish soda bread), Irish music (the playing of the harp, fiddle and bodhrån) and of course traditional Irish dancing. Irish wedding toasts are also a key part of the traditional Irish wedding. Some of my favorites include ‘May your troubles be as few and as far apart as my grandmother’s teeth’ and ‘May your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, but never in want.’ Ultimately, the best thing about Irish wedding traditions is that they can be easily adapted and used in modern wedding ceremonies today. Irish wedding traditions are used by both Irish and non-Irish couples around the world and are legendary because of the inevitable craic agus ceol (fun and music) associated with every Irish wedding! This article is provided by Emer O’Leary, author of Irish Wedding Secrets: The Definitve Guide to adding ‘a touch of the Irish’ to your wedding


Resources and References

Special thanks to Lois Pearce, Master Bridal Consultant of Hamden, Connecticut, for her time and energy gathering the majority of information used here. We also wish to thank the Association of Bridal Consultants for their assistance.

Please note: The information contained in these categories should be considered general in nature. We believe it to be true and an accurate representation of some of the customs and traditions for these countries. Information provided by individuals and organizations is assumed to be correct.

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