Honor your Emerald Isle heritage with traditions that are romantic, clever, and a couple that are downright strange. Uncover here how to fill your wedding with all things Irish save the Blarney Stone.
According to history, Irish men declared their intentions of marriage by giving their fiancee harvest knots of straw decorated with flowers or bells to wear in their hair or around their neck. Make a harvest knot to wear on your wedding day, or place one in your bouquet to symbolize your Irish heritage.
The steps of Irish folkdances are called ceilidh. Treat your attendants to an Irish dancing lesson, and then “perform” a jig to traditional Irish music at the reception.
A way to incorporate Celtic pride into your wedding attire (besides hand-beading four leaf clovers all over your gown) is to adorn yourself with beautiful Irish lace. Known for its intricate patterns and zenith quality, wear a veil or carry a handkerchief made of this intricate Irish decoration.
Playin’ o’ the Pipes
Infuse your ceremony with the strains of the Irish pipes. Although bagpipes have Celtic roots, they are traditionally Scottish. For a truly Emerald Isle affair, locate an Irish uillean piper to lead the processional or recessional.
Irish Wedding Feast
The customary wedding feast in Ireland was a potluck hosted at the bride’s family’s home. Each guest brought traditional Irish dishes such as soda bread, coddle, and stew. Even if you’re having a more formal reception, you can still celebrate this Irish tradition by having a “feast” for your bridal shower or rehearsal dinner.
The Wedding Cake
Old custom dictates that the Irish wedding cake (usually a dense fruit cake with white icing) was cut by one of the bride’s sisters or bridesmaids. Where would they cut it? Over her head, of course. The bride remained seated while the groomsmen held the cake over her head while her sister or best friend did the honors. Our only concern: this tradition works best and safest when the cake is NOT a four-tiered confectionary concoction. Eeeek!
A noisy way to ring in your nuptials with the luck o’ the Irish is to have a recessional like those in Celtic history: instead of throwing rice upon exiting the church, men would fire rifles or other firearms into the air to signal that a couple is wed. Not your traditional exit (most churches would frown upon guns in the parking lot), if the men use blanks in their guns, and if you are getting married in an area without noise ordinances, then fire away, Irish style.
Giving the Claddagh
Two hands holding a heart underneath a crown is the Irish symbol for “Let Love and Friendship Reign”. Share your Irish heritage with your attendants by giving them Celtic-inspired gifts marked with the claddagh. Give your maid of honor a candle gift engraved with the “faith ring”, or jewelry made of claddagh. Buy claddagh wedding rings, or wear the Irish symbol around your neck on your wedding day as a reminder of your heritage.
Tokens of Hair
A more unusual Irish tradition is for the man to give the woman he loves a bracelet woven of human hair. Symbolic of acceptance, when the woman wears the circle of hair, she is linking herself to him for life. There’s no mention of exactly who’s hair it is, however, so if wearing hair jewelry gives you the heevies, see “Harvest Knots” for the same idea, using straw instead.
The traditionally superstitious Irish believed that the last day of the year is especially lucky, since the couple would wake up on the first day of their new life on the first day of the new year. Plan your wedding for December 31, the luckiest of Celtic days.