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
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.

claddagh ring
Photo courtesy of claddagh.com

Already have an engagement ring? Incorporate the claddagh in your invitations:

claddagh wedding invitationcladdagh wedding invitation
Contemporary Claddagh Wedding Invitations from Minted via Lover.ly (left); Classic Claddagh Wedding Invitations from Minted via Lover.ly

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." 

handfasting
Photo Credit: Larissa Cleveland on Snippet and Ink via Lover.ly

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.


Photo Credit: Michael Paul Photo

horseshoe wedding invitation
Lucky Horseshoe Wedding Invitations by 2birdstone From Minted via Lover.ly

horseshoe necklace
Mini Horseshoe Diamond Necklace in 14k White Gold From Blue Nile via Lover.ly

Flowers
Many Irish brides traditionally carried wildflowers and/or wore a wildflower wreath in lieu of a veil.

wildflower bouquets
Photo Credit: Sweet Little Photographs

floral wreath
Photo Credit: Three Nails Photography

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:

bells of irelandbells of ireland
Photo Credit: Scott Piner on Southern Weddings via Lover.ly/Amazonia Flowers

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.

woman playing harp
Photo Credit: Brawns Photography

Make a bold statement by having bagpipes as you exit the ceremony or during the cocktail hour.

wedding parade bagpipes
Photo Credir: Allyson Magda on Snippet and Ink via Lover.ly

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. 

wedding bells
Malmark Paired Wedding Bells, starting at $99.95

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 bells candle holderswedding bells vase
Malmark Wedding Candle Holder, starting at $44.95, and Malmark Wedding Bell Vase, starting at $129.95

wedding bells place card holders
Malmark Bell Charm Place Card Holders, starting at $49.95

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.

wedding cake with shamrocks
Photo Credit: Michael Paul Photo

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.

blue wedding dress
Photo Credit: Turner Creative Photography

Many Irish grooms opt to wear kilts:


Photo Credit: Lauren Rutherford Photography on Bridal Musings via Lover.ly

Incorporate a braid in your hair; it's an ancient Irish symbol of power and luck. 

braided hairstyle
Photo Credit: Hair and Makeup by Steph (left); Michelle Lemley on Wedding Chicks via Lover.ly (right)

Honeymoon
What better place to honeymoon than in a traditional Irish castle?

dromoland castle
Photo courtesy of Dromoland 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?

—Kristen O'Gorman Klein


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