Irish Wedding traditions

Want a full-fledged Irish Wedding? Here’s a handy guide!

Irish weddings. Doesn’t the mention of these two words together give you some sort of unconscious comfort? Maybe it doesn’t, but for the sake of this article, you’ll have to go on with that.

Why, you ask? Because Irish weddings are the epitome of warmth, hospitality, love and more! Anybody who’s actually done an Irish wedding, or incorporated some of their customs for their own special day will testify to this.

Most of you reading this will not be Irish, of course. However, you’ve probably heard of their culture, or are fascinated by it – which is why you’re here! This is a handy way of knowing some of their rituals, and the meaning behind them. Let’s begin, and stimulate some creative thoughts for your own wedding!

Forbidden by Law

Marrying someone seems like such a harmless thing to do. But 16th Century laws were pretty bad for the Irish wedding practice. For over 200 years, in fact, saying Mass was outlawed! The same went for priests who’d try conducting the religious sacrament (ritual) of marriage.

As a result, you’ll find that Ireland has some very specific and peculiar customs. These came about because they had to practice their religion, and other rituals ‘underground’, in a shady way.

Save the Date…or the Day!

If you’re a law abiding (or in this case religious) Catholic, then you’d have problems getting wed on a Sunday – the lord’s day of rest indeed! Irish couples hence prefer the more benign Saturday, since it’s also part of the weekend.

This is a practical option and respects the Church. Obviously, there are weddings on weekdays but not everyone may attend, so choose wisely. It’s also not cool to marry in May, as the traditional saying goes – “Marry in May, and you’ll surely rue the day”. Pretty dark, but that’s the church at work again! The church hated any ‘pagan’ festivals, and one of the most famous ones began on the 1st of May.

When it comes to having an Irish wedding, other months are pretty okay.

Where’s the Mead?

Modern depictions of Irish characters involved a lot of alcohol consumption, and why shouldn’t it? Try and drink an Irishman under the table and you’ll know why!

If you want to go traditionally ’Irish wedding’ then you must arrange for some Bunratty Mead. This is a honey-based wine, and allegedly the ‘oldest’ drink in Ireland! It’s also said to boost virility, so it’s an all-time favorite for weddings, and what comes inside the *ahem* bedchamber.

The Claddagh Ring

This is perhaps one of the most significant, and lovely practices when it comes to Irish weddings. A Claddagh ring looks like two hands gently encapsulating the heart, on which sits a crown. (Yes, the photo will tell you that too).

This is a ring that is passed down from mother to daughter in each generation – unless something goes wrong, or it goes missing.

Single ladies will wear this ring on their right hands with the tip of the heart facing out, towards the fingertips. When she gets into a relationship, she will flip the ring, with the heart towards the wrist now – showing that she’s taken.

Now when things get more serious and go towards a marriage scenario: the ring goes on the left hand where the heart points outwards. Finally, when she gets married, the ring is flipped again.

This ring, aside from being a very meaningful, romantic accessory, also represents love, friendship and loyalty. Very important qualities for a successful wedding!

Handfasting

You’ll be tickled to know that the term ‘tying the knot’ comes from the Irish wedding/Celtic tradition of ‘Handfasting’. This involves the ceremony of clasping each other’s hands and tying them with a knot of fabric, rope or other material, symbolizing marriage.

Now before the church was all like ‘wait a minute’, handfasting was a very legitimate way of getting married, even on the down-low – and it was legally binding! Many couples, in fact, got married like this against the wishes of society. So much so, that the church eventually had to ban ‘clandestine weddings’!

Don’t worry, the authorities won’t be looking for you this time, so you can go ahead and include this for your own wedding.

The Feast

No wedding is ever complete without the feasting. For starters, you can go with a lot of tiny meats (bacon is an all time favorite), pot-roasted potatoes, Irish soda bread with cheesy dips and grilled mushrooms with rockets for the vegetarians.

However, the real feast happens when the main course arrives. Irish traditions involve a lot of ‘shared’ meals, where one huge main dish is cooked and shared on the table. A large pot of lamb stew, seafood chowder, herb roasted chicken/steak with ample amounts of dumplings, baby potatoes, cheeses and beef chowder are perfect.

Of course, you must include the classic Irish coffee (or Baileys – everyone loves Baileys), sponge cakes with cream/strawberry fillings. Irish fruit cake is another favorite.

The Pied Piper

Bagpipes are a must for every Irish wedding! And no, they aren’t limited to Scottish culture. Irish chanters, because of their bagpipe design and way of playing, can also produce more melodies. So, having a concerto of these would be nothing short of a heavenly – yet different – experience for your guests!

Irish dancers are also recommended with this, as they perform a very fun type of dance called the ‘Riverdance’ – the moves for which you can learn too!

His Goose is Cooked

Another common phrase for getting wed is ‘his goose is cooked’. Not all of us may have heard this of course, but in Irish tradition, it was customary for a goose to be cooked for the groom in the bride’s house. This is done the night before the wedding, a sort of ‘seal the deal’ kind of gesture.

Once the cooked goose with delicious fillings has been consumed, there’s no going back!

Horseshoes

Since rituals for good luck form such a big part of Irish weddings, we couldn’t help but include their horseshoe tradition.

Horseshoes are used in a versatile way. The groom can nail it upright (making a U) on the door of the couple’s new home; the bride can carry it (upright again) down the aisle. You can also use a horseshoe necklace, if you get obsessed, or slip a tiny one inside your wedding bouquet.

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Monica

Monica is a moniker for our relationship expert. She's been working as a relationship counselor for over 10 years, and over time, has sharpened her personality. Unlike typical counselors, Monica is not afraid to use a harsher method to resolve certain issues that demand it. Even if she's a virtual entity now, she can still see into your soul.

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