No matter what culture you belong to, you will always notice that cultures have a heavy influence on weddings. The dress, the food, the decorations even the wedding gifts which are exchanged—all of these are influence by the particular culture of a particular country. Similarly, Irish Weddings are also very traditional.
In Ireland, St.Patrick’s day is considered to be the luckiest day of the year, hence you will find that a lot of Irish weddings happen on this day, probably because it will prove to be very fortunate for the couple which is to be wedded. Other than this, weddings take place, throughout the year, but this particular day is considered as the most favorable day to get married.
The Irish wedding involves a number of interesting customs and almost everything which is done at an Irish wedding has a lot of cultural and traditional importance. From the dress to the rings, everything had a touch of tradition in it.
Irish Wedding Makeup
Irish Wedding Dress:
While most traditional weddings have their brides dressed up in either white or red dresses, the Irish Wedding requires the bride to wear a blue colored dress! The reason for this is that the color blue is considered to be the color which symbolizes purity. Later, the color white became the symbol for purity and virginity, but before this, the people of the ancient times considered the color blue to be symbolic of purity and innocence.
Irish Wedding Hair:
Even the hair, at an Irish wedding, is done traditionally. Brides wear their hair in beautiful braids which are adorned with laces and ribbons. During the ancient times, the Irish considered braids to be a symbol of feminine power and luck. Needless to say, Irish brides looks beautiful in their braided hairstyles and blue colored wedding dress.
While in most weddings, brides wear a veil, but the Irish bride wears a wreath made of wildflowers, instead. She also carries a bouquet of beautiful wildflowers and herbs to go with the wreath which she wears on the top of her head.
The Irish Wedding Ring (The Claddgah Ring)
The Claddgah ring is considered to be the traditional Irish wedding ring which is handed down from the mother to the daughter. The same ring is used during the engagement ceremony, as well as at the actual wedding ceremony. The only difference is that during the entire duration of the engagement, the Calddgah ring is worn in this manner so that the crowns face inwards, towards the wrist. Whereas, during the wedding ceremony, the same ring is worn in a slightly different manner, the crown faces outwards, towards the nails. Claddgah rings are still used as the traditional Irish wedding rings. However, it is said that a person cannot buy this ring as that would be considered improper. The ring should be gifted.
Irish Wedding Traditions:
As mentioned earlier, the Irish Wedding has a number of interesting wedding traditions involved. One of the most common Irish wedding tradition is that of ‘Handfasting’. It is considered to be an ancient Celtic tradition, where the bride and the groom, hold hands, the right hand to the right hand and the left one to the left hand. The wrists are crossed and then a ribbon is used to tie these hands. The whole ritual can be considered as the literal explanation of the phrase ‘tying the knot’
Their hands are tied together which symbolizes that the newly wedded couple would remain one, united, through thick and thin.
Locking the Door:
Another famous Irish wedding tradition involves locking the doors of the Church so that the groom would not get away! Irish men usually tend to get very nervous on their wedding days. So, once, both the groom and the bride are inside the church, the guests would lock the doors of the Church so that the groom can remain inside and the wedding ceremony can be carried out.
The Irish consider horseshoes to be symbolic of good luck. In an Irish wedding, the custom of carrying a horseshoe is also carried out. It is extremely important that the horseshoe should be kept in an upright position, to get that ‘U’ shape, otherwise, if it is held in any other way, the good luck would be reversed! Brides are likely to incorporate the horseshoe in the bouquet they carry, or some brides may even wear a ting pendant which looks like a horseshoe, around their neck.
Another Irish wedding custom is that of the magical handkerchief which the bride can incorporate in her dress or carry it in her sleeve. She may even incorporate the handkerchief in her bouquet. The handkerchief symbolizes fertility. After the wedding, the bride can save the handkerchief and use it as a ‘christening bonnet’ when she has her first child.
Irish Wedding Entertainment:
Most Irish weddings hire harpists to play traditional Irish music, just before the big ceremony takes place. The harp is that instrument which has a lot of importance in Ireland and it was also the national emblem of Ireland. It remained so, till the end of the 19th century. Other than this, there are a lot of Irish families who are fond of bagpipes as well and you are most likely to find bagpipes being played at an Irish wedding. These ‘pipers’ are considered to be very traditional and they wear Celtic Kits which are basically just plaid skirts which in the medieval times, was worn by their ancestors. Irish are particularly fond of wearing these Celtic Kits at special occasions, like weddings, because when they British rules, they were not allowed to wear these Celtic Kits. These Celtic Kits are often regarded as a very fashionable Scottish statement. In many Irish weddings, you may even come across the groom who is wearing these kits!
Other than playing harps and bagpipes, the Irish are also very fond of dancing. Their traditional dance is called ‘ceilidh’. The bride and the groom even the guests love to dance.
It is traditional that the groom should dance first with his new mother-in-law and later dance with his own mother. Similarly, the bride has to first dance with her new father-in-law and then later on she can dance with her own father. The first dance is always reserved for the bride and the groom. After the first dance, the rest of the guests are free to join in.
Irish Wedding Decorations:
Flowers are used excessively as a mean of decoration in an Irish wedding. Each flower that is used also represents some value, for example, the English Lavender is symbolic of love and devotion. The herbs which can be seen in the bouquet of the bride symbolize fidelity to the groom. Bells of Ireland are also used abundantly in decorating the wedding avenue.
Irish Wedding Feast:
The Irish wedding feast is full of scrumptious goodies. The traditional Irish wedding feast consists soda break, corned beef as well as cabbage. Although these items do not sound very appealing, but the way they are cooked makes them no less than delicious. Plus, whiskey is something which has to be present in a lot of amount , at an Irish wedding because the Irish are very fond of drinking.
Irish Wedding Cake:
The Irish Wedding would be incomplete without a traditional cake. Basically, it is a fruitcake which is made with honey, which is then soaked in Irish whiskey. Later, the cake is frosted with a sweet white glaze. Some bakers also top these cakes with shamrocks or the famous four-leaf clovers which symbolize good fortune and luck.
Irish Wedding Gifts:
Bells are considered as a traditional wedding gift. The Irish believe that the chime of the bells can help in keeping the evil spirits at a distance. Not only this, but some Irish families also believe that after the wedding, keeping a bell in your home will remind you of your wedding vows, so every time you get into an argument you might as well ring the bell and you will be reminded of the wedding vows you took and made.
Irish Wedding Superstitions:
The Irish are a superstitious lot and when it comes to weddings, they have a number of superstitions associated with this event. The Irish believe that if the sun shines on the bride, it would prove to be very lucky for her. Similarly, on the wedding morning, hearing a cuckoo or seeing three magpies will also bring luck for the couple. And another interesting superstition is that after the wedding ceremony has been done, any woman should not be the first to congratulate the bride! Only a man can be the first one to congratulate the bride, then the women can follow.
It is also believed that the earring worn by the bride on her wedding, can bring her good luck, even after the wedding. And strangely enough, the Irish consider that if the bride ‘accidentally’ tears up her wedding dress then that may also be very luck for her!
This way, Irish traditions fascinate people all over the world. What makes them so unique is the implementation of these traditional functions no matter in what society they live in. Even today all these norms are followed by the Irish people.