From Victoria and David Beckham to Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Smith, there’s no shortage of celebrities who’ve said “I do” in Ireland.
With untouched scenery, fairytale-like buildings and the luck of the Irish, many couples are incorporating elements of traditional Irish celebrations into their ceremony.
Searches for “Irish wedding traditions” has increased by 23% in the past three years, while searches for “Irish wedding” has jumped by 22%.
1. Bachelor’s Day
Bachelor’s Day, sometimes called Ladies Privilege, is an Irish tradition by which women can propose to men on Leap Day, 29th February. The tradition is supposed to originate from a deal that Saint Bridget struck with Saint Patrick. In the 5th century, Bridget was said to have gone to Patrick to complain that women had to wait too long to marry because men were slow to propose, asking that women be given the opportunity. Patrick is said to have offered that women be allowed to propose on one day every seven years, but Bridget convinced him to make it every four years.
Ladies, if you’re looking to drop to one knee and pop the question, then 2023’s Leap Year might just be a perfect time.
2. Tie the knot with handfasting
Handfasting is an ancient ritual whereby a couple literally “tie the knot”. By tying a knot around both of their hands in front of their community, Irish folklore and tradition say that the two are meant to be lifelong partners.
This can be a beautiful way to add Irish tradition to your big day and to include family in the ribbon and rope that is tied around the hands. A family member can pick each ribbon to add meaning to the knot tying and symbolise that person’s blessing.
3. Exchange Claddagh Rings
Claddagh rings contain very special symbols that represent love, friendship and loyalty. How you wear your Claddagh ring holds significant meaning, and often people will already have a Claddagh ring that they turn around or move hands once they are married. This is an important ritual and one that has been passed down through centuries in Ireland.
Claddagh Rings are sometimes given on big birthdays (like 16, 18 and 21 years old) and then worn in a particular way until the individual is married. When single, the Claddagh ring’s heart centre will be pointed away from the body. When in a relationship, the ring will be worn on the right hand with the heart facing towards the hand, and then once married, the ring will be worn on the left hand facing towards the body.
4. Toasts and blessings
It’s well known that to be born Irish is to have poetry in your blood. A romantic ceremony like a wedding is the perfect opportunity to show off this national talent and share your most beautiful poems and blessings with the world.
This could be from bride to groom, from groom to the bride, or from those making toasts like the best man and father of the bride, traditionally. These Irish wedding blessings are seen as a vital part of the Irish tradition and bring luck and best wishes to the couple.
5. Irish song and dance
Irish people are also known for their ancient music and dance rituals, and the Uillleann pipes can add an authentic Irish touch to any wedding.
Whether you want to use them while the bride walks down the aisle, or add them to the feast and celebration, using traditional Irish wedding songs is a traditional part of the ceremony.
6. Add Celtic symbols to the wedding dress
In Irish tradition, the bride may add Celtic symbols to her wedding dress to bring good fortune and hold extra meaning.
A Celtic Knot is the most common symbol that is used, for obvious reasons, but people may also use the Celtic tree of life, a horseshoe or lucky shamrocks to bring about good fortune on the day.
7. A real horseshoe or a sixpence in the shoe
Traditionally, Irish folklore suggests that it should be a real horseshoe that is carried down the aisle. Alternatively, the bride might opt to put a lucky sixpence in her shoe.
Today, many people find this a bit too much hassle, but if you really want to abide by Irish customs on your wedding day, then carrying a real horseshoe or popping a sixpence in your own shoe is sure to bring good luck.
8. Ring the wedding bells
Irish wedding bells are special as they were once used to ward off evil spirits. Once the marriage has been solidified, the wedding bells will ring in the church but often the bride and groom will also be gifted their own smaller wedding bell for good luck.