Add a bit of Irish luck and heritage into your wedding ceremony!
With Ireland rich in history and romance, what better way to personalize your ceremony than with Celtic tradition?
Whether you’re of Irish descent or having a destination wedding in Ireland, time-old traditions can fit seamlessly into all of your wedding festivities.
To make it easy, we’ve listed a few of our favorites. Take a peek and choose what works for you and your fiancé!
In Celtic and Irish tradition, it’s symbolic to show a physical sign of the couple’s commitment to one another. The most popular way to visualize this unity is by lighting two candles during the ceremony.
Before the couple is officially wed, each lit candle represents the two individuals.
Once the vows have been said, each person takes their respective candle and uses it to light the one “unity candle” at the same time. This acts designates unity and commitment to each other for the rest of their lives. In other words, it shows two becoming one.
The unity candle also demonstrates the joining of two families. A new family is created once the unity candle is lit.
As ancient Irish tradition goes, the rings of the couple should be passed around to the hands of each wedding attendee. Every guest gets to hold the rings to “warm them.” When it’s your turn to hold the ring, say a blessing or prayer, or make a wish to the happy couple.
Ring warming can be held at any point during the ceremony, but it should be done prior to the exchange of vows and rings. This ensures that the blessings carried with the rings are brought to the hands and hearts of the couple.
One of the most widely practiced wedding ceremony traditions in Ireland is handfasting, or the tying together of the couple’s hands.
The handfasting act is literal because the couples’ hands will be fastened together with rope or ribbon. It’s claimed that this is the origin of the phrase “tying the knot.”
The Celtic tradition of handfasting is a beautiful symbolic expression of new marriage and new life together.
If you decide to include the handfasting tradition mentioned above, it’s custom to save the ribbon or rope in a special memory box.
Ideally, the hand-fast chord is slid off of the wrists and over the hands, keeping the knot tied if possible. In Irish tradition, descendants often receive the unity chords of their parents or grandparents to use at their own weddings.
Other items to store in your memory box:
- Your unity candle (if it fits)
- Keepsakes from your wedding day
- A copy of your wedding invitation
- A few favorite photos
- A piece of lace or ribbon
- Flower petals
Festive Hair and Dress
As Irish wedding traditions continue, hair and dress remain important aspects of a sound and lucky marriage celebration.
Here are some of the most common Irish hair and dress traditions:
- Braiding your hair (symbolizing power and immense beauty)
- Carrying a fresh flower bouquet (from a local garden if possible)
- Wearing a kilt (plaid skirts wore by Irish ancestors)
- Wearing a wildflower wreath instead of a veil (per tradition, especially if it’s from a local garden)
- Placing lavender in your hair, pocket, or bouquet (symbolizing devotion and love)
- Opting for a blue-shaded dress (brings good luck)
Choose the hair and dress styles that work for you, and add in Irish elements where you can.
The Claddagh Ring
The Claddagh ring is a time-old Irish tradition, and can be incorporated into your ceremony in a variety of ways.
The ring symbolizes loyalty, romance, and love. It includes an image of a heart and a crown in the middle of the ring (where typically a stone would be). Symbolic open hands touch or “hold” the heart on both sides.
The classic tradition involves pointing the ring outward prior to the ceremony (with the tip of the heart pointing away from you) and reversing it after the ceremony (with the tip of the heart pointing toward the rest of your hand).
If you already have rings or wish to choose other rings for your marriage, here are a few ways you can utilize the claddagh symbol in your ceremony:
- Include it in your wedding invitation design
- Wear a claddagh ring on a necklace or bracelet
- Include it in your day-of decorations
- Use it during the ceremony then store it away in your memory box
Consider brightening your wedding ceremony with traditional Irish music or instruments. You can also include Irish music in your reception celebration.
Traditional Irish instruments include harps and bagpipes. If bagpipes are too strong for the ceremony itself, have them played as you exit your ceremony. This will add to the Irish feel of your ceremony as most bagpipes wear Celtic kilts (plaid skirts).
Irish Wedding Bells
As a symbol of driving out evil spirits from the future marriage, wedding bells have been used for several centuries throughout Ireland. Most couples ring the bell at the end of their ceremony to shoo away all evil.
Irish wedding bells are often kept on display in homes as a reminder of the vows said on the wedding day.
To make the presence of wedding bells more grandiose, pass out small bells to your wedding guests and have them ring it at the end of your ceremony.
You may wish to include wedding bells in different ways, showcasing them on invitations or as place card holders.
The Wedding Coin
In Celtic wedding ceremonies, a wedding coin is used as an additional symbol in the ceremony. Traditionally, the groom has gifted it to the bride saying, “I give you this as a token of all I possess.”
From there, the coin can be handed down to future generations to use at their weddings.
In your ceremony, you may wish to include a special Irish blessing, which can be given by your officiant, a parent, or another special person.
Several blessings have been used in Ireland for many years, such as the following:
“May God be with you and bless you
May you see your children’s children
May you be poor in misfortunes and rich in Blessings
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward”
To view other traditional Irish blessings, visit: www.ACelticWedding.com.
Irish Feast and Celebration
After your lovely Irish-inspired wedding wraps up, you’ll of course want to throw a splendid Irish feast.
Drinks and toasts are quite common in Ireland and favorite beverages include beer (Guinness or Kilkenny), mead (a white wine made with herbs and honey), potato whiskey, and champagne.
For food, traditional menus included soda bread, cabbage, potato soup, and corned beef. However, menus have gotten much broader in Ireland and can include just about anything you desire.
A classic Irish wedding cake is made of fruits, almonds, raisins, and spice. You’ll also notice hints of brandy, bourbon, or whisky in the recipe. Adorn your cake with shamrocks for extra good luck.
Now that you know the Irish wedding ceremony traditions, pick what’s most exciting for you and your fiancé. In the end, a rich ceremony with special elements and Irish touches will be a day to remember!
For information on destination weddings in Ireland, check out our majestic Ballybeg House site located in County Wicklow, Ireland.
Bressler, Karen (n.d.), Irish Wedding Traditions. Retrieved December 17, 2016, from https://www.theknot.com/content/irish-wedding-traditions
Celtic Colours (n.d.), Celtic Wedding Traditions. Retrieved December 18, 2016, from http://www.celticcolours.com/weddingtraditions.aspx
Ireland Information (n.d.), Irish Wedding Traditions. Retrieved December 17, 2016, from
O’Reilly Murphy, Blaithin (2016, May), Top tips for getting married in Ireland. Retrieved December 17, 2016, from
O’Gorman Klein, Kristen (n.d.), Irish Wedding Traditions. Retrieved December 17, 2016, from http://www.bridalguide.com/blogs/bridal-buzz/irish-wedding-traditions
Rings from Ireland (n.d.), Irish Wedding Traditions. Retrieved December 17, 2016, from http://www.ringsfromireland.com/Blog/1/Irish-Wedding-Traditions
Waterlily Weddings (2016, April). Hand-Fasting: A Celtic Tradition for Your Irish Wedding Ceremony. Retrieved December 18, 2016, from http://www.waterlilyweddings.com/2016/04/hand-fasting-a-celtic-tradition-for-your-irish-wedding-ceremony/
YourIrish (n.d.), Irish Wedding Traditions. Retrieved December 18, 2016, from http://www.yourirish.com/traditions/weddings-traditions-in-ireland