Irish Wedding Traditions

Good Luck for Your Wedding

Traditional - Romantic Claddagh
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The luck o' the Irish is not only a wish that extends to everyday life, it is the reigning theme for Irish weddings. Irish wedding traditions and customs are meant to preserve luck and ward off the mischievous fairy folk. Everything from wedding attire, food, and the month of the wedding are chosen with the intention of preserving or bestowing luck upon the couple.

Many an Irish bride has changed her wedding date to the month of April, probably due to the Celtic proverb "Marry in April if you can - joy for maiden and the man." May must be a quiet month because the accompanying proverb says "Marry in May and rue the day." If you want a bit of Irish luck on your wedding day, marry in the month of April and consider incorporating one of the following Irish wedding traditions into your wedding:

  • The bride should wear a penny in her shoe for luck and prosperity.
  • The bride should wear a blue wedding dress, but should never wear green on her wedding day; the Irish consider blue a lucky color, while green will only attract the fairy folk.
  • A happily married woman should place the veil on the bride's head as it is believed to bestow a similar luck and happiness in the bride's marriage.
  • The bride should carry a horseshoe to the church. The open end should be turned up to hold in the luck. Once married, the horseshoe is hung over the couple's front door to bring good luck to the household.
  • Well-wishers throw grain on the bride and groom as they walk together to the church, before the wedding ceremony, to encourage a "fruitful union."
  • The bride and groom should exchange intricate Celtic wedding rings or the traditional Irish Claddagh ring instead of simple wedding bands. The Claddagh ring depicts a crowned heart held by two hands. The heart represents love, the crown loyalty and honor and the hands represent friendship and faith. When the heart faces inward it indicates that the heart of its wearer is "taken." During the engagement, the ring is worn on the right hand; during the wedding ceremony, the ring is switched to the bride's left hand.
  • At the reception, the couple begins the meal by eating salt and oatmeal; they each take three bites to protect against bad luck.
  • Serve a traditional Irish wedding cake - a dense fruit cake flavored with whiskey. The top layer of the wedding cake should be saved to celebrate the christening of the couple's first child.
  • Mead or honey-wine should be consumed at the reception to promote virility and fertility. It was believed that if a boy was born nine months after the wedding, it was because of the wedding day mead.
  • As a symbol of unity and to ensure a lifelong friendship, the bride's new mother-in-law should break pieces of the wedding cake over the bride's head as she is carried over the threshold of her home after the wedding.

More unique Irish traditions abound during the wedding reception. With a "janting char" the groom is carried on a chair before his guests. The guests sing the "Irish Wedding Song" and take turns bestowing traditional Irish blessings or proverbs upon the couple.

Similarly, the Irish have a list of portents and omens that will signify a lucky or unlucky union:

  • When leaving the church, an old shoe should be thrown over the bride's head for good luck.
  • The couple takes a new and long road home from the church as it represents the couple's new and long life together.
  • The first person to congratulate the bride after the ceremony should be a man - if a woman congratulates the bride first, it is believed to be a sign of bad luck.
  • It is lucky for the bride to hear birds singing first thing in the morning on her wedding day.
  • It is considered a sign of bad luck if a glass or wine goblet is broken on the wedding day.
  • It is considered a sign of good luck if the bride's wedding dress is torn on her wedding day.
  • If the sun shines on the bride on her wedding day, it is believed to be a sign of good luck.
  • It is believed to be a good omen if a couple is married during a waxing moon.
  • If a bride lifts both feet off the ground while dancing on her wedding day, it is believed the fairy folk will swoop under them and carry her away.

Keeping an eye out for fairies can be tricky - they are wily creatures - but if you want to add a dash of Irish luck to your wedding day, take a few of these Irish wedding traditions and make them your own.

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