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Irish Wedding Traditions and Customs for Your Big Day

Oh, the luck of the Irish. If you have a strong connection to your heritage, it’s totally normal to want to incorporate some traditions into your wedding. Every family and heritage has its own traditions, so it’s worth looking into to make sure that your ideas are totally authentic.

There is a large Irish-American population in the United States, about 10 percent of the total population, according to IrishCentral.com. That percentage is even higher in the Northeast.

Incorporating some of these classic Irish wedding traditions will strengthen your connection to the community and the country.

Irish Wedding Basics

Most Irish people in the US are Catholic, or were raised Catholic. Therefore, you can expect a basic Irish wedding to be held in a Catholic church, for a traditional Catholic ceremony, which is usually about 45 minutes-1 hour long.

However, the couple having an Irish ceremony might be secular, in which case the ceremony might be outside or in a different venue, and will usually be shorter than a Christian ceremony.

Other than that, Irish weddings are just like any other– the guests are expected to dress up well, and bring a gift from the registry for the couple. There should be plenty of dancing and drinks as well, and a lot of people, as the Irish are known for large families!

 

6 Interesting Irish Traditions

For some fun Irish twists, look to classic folklores, practices, and wisdoms. Irish history goes back thousands of years, and they’ve certainly learned how to throw a great wedding in that time.

Below, we list 6 great Irish wedding ideas to bring a bit of luck and good spirit to your union. 

 

Lucky Irish Days

According to Ireland-information.com, centuries ago, many Irish people got married on a Sunday, but this fell out of fashion once the country was converted to Catholicism, as Sunday is when Catholic mass occurs.

Like in the United States, many Irish couples now get married on Saturday, as it’s a day off work and more convenient.

Irish poem

As for time of the year, there is this classic pagan limerick that lays out the benefits of marrying in each month.

According to this rhyme, January, April, November, and December are the best months for a wedding. Further, marrying in May is said to be a bad decision.

 

The Magic Hanky

The “magic hanky” works as the bride’s napkin throughout the day. It can be the bride’s “something old”, as some families passed the simple white hanky down over generations. Made from cotton or linen, the hanky should go nicely with a classic white wedding dress.

poem
Source: House of Claddagh

As described in this poem, the hanky can then be turned into a bonnet from the bride’s first born baby. This is how it’s passed down over generations– it is used by a bride, then for a baby, then for that baby again many years later when they get married.

If your family already has a magic hanky waiting to be used, pull it out, or if you’d like to start this multi-generational tradition, there are plenty of places selling magic hankies online!

 

Irish Music

It’s not an Irish wedding without some great Irish music! Traditional Irish music often uses a fiddle, a banjo or guitar, a flute, a harp, and a harmonica, just to name a few.

If you’re able to hire a traditional Irish band in your area, that would be a great addition. If not, try some of these Irish music ideas.

If you would like even more entertainment, consider hiring a troupe of Irish step dancers to perform at your wedding. Irish step dancers are incredibly skilled teams of dancers who move at fast paces to classic Celtic music. They are a sure hit.

 

Handfasting

For hundreds of years, people have performed handfasting ceremonies at Irish weddings. A handfasting ceremony is a literal “tying the knot”, in which cords are tied around the couples hands, wrists, and arms.

The action of tying is generally done by the officiant, but sometimes it’s done by the couple, and sometimes the knot may not be tied at all.

These cords will be a great keepsake of your wedding to have in your home. You can tie them either before or during your vows for a romantic symbolism and memory.

The cords also have different meanings based on their colors, as you can read here, so you can decide what you want to prioritize in your marriage.

 

Wedding Bells

Did you know that the idea of “wedding bells” was also pioneered by the Irish? The chime of the bells is meant to ward off evil spirits, putting the new couple in a lucky position for their wedding day.

Though many people often imagine the loud chiming of church bells, there are several ways to incorporate wedding bells into your ceremony.

For example, you may request bells as a small, fun gift from your guests, to keep in your home as a keepsake or for whenever you feel the evil spirits are approaching.

You can also hand out little bells as favors to guests, so that they can ring them after the ceremony or reception, as opposed to throwing rice or confetti.

 

Claddagh Ring

A claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring featuring a heart with a crown on it, being presented by two hands, representing love, loyalty, and friendship, respectively.

Even though most claddagh rings feature this imagery, they come in a wide variety of metals and styles, some featuring jewels or thick bands.

Claddagh rings have many different purposes. They can just as much be a wedding ring as they can be a ring of friendship or family. Some women also pass claddagh rings down their maternal line. However, they make lovely wedding bands or even engagement rings!

 

More Traditions for Your Wedding

At Yeah Weddings, we cover wedding traditions of all kinds. From the order of the receiving line to bridal shower etiquette, keep checking out the site for all your wedding needs.

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Katie Sheets

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