Planning the Perfect Irish Wedding
A growing trend in weddings is for couples to draw on their cultural and ethnic backgrounds and include those traditions and customs in their wedding. Being of Irish decent offers a rich cultural heritage upon which to draw, as well as many customs to choose from to enhance the wedding ceremony and reception.
Picking the Right Day
There are a multitude of customs and traditions to consider when planning an Irish wedding. Selecting which day and at what time of the year to have the wedding is a good place to start. One Irish wedding saying states: "Marry in May and Rue the Day." "Marry in April if you can, joy for maiden and for man."
Traditionally, most Celtic wedding ceremonies were held during one of the four major festivals. If you want a spring wedding, try during Beltane, which occurs around the first of May. Is a summer wedding what you want? Lughnassadh was celebrated in early August. A popular time for wedding celebrations is Samhain on November 1, and then there is Imbolc, which is celebrated on February 1.
Including a Good Luck Charms
Incorporating customs and traditions into the actual wedding ceremony might be accomplished with what the bride carries or wears, such as the horseshoe or the magic hanky. The horseshoe, which has long been a symbol of good luck in many cultures, might be carried in some form by the bride. Porcelain horseshoes are
carried by most modern Irish brides. Or, they may carry a fabric version tied to their wrists. Whichever you choose, be sure the horseshoe is turned up into a U so the luck doesn't run out.
If you don't want to carry a horseshoe, an alternative might be to have the flower girl or ring bearer carry it down the aisle. Horseshoes are also popular Irish wedding gifts. Hang the horseshoe turned up over the front door for good luck.
Another item often carried by an Irish bride is a special handkerchief that with a few stitches can be turned into a christening bonnet for the first baby.
Then, with a few snips, can be turned back into a hanky that your child can carry on his or her wedding day.
Flowers, Food and Wine
Other aspects of the ceremony to consider are the flowers carried by the bride and bridesmaids, and the boutonnieres for the groom and groomsmen. These often include wildflowers, Bells of Ireland, live myrtle, and shamrocks. There are also a multitude of readings that can be incorporated into the ceremony as well as Irish wedding vows. Including Celtic symbolism by decorating the invitations with Celtic knots is another common custom.
At the reception, be sure to serve Bunratty Meade. This is a honey wine that is served at the Bunratty Castle medieval banquet. It's from a recipe based on the oldest drink in Ireland. Some wine and liquor stores carry an organic mead honey wine, which is a dry white wine that is made by fermenting honey and is available in flavors such as elderberry, blackberry, and cranberry.
Ethnic wedding traditions are often food-related and the Irish are no exception. There is an ancient custom where couples eat salt and oatmeal at the beginning of their reception, each taking three mouthfuls. This is a protection against the power of the evil eye. Including food items such as corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, as well as offering dark beer are other ways to give your reception a distinct Irish flavor. Yet another custom is having the top tier of the wedding cake be an Irish whiskey cake. This cake is saved for the christening of your first baby.
Dancing the Night Away
Celtic and Irish music are very popular, so there are many choices when it comes to music for both the wedding and the reception. The Irish Wedding Song is very popular as well as ballads such as "Black Velvet Band." There's always the well-known "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," Irish drinking songs, and Irish reels, a folk dance of Irish origin. Having Irish dancers, dressed in their full regalia, is an excellent touch of pageantry and color at your wedding or reception.
You can also include tiny make-up bells and hand them out to your guests at the reception with an explanation of the custom. The chime of bells is thought to keep evil spirits away, restore harmony if a couple is fighting, and also remind the couple of their wedding vows. Guests can ring their little bells at the reception in lieu of clinking glasses. Giving a bell as a gift has become an Irish tradition.
The Claddagh Ring
A final suggestion is the Claddagh Ring. The Claddagh is a traditional Irish design originating in the 1600s. It features hands clasping a heart and a crown over the hands. The hands symbolize friendship. The heart stands for love. The crown represents loyalty. The Claddagh motto is "Let love and friendship reign." According to Irish tradition, a single female wears the Claddagh ring with the crown pointing in. A woman who is spoken for wears the ring with the crown pointing outward.
These suggestions only touch upon the multitude of Irish traditions, customs, and folklore available. With so many choices, your Irish wedding is sure to reflect your ethnic heritage.
Wedding Planning Tips and Ideas
Irish Hand-fasting CeremonyIn this beautiful Irish wedding ceremony, a rope or length of fabric is wrapped around the hands of the couple being wed. The “wrap” should be chosen as something that has meaning to both the bride and groom.