Ireland is a great country with plenty of old traditions that are still preserved and in use in the 21st century. We’ve gathered top-10 most sweet, romantic, and historic Irish wedding traditions. They deserve to be known and used not only by the Irish people but also by any couple out there because they are meaningful, symbolic, and fun. If you’re looking for some old wedding rituals to incorporate in your future wedding, pick one of these. By the way, some of them are 9,000 years old.
This wedding tradition, originating from the 17th century, is very special and unique to Ireland. The Claddagh ring looks like two hands holding a heart with a crown on top (hands symbolize friendship, heart – love, and crown – loyalty). The marital status of an Irish man or woman can be determined by the way this ring is worn.
Ways of wearing a Claddagh ring:
- single and in active search – right hand, the heart points outwards;
- in a relationship – right hand, the heart points at you;
- engaged – left hand, the heart points outwards;
- married – left hand, the heart points at you.
The Claddagh ring is still worn by men and women in Ireland today, but it is not typical to use it as an engagement or wedding ring. It’s just jewelry with meaning.
This is a very old tradition when the hands of the bride and groom are tied with a ribbon or decorative rope. Similar wedding traditions we see in other countries as well, for instance, Turkey. Thanks to the handfasting, we have the phrase “to tie the knot” – people in Ireland literally tied the knot during their marriage ceremony.
This wedding tradition exists in Ireland for at least 9,000 years. But at first, the meaning was totally different. A couple had the handfasting ceremony and lived tied together for a year. After that, they had a chance to decide whether they wanted to stay together. If yes, they remained officially married, if no, they broke up and went for a new partner.
Today, it is just a ritual that symbolizes the unity and creation of a new family.
This wedding tradition is perfect because it connects different generations of a family. The bride carries a handkerchief on her wedding day (in her sleeve or pocket or somewhere on her). This handkerchief she usually gets from her mother or grandmother, and it is vintage and beautiful – adorned with lace or embroidery. After the wedding, the bride keeps it and when she’s christening her first baby, she sews this handkerchief in the baby’s bonnet. This item symbolizes good luck and protection from the evil. So, the handkerchief is passed through generations, together with the knowledge about this sweet wedding tradition.
This Irish wedding tradition is magnificent but not as popular these days as it used to be. The wedding rings were passed during the marriage ceremony from one guest to the other and each of them held the rings for just a few seconds, thinking about something good or wishing happiness to the couple, etc. In the end, the rings returned to the bride and groom full of positive energy and good vibes. This was supposed to bring happiness in marriage for the couple.
This symbol of good luck is universal. In Ireland in the past, brides carried an iron horseshoe, ideally worn, with them on their wedding day. It could be, for example, sewn to the hem of the dress and hidden from all eyes. The horseshoe had to be facing upward so that it gathered good wishes and happy vibes. And after the wedding, the groom attached it to the wall above the door or somewhere in the household and it continued to bring good luck to the new family. In the modern day, brides don’t use large and heavy iron horseshoes anymore – they replace it with small stylized horseshoes in a wedding bouquet or even symbols embroidered on clothing.
Sixpence in a shoe
A lot of brides do that nowadays, as Irish women did it years and years ago. The sixpence is believed to bring good luck. This coin isn’t in circulation anymore, but you can still buy it for the purpose of using it as a talisman at a wedding. Traditionally, sixpences were put into the left shoe of a bride. Though today, brides often glue it to the sole or find some other ways because it’s not very convenient to walk with a coin in a shoe.
Irish wedding coin
This is another tradition that connects generations. And it’s still incredibly popular. Originally, a groom presented his bride with a silver coin to show her that he will share all his possessions with her. Today, both the bride and groom usually exchange coins because, obviously, they both earn a living and are able to share money. These silver coins are preserved after the wedding and passed to the next generation – the mother used to give this coin to her eldest son for him to present his bride. So, often, these coins are family heirloom and are kept in one family for many generations.
Make up bell
After a church wedding ceremony, the church bells ring. And this particular wedding tradition is connected to this fact. It all began during the so-called “Penal Times” in Ireland when Catholic religious rituals were forbidden (around the 16th-17th century). So, the church bells couldn’t ring and bless the newlyweds, and people started to use small bells instead. This bell was then taken to the house of a new family. When there were fights between the husband and wife, one of them could take this bell and ring it to remind the spouse about their marriage and wedding vows. This is one sweet tradition!
Child of Prague brings good weather
This wedding tradition is very popular in Ireland these days but it appeared around the 18th century. Brides buy a tiny statue of a baby Jesus Christ and do certain manipulations with it. There are different instructions, for example, you have to leave it on a pre-wedding night in the garden of the bride’s house, in the bushes, facing the house. And this statue is supposed to bring good sunny weather on your wedding day.
Mi na Meala
This is a predecessor of a modern honeymoon. It also means “the month of honey”. During this one full moon after the wedding, the bride and groom spend time together and every night they drink mead made from honey (the couple is gifted with this beverage by the wedding guests) and try to conceive a child. The mead is supposed to improve fertility. And that’s why a honeymoon is called that.