At ShamrockGift, we love wedding season. Incorporating Irish traditions and décor into your big day can be incredibly fun, is so easy to do, and is guaranteed to leave a special impression on your guests. Whether you boast Irish ancestry or not, including Irish and Celtic wedding traditions in ceremonies and receptions has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Symbols of eternal love, loyalty, and devotion abound throughout Irish history, including the iconic Celtic knot, the 400 year-old Claddagh ring, pewter wedding chalices, shamrock-related imagery, and much more. Other special traditions include shamrock-accented handkerchiefs, Irish-themed flower arrangements, heavy use of the color green, and the inclusion of Irish-themed wedding vows or wedding toasts.
While many of these special items have been used in Irish weddings for centuries, their use continues to this day, especially among those who love the Emerald Isle and are proud of their Celtic roots. There are so many great ways to share your culture and heritage on your wedding day, and we would love to offer a few suggestions as you journey down the road of happily ever after. Read on for some Irish-themed inspiration for planning your big day, and let us know if you have other fun ideas in the comments!
1. USE A CLADDAGH WEDDING RING
While there are dozens of beautiful traditional Irish wedding rings to choose from, many consider the Claddagh ring as the quintessential choice. Since at least 1700, Claddagh rings have been passed between generations as a symbol representing love, friendship, and loyalty. The heart, symbolizing love, is clasped tightly between two willing hands and capped with a crown symbolizing loyalty. Precious gems are often embedded into or around the heart, as well as the crown above it. Single women wear the ring on their right hand with the point of the heart pointing towards their fingertips. When that special someone comes along, the ring is flipped around, signaling the fact that true love has been found.
2. PERFORM A TRADITIONAL IRISH HANDFASTING CEREMONY
Hand-fasting is an ancient Celtic tradition dating back to at least 7000 BC. The act is simple. The loving couple extend their hands towards one another, clasp them together, and allow the officiant, friend, or relative to join them with a beautifully braided ribbon or chord. In ages past, this ceremony served as a public announcement of the couple’s intention to marry, and was followed by a prolonged period of engagement. In Ireland, marriage ceremonies must include a civil legal element, and a religious or spiritual element. Many chose hand-fasting as the spiritual element to this day, as do many other couples looking to incorporate a meaningful bit of Irish culture into their wedding day.
3. ADD A POP OF GREEN
This one is too easy! If you’re Irish, you better have some earthy shades of green in the wedding and lucky for you, there are dozens of fun, classy ways to incorporate some Emerald Isle imagery into your special day. Shamrock-related items are a plentiful and popular option for many couples looking to have an Irish-themed wedding. Items include boutonnieres, bouquets, or some luxurious shamrock-embroidered tablecloths. Some other options might include green shoes, green bridesmaid dresses, green cake decorations, or get married in a lush green landscape (maybe with an Irish castle in the background!). Accent your wedding invitations with green Celtic knot designs, or go all out and have the guys don the Irish kilts.
4. RING A BELL TOGETHER
Everyone knows the sound of wedding church bells, announcing the decisive moment a happy couple is wed. But did you know the Irish are responsible for giving us this tradition? Historically, church bells are rung immediately following a wedding to announce the union of the happy couple and to shoo away evil spirits. This stems from an older Irish tradition in which the families of the bride and groom would gift the couple a set of their own wedding bells. Not only did the bells ward off evil spirits and offer good luck, they also served as another reminder of the couple’s vows to each other. Some couples used the bells to ceremoniously begin or end an important conversation with their spouse, settle and argument, or signal a “time out”. They are wonderful wedding gifts and are very popular among those who wish to pay homage to their Irish ancestry.
(If you don’t want to compete with the church bells themselves, a nice alternative would be to exchange this beautiful Wedding Bells Handkerchief from Samuel Lamont with your partner.)
5. GIVE AN IRISH TOAST
Incorporating the use of a traditional Irish wedding blessing or saying is a great way to include your Irish heritage into your wedding. Many couples opt to have the father of the bride read a heartfelt blessing, while others have the maid of honor or best man read one before raising their glasses to the newly wedded couple. Regardless of who you choose to read your blessing, there are gobs of them to be found across the internet. One of the most popular sayings is Sláinte chuig na fir agus go maire na mná go deo! Which translates to “Health to the men and may the women live forever!” The opening word, Sláinte, is often commemorated with a sign, plaque, or other items and makes a great wedding or anniversary gift.
6. CHEERS WITH MULLINGAR PEWTER WEDDING FLUTES
Publicly sharing a first drink together as a married couple is kind of a big deal at weddings these days. Actually, the tradition has been practiced throughout cultures across the globe for centuries, but of course the Irish have perfected the ceremony through the use of rich Celtic symbolism and beautiful decorative wine flutes. Our flutes are another fine offering from Mullingar Pewter and are handmade by their master craftsmen at their headquarters in Dublin. These particular flutes include the classic Claddagh design with stems made from the purest pewter available.
7. CARRY A HORSESHOE
This one might sound a little crazy, but holding an upright horseshoe during your wedding ceremony is an old Irish tradition that will add some good luck to the big day. While this has been a time-honored tradition for many Irish married couples, in recent years inclusion of the horseshoe has been cleverly incorporated into the bride’s bouquet, centerpiece decorations, wedding vow ceremonies, table decorations, jewelry designs, and even sewn into the bride’s gowns. So long as the horseshoe is kept upright, resembling the shape of a “U,” then good luck for the married couple will remain contained within the horseshoe and between the husband and wife. (A horseshoe wall decoration is also a great idea for an Irish wedding present!)
Have you incorporated traditional Irish wedding elements to your ceremony or reception? Are you going to add an Irish element to your upcoming matrimony? Let us know in the comments below!