My fiancée and I both love Celtic countries. We are trying to have an Irish-style or an Irish-inspired wedding ceremony, and we’re getting married either on or very close to St. Patrick’s Day. We’re honeymooning in Ireland and Scotland and using traditional Irish rings (and an Irish priest!) in the ceremony! Right now, we’re just gleaning ideas, and we were wondering what you might be able to suggest for centerpieces, decorations, wedding favors, etc.
Irish weddings – More Than Just The Guinness
What, you mean just serving Guinness stout and lucky charms around shamrock centerpieces isn’t Irish enough for you? Very well, let’s delve further!
An Irish wedding follows much the same form as an American ceremony and reception, but there are a few details that will turn your wedding distinctly Celtic.
Irish Wedding Bells
Another element you may wish to incorporate in your ceremony is the Irish Wedding Bell. At your wedding, you and your husband ring the bell, and afterwards keep it close at hand in your new household. (Perhaps your guests could have smaller versions of the bell, and “ring” you out of the church in lieu of the usual shower of rice.) Whenever you argue or have differences, retrieve your bell and ring it in order to remind you of your solemn wedding vows.
The Wearing of Kilts
In the attire department, male members of the wedding party wear kilts rather than tuxes, of course. In Scottish weddings, the bride wears a tartan sash over her dress in a plaid that matches the groom’s—as that is the clan she is marrying into.
And Maybe Some Bagpipes
Although bagpipes are traditionally associated with Scotland, they were invented in Ireland and you may think that being piped down the aisle is an ideal extension of your theme. Many people, including me, find bagpipes strikingly sonorous and beautiful. However, popular opinion seems to hold that bagpipes sound like someone squeezing a cat to death. You may want to skip the piper and go with a harpist instead. At indoor weddings, bagpipes can be painfully loud even to those who enjoy them. Even if you plan an outdoor ceremony, you will probably want the piper to stand at some distance from the celebrants. Experiment with your piper to find the ideal volume level. Some pipers have small sets of pipes called “Highland pipes” which are substantially quieter than a full set.
The Irish Wedding Blessing
A favorite benediction at Irish weddings is the Irish Wedding Blessing. You may wish to consider another traditional blessing, which is less well-known:
May you see your children’s children;
May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings;
May you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.
Irish Wedding Dances
An Irish reception is never without dancing. Customarily the festivities end with the groom seizing and carrying off the bride. This is all done joyously and in good fun, but in centuries past, the staged stealing of the bride was taken a bit more seriously. A historian’s book from 1783 recounts how in the past, a number of the bridegroom’s friends would approach the bride’s party “to make a sportive show of hostility to the cavaliers who advanced on horseback for the purpose of surrendering her to [their] hands.” The book elaborates: “The custom was of old to cast short darts at the company that attended the bride, but at such distance that seldom any hurt ensued.” Fortunately for you, this just isn’t done anymore, so you can save yourself the expense of protective goggles and athletic cups for your husband’s side of the wedding party.
The Irish Wedding Book
Finally, you might want to surf over to Amazon.com and purchase a copy of Kim McGuire’s The Irish Wedding Book. It’s also obtainable through other bookstores by special order. Although it deals chiefly with weddings that actually take place in Ireland, Mrs. McGuire’s book is a good general planning guide as well as a primer for what one would expect at an Irish wedding. Mrs. McGuire offered several suggestions in an online Irish forum:
- Irish brides always carry a small horseshoe in their bouquets (or sometimes a tiny one sewn into the hem of their wedding dress) for luck. This dates back centuries, to a time when iron was considered a good luck charm.
- A beautiful traditional Druidic blessing for unity was written on the inside cover page of a wedding mass booklet I attended last month in Limerick. It read:
We swear by peace and love to stand,
Heart to heart and hand to hand.
Mark, O Spirit, and hear us now,
Confirming this our Sacred Vow.
- It’s true that traditional Irish wedding cakes are fruit cakes. If you’re not big on fruit cakes, why not decide to make the top layer of your cake in the traditional Irish fashion and the other layers to your favorite flavor? The custom of the fruit cake is that its richness symbolizes blessings for wealth and prosperity. The top layer is always saved until the celebration of the christening of an Irish couple’s first child!
The most surprising thing I learned from Mrs. McGuire is that green is actually considered an unlucky color at Irish weddings—the bride is not to wear green, and Irish guests would never attend a wedding in green either!
I’d still put shamrocks on the tables, though. They’re darn cute.