Like most cultures around the world, the Irish have their own set of standards and traditions associated with weddings that go back hundreds of years, many to the very root of their Gaelic heritage. To outsiders some of these practices may seem a little foreign, even odd at times which is why we’ve come up with this list of the top five most commonly seen, (and least commonly understood) Irish wedding traditions:
- Lucky Irish Horseshoe for the Bride: In Irish culture, horseshoes are often seen as a symbol of luck and prosperity on wedding days, so the morning of the bride is given a “lucky horseshoe” which is always turned upwards to insure that the luck doesn’t run out.
- Irish Make-Up Bells: Another less-familiar tradition is the gifting of “make-up bells”, said to have the power to protect their marriage from strife. Ringing the bells is a signal to “make-up” if the two get in a fight, as it is meant to remind them of the vows they took while standing at the altar
- Superstitions: The Irish are known for being a particularly superstitious culture, and because of this their weddings are often packed with beliefs and hearsay regarding omens and specific rituals. To symbolize her new path in the life, the bride should never take the same route home that she did to the wedding, and she’s also supposed to listen for the sound of a cuckoo and spot three magpies before the ceremony begins.
- Origins of the Word Honeymoon: Not many people know this offhand, but the term “honeymoon” has historically been linked to Irish tradition by various scholars. Certain ceremonies require guests to give honey wine to the couple upon their holy union. They are then expected to drink it in each other’s presence for the next few weeks, in order to give them both a sense of togetherness and merriment during the earliest stages of their new lives together.
And of course, the ever famous…
- Claddagh Ring: Claddagh is the name of a small fishing village just near Galway City in Ireland, which is the supposed town that this ring originated in. The ring has three main elements—a heart, which is clasped by a pair of hands, which, in turn, has crown above it. The hands signify friendship, the heart embodies love, and the crown represents loyalty. Wedding bands are often made with a Claddagh design, which is worn on the right hand of the bride and groom to symbolize their loyalty, friendship, love, and most importantly, their Irish roots.
Irish weddings have their own quirks and interesting bits of tradition that are practiced during the ceremony, and it’s these quirks which give them the strong sense of identity that exists between two people in love, finally joining together as one in front of family and friends alike.
This article was contributed by Jill from the Irish Blessings gift shop located in Bloomington, MN. An active participant in Irish cultural life in the Twin Cities area, Irish Blessings strives to bring the same enthusiasm and love of Irish culture to the national community. You can also follow Irish Blessings on Twitter (@IrishIndeedInc) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/pages/Irish-Blessings/131269843569984).