Irish Wedding

In the past engagement included a ritual called "handfasting". Hands of two people were actually tied together. So, from this tradition an expression to tie the knot was born. Some Pagan wedding rituals still include "handfasting".

Just before the wedding day a groom was invited to the bride's home. A goose was prepared in his honour. This was once known as "Aitin' the gander". This tradition resulted in the popular Irish expression "his goose is cooked". It means that a groom can not change his mind about the wedding.

Weddings in Ireland are usually held on Saturday. Almost nobody gets married on Sunday. According to an old tradition people did not marry from May to August as they were really busy then. Most of them were farmers so their decision not to marry in this part of year was understandable.

In the past bride and groom ate some salt on the wedding day. It was done to fight the evil spirits. Seeing three magpies on the wedding day means good luck.

Most brides in Ireland wear a white wedding dress. But, it has to be said that in the past Irish brides wore a blue wedding dress. Blue was regarded as the symbol of pure love.

Traditionally there is a flower garland in the bride's hair. She must not put it by herself as it is considered to bring bad luck. A bride often wears a blue garter around the upper part of her leg. A groom will later remove it with only his teeth. Grooms in Ireland often wear a kilt.


Bride and groom in Ireland traditionally wear a very special ring. It's the Claddagh Ring. Claddagh (in Irish "the shore") is a area in the city of Galway located in the west of the country. Bride's Claddagh ring is usually the one once worn by her mother. The wearer of this ring always gets it as a present.

This ring is decorated with a heart held by two hands. Above the heart there is a crown. A heart symbolizes love. Two hands are symbols of friendship. A crown symbolizes loyalty. Today some Claddagh rings have a gem inside the heart.

The ring is used as both engagement and wedding ring. You can see whether the person is engaged or married by the way the ring is placed on the finger. If the crown is pointing towards a wrist the person is engaged. If the crown is pointing towards a nail than the person is married.

A groom waits for her bride in the church. When they are both in the church a door is locked to prevent the groom from running away at the very last moment.

A bride will be escorted to the altar by her father. She carries a small porcelain or glass horseshoe for luck. It is worn as part of jewellery, flower bouquet or it is sewn into the wedding dress. The horseshoe should be pointing upwards. Otherwise the luck will "leave" you. There is more. The bride also has a special linen handkerchief. This "magic hanky" as it is known is usually passed from generation to generation.

During ceremony wedding rings are blessed. In some places they also have so called ring warming. At the beginning of the ceremony rings start kind of journey among the people present there. When holding rings each person says a short prayer, good wishes or something like that.

After exchanging rings the groom used to give the bride a coin which symbolized material wealth of this world. Nowadays they exchange coins and the clinking sound of coins means that they will have children.

Also during the wedding ceremony two candles are lit. Then they are used to light the third taller candle which symbolizes the newly formed union of two human beings .

When getting out of the church rice or paper confetti are thrown at the newlyweds. In the past an old shoe was thrown over the bride for luck.

Irish couples have a wedding reception in restaurants, hotels etc. It is interesting to mention that the Irish government allows the organization of weddings at some important Irish historical sites like for example castles. There are people who sprinkle little bit of whiskey on the floor of the venue to ward off evil spirits.

Numerous toasts are proposed for the happy couple. There is a rule that the first congratulations and welcoming toast for the bride is made only by the male member of groom's family. It is considered bad luck if this is done by a woman.

Various alcoholic drinks are consumed. In the past the most popular drink was poitín (poteen). This drink is made from potatoes, barley, sugar beet etc.

Nowadays people usually drink champagne, whiskey, beer etc. It is a tradition to preserve a bottle of champagne or some other drink from the wedding reception and open it when the couple gets the first child.

Mead is also being drank. It is made of wine, honey and different herbs.

There is a tradition of the first dance by the bride and groom. Still there is a unusual rule that during the dance she must always keep at least one foot on the ground. If both of her feet are in the air there is a danger that she will be kidnapped by a fairy.

A traditional Irish wedding cake has two tiers. The larger one is a fruit cake. The smaller one is soaked in whiskey. This part of the cake is kept for christening of the firstborn child. At some wedding receptions single women get little bit of cake and keep it under their pillow. It is done hoping to dream of the future husband.


Karen Bressler, Irish Wedding Traditions

Irish Wedding Traditions

Irish Wedding Traditions

Bridget Haggerty, How to have the Irish wedding of your dreams

Niamh Allabyrne, Irish Wedding Traditions and Superstitions

10 Irish Wedding Traditions


Claddagh Ring (photo by Momo, Wikimedia)