Old Irish Wedding Traditions
Before St. Patrick converted Ireland to Christianity, the ancient Irish had a completely different set of social, spiritual and legal traditions. Beliefs were different, and marriage was very different.
In fact, there were different categories of marriage including short-term marriages and trial marriages. Divorce was legal and either party could initiate it. While the Druids led the community’s spiritual life, marriage was a secular matter.
Brehon law-governed marriage in ancient Ireland. That might sound drab, but the Irish were always romantics and optimists at heart as we can see in so many of the designs used on Irish gifts.
Trial marriages were devised to ensure couples were sure of their relationship before taking vows to spend their lives together. The trial period was one year. Really, it was not that different from couples today living together before deciding if they want to get married. Each party still owned whatever they brought to the marriage, and if it didn’t work out they split anything they acquired together during the year. If the year went well and the couple decided to make it permanent, they could do so with confidence.
Irish Wedding Traditions – Handfasting Wedding Ceremonies
The ancient Irish wedding ceremony might have been secular, but it was also very beautiful and romantic. Irish Wedding traditions included when couples were wed with a handfasting ceremony before their loved ones and their community. They joined hands, and a celebrant wrapped a ribbon around their hands to symbolize their commitment.
Regardless of their own beliefs, whether they are having a religious or civil wedding, couples today can and do include handfasting in their marriage ceremony. It’s something every couple can make their own with their choice of ribbon and what words are said or music played during the handfasting part of the ceremony.
The ribbon wound around the couple’s hands represents their unending commitment to each other. It resembles Celtic knotwork art and its distinctive style of one unbroken line winding around itself in a complex loop. That knotwork motif is more than clever; it symbolizes eternity. It is a popular design for Celtic wedding rings and many other Irish gifts.
Irish Wedding Traditions – Exchanging coins
Exchanging coins is an ancient Irish wedding tradition whereby the Groom presents his Bride to be with a coin. This practice is said to date back to the time when the Groom paid luck money to the family of the Bride, which was in order to bring happiness and blessings upon them.
There is also a custom where, when the Bride and Groom exchange coins, it is said that, if the coins clink as they are given to one another, the couple will be blessed with children.
Irish Wedding Traditions – Adding Some Ancient Ireland to Your Modern Wedding
Irish Wedding traditions and our attitudes around marriage are not that different from the ancient Irish in some ways. And today, couples have the freedom to create a unique wedding ceremony that reflects who they are. If Ireland’s ancient ring forts and carved stones speak to your soul, you can bring that to your wedding.
A pair of Celtic wedding bands with a knotwork design or a Celtic knot motif on your invitations, place cards, or cake makes a beautiful statement about your unending love. The bride and her bridesmaids can wear stunning Celtic jewelry, and the bride can thank them with little Irish gifts as a memento of her special day.
You can incorporate your own handfasting ritual into your wedding ceremony. The beauty of it is that you can do this however you like. You can do it at the start of the ceremony so your hands are joined while you say your vows, or you can do it while you are saying them or after. The choice is yours.