What’s Special about an Irish Wedding?
In Ireland, life’s milestones are marked in a big way. From a baby’s christening to a funeral, families and communities acknowledge and celebrate the major moments of their lives. An Irish wedding is the pinnacle of these events, bringing together two families and the couple’s friends for an unforgettable celebration of love and family. Whether lavish or intimate, an Irish wedding can draw on a wealth of tradition. The Irish gifts of music and storytelling are always on display, especially at the reception.
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Most Irish weddings are performed in the Catholic church. The events normally start with the wedding mass in the early afternoon. Everyone then travels to the location of the reception, usually a hotel, and a couple of hours elapse while wedding photos are taken. An Irish wedding reception is generally a seated dinner with dancing after the meal. The couple and the wedding party including parents are seated at a top table, while the guests are seated at tables or six or eight people. The best man and others make speeches before the dinner, and this is where the Irish gifts of storytelling and humor come in. Music could be a DJ or a live band, but odds are that when they finish, the guests will provide their own entertainment singing. If it’s a musical crowd, some might bring their guitars, tin whistles or bodhrans too for a proper traditional session.
Traditional Irish wedding cakes deserve a special mention. While the light, fluffy cakes popular in the USA are gaining ground in Ireland, historically here an Irish wedding cake was very different. It would be iced and layered, but the cake itself would be dark, rich and full of raisins and other dried fruits.
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Irish Wedding Traditions
Irish wedding traditions cover everything from when to get married to what to wear to how a married couple can resolve disagreements. Looking to incorporate some Celtic heritage into your big day?
- While many consider June the ideal month for a wedding, an old Irish verse has another take on it.
Marry when the year is new, always loving, kind and true
When February birds do mate, you may wed, nor dread your fate
If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you’ll know
Marry in April when you can, joy for maiden and for man
Marry in the month of May, you will surely rue the day
Marry when June roses blow, over land and sea you’ll go
They who in July do wed, must labor always for their bread
Whoever wed in August be, many a change are sure to see
Marry in September’s shine, your living will be rich and fine
If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry
If you wed in bleak November, only joy will come remember
When December’s rain fall fast, marry and true love will last
- The route to your Irish wedding has traditionally been important. Encountering a funeral procession was a bad omen, but hearing a cuckoo is very good luck. And magpies also were an omen – one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy.
- Irish brides carried a lacy handkerchief on their wedding day and saved it to make their future baby’s christening bonnet.
- Small bells were once popular Irish gifts for newlyweds. The tradition is that when the couple argued, one would ring the bell to remind them of the church bells on their wedding day and the vows they took.
Irish wedding traditions can make your big day even more memorable. It’s a day when two people are joining their lives, including their heritage and traditions. It’s also a time to start making your own traditions, perhaps inspired by Ireland’s old wedding customs.