It was the luck of the Irish the day you found each other, and you want to celebrate your Irish heritage, or your fondness for St. Patrick’s Day, with an Irish theme wedding. You can bring a bit of the auld sod to your special event with some careful planning and a cautious eye for those mischievous leprechauns!
One of the true symbols of love from Ireland is the Claddagh. The story says that a man left his home in Galway to set sail to the West Indies for work. He promised his love he would return to marry her. His ship was captured and he was forced into slavery. When King William III demanded the release of all British slaves, the master of this particular man offered him his daughter and half of his fortune if he would stay and continue his work as a goldsmith because his work was so brilliant. The man declined, and returned to his love as he promised. Upon his return, he presented her with a ring of his own design – the Claddagh. The ring features a heart, held by two hands, topped with a crown, and is supposed to symbolize love, loyalty and friendship. This is the perfect romantic centerpiece to any Irish wedding, and you will find the Claddagh in many aspects of wedding accessories. There are Claddagh wedding invitations, which feature the symbol in gold, silver, or green; and most places that carry the invitations will also be able to deliver various other reception goods with the symbol on them. Cake toppers are also available in metal, crystal, and plastic Claddagh symbols, and you will find champagne glasses that have it etched into them or have a pewter Claddagh affixed to the side.
Traditionally, Irish brides carried herbs and spices or wore them in their hair to ward off evil spirits. To continue the tradition, add some English lavender or a sprig of rosemary to your bouquets, or have a wreath made for your hair using fragrant herbs. You could choose to commemorate your Irish heritage by using Bells of Ireland in your bouquet, and they work well with a green and white arrangement. Most Irish brides wore braided hair on their wedding day, and you can certainly add sprigs of herbs entwined with the braided hair. Some Irish brides carried myrtle, and a piece of the myrtle was given to each bridesmaid. The bridesmaids were to take their myrtle home and plant it, and if it grew, it meant a wedding for them as well. It would be a nice idea to have the bridesmaids carry myrtle down the aisle to reflect this tradition. Something else Irish brides even today carry with their bouquets are horseshoes. The horseshoe must be carried with the open side facing up so the luck doesn’t spill out. The horseshoe is something brides keep to give to their children to use on their wedding day, and some are elaborately decorated with satin, ribbons, and lace.
Many Irish brides wore blue dresses on their wedding day, which was the ancient color meaning purity. If you want to go with a more traditional white, you could have some blue embroidered onto your gown, or add a blue garter, a blue satin sash, or tie your bouquet with blue ribbon. You could also put your bridesmaids in blue. And no Irish bride walks down the aisle without a lucky sixpence in her shoe. If you cannot get your hand on a sixpence, a penny works just as well, and should be taped into the shoe so it does not interfere with your feet during the wedding.
The perfect favors for your guests at your Irish wedding are small bells. The make-up bell in Ireland was used to ward off evil, restore harmony in the home when a couple has been arguing, and remind a couple of their wedding vows. Tie lovely satin bows on silver bells engraved with your initials and your wedding date, and your guests can even be encouraged to ring them throughout the reception, forcing the bride and groom to share a quick kiss. Another long lasting favor is a small pot of Irish shamrocks, and you can tie a personalized ribbon around each pot with your names and wedding date.
Other things to incorporate into your Irish wedding would be a piper, perhaps playing for your guests as they enter your wedding; a traditional fruit cake for a wedding cake; and instead of champagne, a toast with honey wine or Irish mead, which was thought to promote virility. And for traditional Irish fun at the reception, host a ceilidh by bringing in dancers to teach your guests the traditional dances.
Your Irish wedding should be fun, family oriented, and most of all, speak from your heart. Your love for each other and your love for all things Irish should be present the whole day long.
Irish Wedding Customs
Wedding and Marriage
The sacrament of matrimony is a solemn observance in the Christian Church. It is an outward sign that faithful worshipers are receiving the grace of God in their lives together.
Historic Wedding Events:
Jesus preformed his first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana.
Many wedding customs have been popular since ancient times:
The Bridal Veil.
Bridal veils became popular in Great Britain and America during the late 18th century. In Rome, brides probably wore veils over 2,000 years ago.
The Wedding Ring.
The custom of giving a wedding ring may also date back to the ancient Romans. The presentation of wedding rings symbolizes that the man and woman are united forever. The shape of the ring probably represents eternity. The wearing of the ring on the ring finger of the left hand is another old custom. This originated because people once thought that a vein or nerve ran directly from the finger to the heart.
The Throwing Of Rice.
After many weddings, the guests throw rice at the bride and groom as a wish for children and good fortune. Rice was once the symbol of fertility, happiness and long life.
Tossing the Bouquet.
The custom of the bride tossing the bouquet to the unmarried guests dates from the 14th century and probably originated in France. The woman who catches the flowers is supposedly the next to marry. The same is supposedly true when the bride tosses the garter to the unmarried men.
An old superstition says that a bride can ensure good luck by wearing 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue'. Another old superstition says that it is bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony on their wedding day.
The Claddagh Ring
This ring belongs to as broad group of finger rings, called 'Faith Rings' or Fede. It is a particularly distinctive ring in Ireland, with two hands clasping a heart, surmounted by a crown. The origin of Faith Rings could date from Roman times. The motif of the Claddagh ring has been explained in the phrase or posy:
'Let love and friendship reign'. The hand signifies faith, the heart signifies love and the crown signifies honor, loyalty. Although it was worn as a wedding ring, it was also worn as a symbol of friendship. The limits defined over which the ring was worn was roughly from the Aran Islands and throughout all of Connemara, eastward and southward for about twelve mile. It probably became known as the Claddagh ring because the people of this area used this ring alone. When the Claddagh ring is worn on the right hand with the heart nearest the finger nail, it indicates that the wearer in single and unattached. When worn the same way on the left hand, indicates that although the person is still single their heart belongs to another. When the ring was worn with the crown nearest the finger nail on the left hand, the wearer was married.
Tradition tells us that the Claddagh ring was passed from mother to first daughter. For some of the Claddagh fisher folk the purchase of this ring was often the largest investment they would make. (Claddagh Ring Story. Joyce, C. 1990, pp 1, 2, 6,7)
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