6 Irish Wedding Traditions to Include in Your Ceremony

Weddings are a wonderful time to pay tribute to the traditions of the past in a meaningful way. For couples with links to Ireland, there are plenty of old customs that can be easily incorporated into modern-day ceremonies and celebrations. Michelle Johnstone Clark of Waterlily Weddings, a company that specializes in destination weddings in Ireland, helps us break them down.

1. Tying the Knot

When it comes to Irish wedding traditions, the hand fastening ceremony is the number one request that Michelle gets. “It’s something that I really like because you can personalize it,” she says, adding that the bride and groom can select special colors for the ribbons or cords used. And in the case of a couple with children, it’s a simple way to incorporate the kids into the ceremony. “You can let them pick the colors and do one of the ribbons, since the ribbons are put over the couple’s hands individually,” Michelle explains.

2. Uilleann Pipes

Although foreigners may associate bagpipes with Ireland, Michelle suggests uillleann pipes as a more authentic Irish tradition. “They’re much quieter, sweeter and have a better range,” she says. “They’re kind of like the cousin of the Scottish bagpipe. They’re a very unique sound and they accompany the ceremony very well.”

She explains: “Imagine being in the garden of a castle. You’re all standing waiting excitedly and the bride comes in to these uilleann pipes, a sound that you just instantly associate with being Irish. That’s a pretty cool tradition to add in.”

3. Lace Handkerchief

On her wedding day, an Irish bride traditionally carries a lace handkerchief, which is then used to make a bonnet for the christening of the couple’s first child. “I think it’s a really simple but beautiful tradition,” Michelle comments. “The hanky can also get handed down from generation to generation, which is really nice. And of course, Ireland has such a long history with lace.”

4. Sixpence in the Shoe

“There are a lot of Irish traditions that are based on superstition and warding away evil spirits,” Michelle explains. “The sixpence is supposed to be a good luck charm that the bride had on her to keep her safe on her wedding day.”

Historically, a lord gave his lady the coin, which was placed in her shoe. Today, many of Waterlily Weddings’ brides opt to glue it to the sole of their shoe in a nod to the tradition, Michelle says. 

5. Good Luck Horseshoe

Like the sixpence, a horseshoe was thought to bring the bride good fortune for her nuptials. While a real iron horseshoe doesn’t quite go with an elegant wedding look, this ancient custom can easily be given a modern makeover.

“Brides normally incorporate the horseshoe by tying a small silver horseshoe charm it into the bouquet,” Michelle explains. “They’ll wrap Irish lace around the stems of the flowers and they’ll sew a little tiny horseshoe into the lace, just to carry on the tradition. Or, they’ll have it on a pin and they’ll pin it to the underside of their dress.”

6. Honey wine before the honeymoon

The phrase honeymoon stems from the Irish tradition of toasting with mead, a honey wine. Although not commonly served at modern Irish weddings, this is a ritual that many second- and third-generation couples carry on today, according to Michelle.

Have you ever dreamed of a Destination Wedding in Ireland? Waterlily Weddings help couples from around the world to arrange “the perfect wedding day in Ireland.” Check out their gallery for inspiration!

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