13 Ways to Incorporate Irish Traditions for your Wedding

irish wedding traditions
photo by Priscila Valentina Photography as seen in this Northern Ireland Elopement}

Traditionally in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is considered the luckiest day of the year to be married. Whether you have ancestral roots in Ireland or just want to add a little luck o’ the Irish to your celebration, we are sharing 13 ways to bring some Irish wedding traditions into your wedding day!

We chatted with Irish-native and luxury destination event planner Tara Fay and she is sharing some of Ireland’s storied influences to weddings and how you can bring a touch of Ireland to your wedding. Tara launched the first Irish-based event planning service in 1997 and has since hosted many couples, celebrity, and high profile clients in Ireland, plus abroad. She consults the Irish tourism board for weddings, is a reality TV host, and is recognized as one of Harper’s Bazaar’s top wedding planners in the world. Be sure to follow her on Instagram for year-round inspiration!

1. Crash course: Understand the Origin of the Honeymoon

irish wedding couple
photo credit: Eric Kelley

Did you know in ancient Ireland, newlyweds were toasted with a mead made of honey, and were given the brew to drink for 30 days, or otherwise known as a moon’s cycle? Hence the honeymoon! The cocktail represented luck and fertility, and to ward off any evil fairies. Ireland is full of history, pride, folklore, and traditions commonly (or perhaps less known!) to weddings. 

2. Irish Wedding Tradition – Incorporate Irish Lace  

cake by Jaime Gerard Cake inspired by Irish Crochet Lace

We have a rich and storied history of lace, particularly helping the Irish economy re-establish in the 1800’s after the Great Famine. Local regions of Ireland have distinct pattern qualities, and techniques have been passed between families over many generations. In fact, Irish lace has served Royal Weddings over the years. Queen Victoria transformed bridal fashion with her white Irish lace gown for her 1840 wedding, and in more recent times, also by Princess Diana and Duchess Kate Middleton. If Alexander McQueen isn’t in your budget or style, Irish lace can always be incorporated on table surfaces or carried in a bouquet wrap (which is also traditionally used in christening the couple’s first child, known as the magic hanky). Don’t feel you have to limit yourself to fabrics! Beyond fashion, lace patterns can also be represented in cake patterns, or across your stationery and printed products. 

3. Braided Hair and Fabrics 

bride with braided hair that goes into a low bun and some greenery
photo credit: Katie Jane Photography

Think of the creative and functional ways braids may be included in your hair, or possibly other decorative moments to weave fabrics. In Celtic tradition, braids represent femine power and good luck. So embrace your inner Khaleesi and proudly include delicate, intricate or more relaxed bohemian-styled braids for your wedding look. 

4. The Claddagh Ring Design

Gold Claddagh Wedding Ring
Claddagh Wedding Ring

The Claddagh ring represents three beacons to marriage: friendship in the shape of hands; loyalty as the symbol of the crown; and love by the heart. A generational tradition of Ireland, the ring is often passed from mothers to their daughters. The ring is worn on the right hand when single. The point of the heart looks south of the fingertips until the ring’s owner is in a committed relationship, thus flipping the ring. Upon engagement, the Claddagh ring moves to the left hand with the heart’s point still facing north, and once married, the ring is flipped again and remains on the left hand with the heart pointing downward. Other modern adaptations could incorporate this pattern on nail art, embroidery on a ring pillow, or custom welcome bag totes.

5. Quote/Honor Irish poetry or literature 

Storytelling is a bit of an inherited and long lasting generational tradition of Ireland. We’re proud of many romantic authors and creatives. Explore the writings of classically known poets like WIlliam Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce. The Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) has a fabulous website with abundant resources to learn more about our history of literature, particularly an on-demand radio program highlighting past and present Irish literary figures.

6. Irish Handfasting Ceremony

Irish handfasting ceremony
photo credit: Lisa O’Dwyer

One of our most famous and signature traditions, the term tying the knot actually comes from the ceremony tradition of wrapping the couples hands in fabric, knotting the couples’ hands together. This gesture of the love knot represents unity through thick and thin. We’re proud to see it recreated in many wedding ceremonies across the world!

7. Hang a Wishing Ring

For a personalized touch, add a wishing ring – we are quite steeped in Fairy tradition and superstitions. The wishing ring contains blessings written in Irish and English. As guests walk under, they can select a blessing and present the couple with this. Voilà! You have placed your own blessing on the newlyweds!

8. Irish Wedding Tradition – a Blue Wedding Dress

photo: Laura Gordon | Styling and Design: Joy Proctor | Shoes: Bella Belle Shoes | dress: Nicole + Felicia Couture

The traditional Irish bride wore a blue wedding dress rather than white. This color was a symbol of purity in ancient times before white became the universal symbol for virginity.

9. Ceremony Music 

Bagpipes are commonly thought of as Scottish, but in Ireland, the Uilleann pipes are softer and sweeter in tone. This makes for a wonderful recessional once married. Or for a striking and classic splurge, hire a Gaelic harpist for romantic and classical strings at your wedding (just think of how relaxing and beautiful the sounds of Enya are!).

10. Include Horseshoes in Your Wedding

horseshoe escort cards
photo credit: Joel Serrato | event design: Laurie Arons

Most of our traditions stem from superstition, as we still believe in the power of the fairy folk (Tuath dé Danann). A horseshoe is often given for good luck, representing a bit of magic and protection. Aside from being gifted a horseshoe, a small charm works nicely on a bouquet wrap, or can also be incorporated into decorative items too like a cake wedding topper or table numbers. 

11. Irish Troupe Dancers

If you’re a lover of Irish step dance and jigs, then bringing in an Irish dance group will be the ultimate form of reception entertainment for your guests. It’s a one-of-a-kind way to incorporate our traditional Celtic music through the form of dance. Your guests will love to join in and might learn a few dance moves too.

12. Garlands + Greenery Galore for Your Wedding

greenery around church doors
photo credit: Unikeye Wedding Photography

Ireland has 40 shades of green, incorporate them! For a splurge, create oversized floral installations of green and white flowers at your ceremony or reception entrance; or simply go with an oversized floral arrangement that can double as ceremony and reception decor. The more green, the better. It’s a touch of bringing the outside inside, and draping more of the outside along the outside! 

13. Irish Cocktails

Last but not least, there’s many ways to say Sláinte! Host your own Irish whiskey tasting bar mixing classics like Bushmills and Jameson amongst lesser known brewers like Hyde or Laphroaig. Be sure to include a brief history lesson or locale note in signage behind the distillery too. Also popular is the Black Velvet (1 part Guinness to 1 part dry champagne or sparkling wine). I also love to offer a snipe of bubbly with a Guinness bottle in welcome bags. Of course, ending the evening (or starting the post-wedding brunch!) with Irish Coffee will always be a classic. Fun fact, the Irish Coffee was aptly invented for the transatlantic plane journey from Shannon Airport to NYC.