The Traditional Irish Wedding
by Bridget Haggerty
There is one wedding Irish tradition that states: 'Marry in May and Rue The Day' while another states: 'Marry in April if you can, joy for maiden and for man'.
When I told my daughter about this Irish superstition, she changed her wedding date so that she'd be married in April!
What began as a search for Irish traditions and customs that she could incorporate into her celebration ended up as an incredible pile of notes that eventually took on a life of its own. Long after her wedding, I was still obsessed with delving into history and folklore, looking for everything I could find on how weddings were celebrated in Ireland long ago.
I am convinced that if couples
make the effort, they can have a totally Irish celebration from beginning
to end - even to the pre-wedding parties. There's one quaint custom where
the groom was invited to the bride's house right before the wedding and
they cooked a goose in his honor. It was called Aitin' the gander - it
has to be where we get the expression 'his goose is cooked!' We threw
one of these dinner parties for my daughter and everyone had a great time.
(The apple-potato stuffing has become a family favorite!).
Here are some more:
Bunratty Meade is a honey wine that's served at the Bunratty Castle medieval banquet. It's from a recipe based on the oldest drink in Ireland and if you've never tasted it, it's well worth trying. In the old days, it was consumed at weddings because it was thought that it promoted virility. (If a baby was born nine months after the wedding, it was attributed to the mead!) Couples also drank it from special goblets for a full month following the wedding, which is supposedly where we get the word honeymoon. This was to protect the couple from the fairies coming to spirit the bride away.
Lucky horseshoe. Irish brides used to carry a real horseshoe for good luck. (Turned up so the luck won't run out). You can get porcelain horseshoes which most Irish brides carry these days, or one made of fabric which is worn on the wrist.
Magic Hanky. This
charming custom involves having the bride carry a special hanky that with
a few stitches can be turned into a christening bonnet for the first baby.
With a couple of snips it can be turned back into a hanky that your child
can carry on his/her wedding day.
Irish Dancers. Consider hiring a group of Irish dancers to hand out your programs before the ceremony. Dressed in their full regalia, it would add a wonderful touch of of pageantry and color. They could also dance at the reception later. We did this at my daughter's reception and it was a major hit.
so much wonderful Irish music available,
Readings: My daughter had the following Irish wedding vow on the front of her program:
The Irish Wedding
Song. Very popular at contemporary Irish weddings. We had two friends
sing this at my daughter's reception while the newlyweds cut the cake.
(Afterwards I thought we should have had the lyrics typed up and placed
on the tables so that everyone could join in).
Ancient custom: In
the old days, couples ate salt and oatmeal at the beginning of their reception:
Each of them took three mouthfuls as a protection against the power of
the evil eye. Also, when a couple is dancing, the bride can't take both
feet off the floor because the fairies will get the upper hand. Fairies
love beautiful things and one of their favorites is a bride. There's many
an Irish legend about brides being spirited away by the little people!
For the same reason, it's bad luck for a bride to wear green. I've also
heard that it's bad luck for anyone to wear green at an Irish wedding
- but I think it really only applies to the bride. It's also bad luck
for a bride or the groom to sing at their own wedding.
A fine day meant good luck, especially if the sun shone on the bride. If you're a Roman Catholic, one way to make certain that it won't rain is to put a statue of the Infant of Prague outside the church before your ceremony.
* It was unlucky to marry on a Saturday.
* Those who married in harvest would spend all their lives gathering
* A man should always be the first to wish joy to the bride, never a woman
*It was lucky to hear a cuckoo
on the wedding morning, or to see three magpies
* The wedding party should always take the longest road home from the church
* It was bad luck if a glass or cup were broken on the wedding day
*A bride and groom should never wash their hands in the same sink at the same time-it's courting disaster if they do
* It was said to be lucky
if you married during a 'growing moon and a flowing tide'
* If the bride's mother-in-law breaks a piece of wedding cake on the bride's head as she enters the house after the ceremony, they will be friends for life.
Many other customs are interspersed
throughout the book, e.g. (from the reception section) the top tier of
your wedding cake should be an Irish whiskey cake which is saved for the
christening of your first baby. I've also heard of another custom which
just came to my attention and will be included in the next edition: a
bottle of champagne is saved from the reception so that it can be used
to 'wet the baby's head' at the christening.
And for all engaged couples and their families in the midst of pre-wedding chaos, I raise a parting glass: May all your joys be pure joy and all your pain champagne.
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