An Irish Wedding

For couples who decide to get married, their commitment is a sign of unification between two people as they begin their lives together. In Ireland, a variety of different traditions and rituals are performed in the belief the couple will have happy, wealthy, and healthy lives together.

One important tradition is the style of the wedding ring chosen. This ring is called the Claddagh ring and it belongs to a group of finger rings, called ‘Faith Rings or ‘Fede’ in Irish. It is a particularly distinctive ring in Ireland, with two hands clasping a heart, topped by a crown. The hands are said to represent faith, whereas the crown and heart symbolize honour and love respectively.

Another Irish tradition follows that the couple getting married should walk to the church together, to exchange their wedding vows. An older, no longer practiced tradition would have a couple walking to the chapel, while onlookers would not only throw rice to bless the marriage, but larger items as well, such as pots and pans. Fortunately, this is no longer practiced as injuries are inevitable!

As superstitions are rife in Ireland and especially where weddings are concerned, some of the most common involve the bride using herbs such as English lavender to mix with her wedding flowers. As well as this, it is very traditional for the bride to braid her hair, as this is considered a sacred way to keep feminine power and luck. Combine all this with a Saint Patrick’s Day wedding and you should have a very special wedding indeed as this day is considered one of the luckiest wedding anniversary dates in Ireland.

The ceremony itself follows a similar pattern to that of a Catholic mass. On entering the Church, the congregation is greeted with the sound of musical instruments native to Ireland such as the harp and bodhran. At the end of the ceremony, Holy Communion is given to out by the Priest – as in a normal Catholic mass.

Following on from this is the wedding reception, perhaps what everyone, including the bride and groom look forward to the most. And, popular to belief, Irish families are large in number, even more so at times of weddings, as this is a time when family members who may have emigrated to far – off places return for one hell of a party, swelling numbers to 300 guests, all family related, so add to this a partner for those old enough to have one and you have a staggering number of people – all ready for the ‘craic’! Not surprisingly, the ‘craic’ unfolds at a rapid pace with the help of some world-famous Guinness and Irish music. Not surprisingly, the choice of music for the reception never strays too far from well-known Irish favourites, such as ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’, which always lends to amazing atmosphere.

A much older tradition in Ireland required newlyweds to spend a month together drinking honeyed wine, secluded, in case their families tried to separate them – and this was regarded as their Honeymoon! The idea came from the Irish translation for ‘honeymoon, which is ‘mi na meala’, meaning - the month of honey. Happily for couples today, this is no longer the case and they are free to honeymoon where they like.

To date, perhaps the most important wedding tradition in Ireland, which comes before all those mentioned above, recognizes that the sacrament of matrimony is a solemn observance in the Christian Church - an outward sign that faithful worshipers are receiving the grace of God in their lives together. It is this tradition that is likely to remain unchanged for some time to come.

by Damien McKeever

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