13 ways to incorporate Irish traditions for your wedding

In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally considered the happiest day of the year to get married. Whether you have Irish roots or just want to add a bit of Irish luck to your celebration, we’re sharing 13 ways to bring some Irish wedding traditions into your wedding day!

{Photo above by Priscila Valentina Photography, as seen in this Elopement in Northern Ireland}

We had a chat with the Irish born and luxury event planner Tara Fay and she shares some of Ireland’s famous influences on weddings and how to add a touch of Ireland to your wedding. Tara launched the first Ireland-based event planning service in 1997 and has since welcomed many couples, celebrities and high profile clients in Ireland and abroad. She consults the Irish Tourism Board for weddings, is a reality TV host and is widely recognized as one of the best Harper’s Bazaar wedding planners in the world. Follow her on Instagram for year-round inspiration!

1. Crash course: Understand the origin of the honeymoon

irish wedding couple

Did you know that in ancient Ireland newlyweds were roasted with a mead made from honey and given the brew to drink for 30 days, or otherwise referred to as the lunar cycle? Hence the honeymoon! The cocktail stood for luck and fertility and to ward off evil fairies. Ireland is full of history, pride, folklore and traditions that are common (or perhaps less known!) At weddings.

{Photo credit: Eric Kelley}

2. Irish wedding tradition – Incorporate Irish tip

Irish crochet lace design for a wedding cakeWe have a rich and storied history of lace which in particular helped the Irish economy re-established itself in the 19th century after the Great Famine. Local regions of Ireland have varied pattern qualities, and techniques have been passed down 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 dress for her wedding in 1840 and, more recently, by Princess Diana and Duchess Kate Middleton. If Alexander McQueen isn’t in your budget or style, Irish lace can always be incorporated onto table surfaces or worn in a bouquet wrap (which is also traditionally used to baptize the couple’s first child, known as the magic handkerchief). You don’t have to limit yourself to fabrics! Beyond fashion, lace patterns can also be represented in cake patterns or on your stationery and your printed products.

{Cake by Jaime Gerard Cake inspired by Irish Crochet Lace}

3. Braided hair and fabrics

Bride with braided hair going in a low bun and some green

Think of the creative and functional ways that braids can be incorporated into your hair or other decorative moments to weave fabrics. In the Celtic tradition, braids represent feminine strength and good luck. So, embrace your inner khaleesi and proudly add delicate, intricate or more relaxed bohemian style braids for your wedding look.

{Photo credit: Katie Jane Photography}

4. The Claddagh ring design

Gold Claddagh wedding ring

The Claddagh ring represents three beacons of marriage: friendship in the form of hands; Loyalty as a symbol of the crown; and love through the heart. The Irish ring, a generational tradition, is often passed on from mothers to their daughters. The ring is worn on the right hand in individual cases. The tip of the heart looks south of the fingertips until the owner of the ring is in a committed relationship, thereby flipping the ring. At engagement, the Claddagh ring moves to the left hand with the apex of the heart still pointing north. Once married, the ring is turned over again and remains on the left hand with the heart facing down. Other modern adaptations could incorporate this pattern onto nail art, embroidery on a ring pillow, or custom welcome bag tote bags.

{Claddagh Wedding Ring}

5. Quoting / honoring Irish poetry or literature

Storytelling is an inherited and long-standing tradition in Ireland. We are proud of many romantic writers and creatives. Explore the writings of classically known poets such as William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce. The Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) has a fabulous website with plenty of resources to learn more about our literary history, especially an on-demand radio program highlighting Irish writers, past and present.

6. Irish handfasting ceremony

Irish handfasting ceremony

One of our most famous and distinctive traditions, the term tying the knot actually comes from the ceremonial tradition of wrapping the couple’s hands in cloth and tying the couple’s hands together. This love knot gesture represents unity through thick and thin. We pride ourselves on the fact that it has been recreated in many wedding ceremonies around the world!

{Photo credit: Lisa O’Dwyer}

7. Hang up a wish ring

Add a wish ring for a personal touch – we’re pretty deeply rooted in the fairy tradition and superstition. The wishing ring contains blessings in Irish and English. When guests go under, they can choose a blessing and give it to the couple. Voilà! You put your own blessing on the bride and groom!

8. Irish wedding tradition – a blue wedding dress

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

{Photo credit: Laura Gordon | dStyling and Design: Joy Proctor | Shoes: Bella Belle Shoes | Dress: Nicole + Felicia Couture}

9. Ceremonial music

Bagpipes are generally considered Scottish, but in Ireland the uilleann pipes are softer and sweeter in tone. This creates a wonderful recession once married. Or hire a Gaelic harpist for romantic and classical strings at your wedding (just think how relaxing and beautiful the sounds of Enya are!).

10. Include horseshoes in your wedding

Horseshoe companion 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 tale people (Tuath dé Danann). A horseshoe is often given fortunately, which means a bit of magic and protection. Apart from the fact that a horseshoe is given, a small charm is also suitable for a bouquet wrap or can also be integrated into decorative objects such as a cake wedding topper or table numbers.

11. Irish Troupe Dancers

If you are a lover of Irish step dancing and jigs, including an Irish dance troupe is the ultimate form of reception entertainment for your guests. It is a unique way to incorporate our traditional Celtic music through the form of dance. Your guests will love to join in and maybe learn a few dance moves as well.

12. Garlands + greens galore for your wedding

Green around church doors

Ireland has 40 shades of green, incorporate them! For a treat, create oversized flower installations of green and white flowers at your ceremony or reception entrance. or just go with an oversized floral arrangement that can serve as a ceremony and reception decor. The greener the better. It’s a touch of bringing the outside in and draping more of the outside out!

{Photo credit: Unikeye wedding photography}

13. Irish cocktails

Finally, there are many ways to say Sláinte! Host your own Irish whiskey tasting bar where classics like Bushmills and Jameson are mixed with lesser known brewers like Hyde or Laphroaig. Make sure the signage behind the distillery also includes a brief history lesson or a place note. Black Velvet (1 part Guinness to 1 part dry champagne or sparkling wine) is also popular. I also like to offer a bubbly snipe with a Guinness bottle in welcome pouches. Of course, ending the evening with Irish coffee (or starting brunch after the wedding!) Will always be a classic. Fun fact, Irish coffee was aptly invented for transatlantic air travel from Shannon Airport to NYC.


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