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    Irish & Celtic Wedding Traditions

    7 min read

    Whether you’re planning a wedding or simply curious, learn about a few of the Celtic wedding traditions below – or even plan an Irish wedding yourself!

    By Dawn Rainbolt, PR Manager
    More by Dawn

    It’s the month of February and Cupid is calling! The Irish are one of the widest diasporas in the world, and so are their traditions.

    Emigrants all over the world brought their wedding Celtic wedding traditions with them, many of which are incorporated into modern weddings – intentionally by some, but usually inadvertently!

    To Tie the Knot

    Markree Castle chapel weddings Sligo best castles to stay in Ireland

    Fairytale weddings abound in the elegant chapel!

    This common synonym for marriage actually has a Celtic origin: the expression ‘tying the knot’ traces its roots back to ancient Irish wedding ceremonies in which the local druid or person of high rank presided over the ‘handfasting’ ritual, in which couples’ hands were bound together with a ribbon, signifying their union and strength of their love. This practice is still in use in many ceremonies today (most famously at the 2011 royal wedding of Prince William and Kate).


    Celtic Wedding traditions mead honeymood

    Honeymoons can trace their origins back to the practice of drinking honey mead!

    Whether it’s Disney World, a grand tour of Europe, an exotic island, or an epic adventure, almost all newlyweds plan a honeymoon after their wedding. But…why? What does a special trip with your new spouse have to do with honey?

    The answer lies again with honey and mead, a honey-based alcohol that was a popular drink due to its healthy properties. For a month (or a ‘moon’) following their wedding, the newlyweds were expected to drink honey every night as it was thought to increase virility as well as their chances of having a healthy child. While this practice was popular throughout Europe, it was especially popular in Ireland where honey was readily produced by monasteries and more. Serve mead alongside wine and champagne at your wedding to carry on the tradition!

    Braided or plaited hair

    It was said in Celtic wedding traditions that wearing your hair in braids or plaits on your wedding day brought luck for your new marriage, as well as symbolising feminine strength. While this is no longer the case, most women opt for an intricate up-do on their big day, which often includes interwoven braids.

    The Claddagh Ring

    Claddagh Ring - Celtic wedding traditions

    Varieties of traditional Claddagh rings.

    The Claddagh Ring, associated with the region of Galway, is a traditional Irish ring made from two clasped hands holding a crown. The ring is said to represent love, loyalty, and friendship – couples wear the ring with the heart pointed inward to mean that your heart is taken (when the heart points to the end of the finger, you’re ‘open to love). The Cladadgh Ring is still a popular tradition for couples – most famously worn at William and Kate’s Royal Wedding.


    Wildflowers Celtic Wedding tradition

    Crowns of wildflowers trace their roots back to Celtic tradition

    In Celtic wedding traditions, a crown of wildflowers instead of a veil was the preferred wedding headdress. While decorative wildflowers were probably due to what was readily available, veils didn’t become the predominant accessory until after the rise of Catholicism. Today, wildflowers are making a comeback as a more unique wedding accessories. Go for the wildflower crown or if you want something more traditional, a wildflower bouquet.

    In order to see Irish wildflowers in the countryside, visit the Burren region in spring – the sparse landscape erupts in a vibrant blanket of wildflowers! The wildflowers are so diverse, the same species found in the Burren can be found as far north as the Arctic and as far south as the Mediterranean.


    Wedding Bells

    Ready for a big event at Belleek Castle!

    The tinkling of bells were thought to scare away the bad spirits from disturbing a Celtic wedding, and guests were invited to make a clamour of bells. Though this practice of physically ringing the bells has become less common, some couples still include the sound of bells while walking down the aisle. More importantly, we still use the phrase, “wedding bells are ringing”!

    Horseshoes for Good Luck

    While this practice is more general, it dates back to a Celtic tradition. Horseshoes – specifically the practice of hanging them over doors – were thought to bring good luck to the house in which they were hung, making it a popular tradition with Celtic newlyweds!

    Learn Celtic wedding traditions and more on a custom-built romantic adventure for you and your partner!

    Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

    American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture and sweeping landscapes of Ireland. Armed with a Masters Degree in Tourism Marketing and a love of writing and photography, she is Wilderness Ireland's Marketing Executive since 2017.

    View profile More by Dawn


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