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Old Irish Wedding Traditions

Old Irish Wedding Traditions


Many old Irish traditions have disappeared over the years but when it comes to matters of love there’s a few that live on. You may have heard one or two but there are a few lovely ones that are little known….

Tying the knot

The phrase, ‘tying the knot’ comes from an old Irish tradition the symbolises the bond of marriage in the same way that the exchanging of rings does in ceremonies today.

At the point in the ceremony where the bond between the husband and wife is signified, the couple clasp their hands together and a ribbon, cord or rope is wound around their joint hands as a symbol of their agreement to spend their lives together.

This is a Celtic tradition and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it was widespread throughout Europe at one point. It was even part of the Royal Wedding.

The Blue Wedding Dress

The traditional bridal gown was not white but blue. The popularity of the white wedding dress, representing virginity and purity, likely has its roots in the weddings of British monarchs such as Queen Victoria.

Long before that, blue was the colour that conveyed the same ideas. These days blue wedding gowns are very rare.


This is one of those traditions that isn’t widely seen. The association of the horseshoe and good luck is as old as the hills; in many cultures hanging a horseshoe over a door was thought to bring good luck to the occupants. That tradition crept into weddings, with brides carrying a horseshoe on their wedding day to bring good luck to the occasion and by extension the rest of the marriage.

Obviously, carrying around a lump of agricultural iron is far from convenient so the tradition developed into brides in Celtic nations carrying small symbols of the horseshoe in silver or porcelain, tucked away in the bouquet or carried alongside it instead of lugging around a hefty lump of metal.

Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh ring is one of the oldest traditions that is widely known. The traditional ring is widely given by young Irish men to their girlfriend as a gift.

The ring has a part in the wedding ceremonies too. Single women traditionally wore the ring on their right hand, with the ring facing outwards. When in a relationship it turns inwards, indicating that the lady isn’t available.

The ring is then moved to the left hand when the wearer becomes engaged (pointing outwards) and turning onwards on the hand once married.

Wedding Bells

Not quite the same as the tolling of the church bells. An old superstition is that the sound of the bells wards off malicious spirits. In the same vein as the horseshoe tradition, this took on another meaning, where guests might be given small bells at the ceremony – nowadays it is suggested that brides wear a small bracelet or charm with tiny bells.