Wedding Traditions & Symbols

Weddings are surrounded by traditions and symbols, some traditions are recognised around the world and then others are very specific to Ireland. Take a look at our list of wedding traditions and symbols and see which ones you want to bring into your own big day.

Don’t forget to also take a look at our Myths section.

Irish Wedding Traditions

The Claddagh Ring:

The Claddagh ring is one of Ireland’s most famous wedding traditions; the ring is to be passed down through the female generations and represents friendship, love and loyalty. If you are single then the ring should be worn on the right hand with the point of the heart facing the fingertip. If you are in a relationship then it should be worn with the heart pointing towards the wrist. When a woman becomes engaged the ring should be worn on the left hand with the heart point at the fingertip then after the wedding, the ring can be turned around so the heart is facing the opposite direction.

Handfasting:

Where the phrase ‘tying the knot’ originally stems from - handfasting is an ancient Celtic traditional where the couples’ hands are literally tied together. The couple hold right hand to right hand and left hand to left hand with their wrists crossed over, the handfasting ribbon is then wound around the wrists and over their hands.

Make-up Bells :

Bells are a traditional wedding gift for Irish couples as the sound is said to ward off evil spirits, you can also ring your wedding bells at home if you have an argument to remind you both of your wedding day and the vows you have taken.

Wild Flowers:

Irish brides have traditionally been said to wear a wreath of wild flowers in their hair rather than a wedding veil. If you want to keep your wedding day relaxed and traditional then you could adopt this pretty tradition.

Braided Hair:

Braided hair on your wedding day is said to bring Irish bride luck, it is also a symbol of feminine powers.

Worldwide Wedding Traditions:

Something old, something new...

This is one of the most used wedding traditions across the globe and each part of the rhyme represents something different:

Something Old: This is there to represent the brides past and her family, by having something old on her wedding day, the bride acknowledges her family and brings her past with her into her new life.

Something New: The something new represents all that is going to change in the bride’s life and the exciting new chapter she is about to begin.

Something Borrowed: The something borrowed should traditionally come from a happily married woman and that borrowed item represents the married lady ‘lending’ her marital happiness.

Something Blue: Blue is the colour of fidelity and love so having something blue should bring extra luck to the couple.

And a silver sixpence in her shoe: The silver sixpence is said to bring wealth and prosperity to the couple, as well as some extra luck.

Having Bridesmaids:

The tradition of bridesmaids comes from the superstition that evil spirits could try and ruin the bride and groom’s happiness, by having bridesmaids and the bride, this confused the evil spirits as to who was the bride.

Where to Stand During the Ceremony:

Tradition states the groom should stand to the right while the bride stands to the left.

Throwing Confetti:

Originally rice and grain would be thrown at the bride and groom to encourage fertility; this has now been replaced with throwing wedding confetti.

Being Carried Over the Threshold:

The custom for the groom to carry the bride over the threshold is a way to ward off evil spirits that could be hiding in the newlywed's home.