From its lyrical scholars to its generous sense of hospitality, Ireland has always done things a little differently. And weddings are no different. Whether the Irish are avoiding springtime nuptials (thanks to an old Catholic law that prohibits Lent marriages) or looking around for a lucky horseshoe pendant to wear on the big day, there are several rituals that set Irish weddings apart. Here are five unusual Irish wedding traditions to consider adopting if you’re planning to tie the knot at the magnificent Ashford Castle or its picturesque sister property, The Lodge at Ashford Castle.
This ancient tradition, which involves lovers binding their hands with cloth to signify an engagement, was once also the principle way in which people were married. Nowadays, the ceremony is more likely to occur on the wedding day and often uses lots of the paraphernalia that’s often associated with Celtic rituals, from symbol-engraved candles to enchanted crystals.
While Champagne and other sparkling wines may rule the roost at Irish weddings today, poitín and mead are the first choices for historically-minded couples. The former is an incredibly strong whiskey, with a flavour that varies from place to place (often depending on the skills of the person doing the distilling). And the latter gave the world the phrase ‘honeymoon’, thanks to the customary request that newly-weds drink its honey-ish elixir for one full-moon after the wedding.
Aitin’ the Gander
Lots of brides and grooms get an attack of the nerves before the big day, but the Irish – being a rather practical bunch – have historically practised two traditions to make sure things go smoothly. Firstly, it was once customary for the groom to visit his future in-laws for a goose dinner the night before the wedding. This would give him around two hours to change his mind before “his goose was cooked”. Secondly, once the couple had entered the church for the ceremony, they were often locked in!
Dancing a jig
Few Irish weddings will ever get off the ground without a ceilí. Often featuring Irish set-pieces such as the Walls of Limerick and the Siege of Ennis, or some waltzes like the Galway Shawl and Home to Mayo, it’s everybody’s favourite dance form mainly because it can be enjoyed by even the inexperienced and often enhanced after a couple of drinks!
The Uilleann pipes are forever competing with the harp as the iconic instrument of Ireland, but while the harp produces a lovely, delicate sound, nothing quite beats the mellow-sweet melodies of the pipes. Hauntingly romantic, once heard few people can forget the sound.
Kids will often run towards the exit of a church after a wedding ceremony, not because they are rude and dying to leave, but because they know what’s coming next: the scramble! This involves the groom throwing small change to children while oatcakes are sprinkled upon the couple as they make their getaway to the reception
Paying Respects to the Infant of Prague
In a country where the only constant is changeable weather, it’s incredibly important to place the little wooden statue, a relic known as the Infant of Prague, outside on the day of the wedding to ensure rain doesn’t spoil the big day.
If you fancy a traditional Irish wedding, why not book Ashford Castle? A slice of the Emerald Isle that dates back to 1228. Or perhaps its refined 19th century sister property, The Lodge? There’s nowhere better to say “I do”.
Image Credits: Dining © Colin Cowie Celebrations. Couple © Tommy Hannon. Close-up © Darek Novak.