Irish Wedding Customs & Superstitions

HankyThere is no denying that the Irish are a superstitious lot. And, with a wealth of traditions, customs and folklore, Irish weddings are not exempt of shibboleth. As author and expert Bridget Haggerty explains, some of these are still practised today.

There is one tradition that states: ‘Marry in May and Rue The Day’ while another states: ‘Marry in April if you can, joy for maiden and for man’.

Another custom saw the groom invited to the bride’s house right before the wedding and they cooked a goose in his honor. It was called Aitin’ the gander, and is where we get the expression ‘his goose is cooked!’

In the old days, Bunratty Meade was consumed at weddings because it was thought that it promoted virility. Couples drank it from special goblets for a full month following the wedding, which is supposedly where we get the word honeymoon.

Irish brides used to carry a real horseshoe for good luck.

A charming custom involves having the bride carry a special hanky that with a few stitches can be turned into a christening bonnet for the first baby.

The chime of bells is thought to keep evil spirits away, restore harmony if a couple is fighting, and also remind a couple of their wedding vows.

In the old days, couples ate salt and oatmeal at the beginning of their reception, with each of them taking three mouthfuls as a protection against the power of the evil eye.

When a couple is dancing, the bride can’t take both feet off the floor because the fairies will get the upper hand. There’s many an Irish legend about brides being spirited away by the little people.

For the same reason, it’s bad luck for a bride to wear green.

It’s also bad luck for a bride or the groom to sing at their own wedding.

A fine day meant good luck, especially if the sun shone on the bride. If you’re a Roman Catholic, one way to make certain that it won’t rain is to put a statue of the Infant of Prague outside the church before your ceremony.

It was unlucky to marry on a Saturday.

Those who married in harvest would spend all their lives gathering.

A man should always be the first to wish joy to the bride, never a woman.

It was lucky to hear a cuckoo on the wedding morning, or to see three magpies.

To meet a funeral on the road meant bad luck and if there was a funeral procession planned for that day, the wedding party always took a different road.

The wedding party should always take the longest road home from the church.

It was bad luck if a glass or cup were broken on the wedding day.

A bride and groom should never wash their hands in the same sink at the same time – it’s courting disaster if they do.

It was said to be lucky if you married during a ‘growing moon and a flowing tide’

When leaving the church, someone must throw an old shoe over the bride’s head so she will have good luck.

If the bride’s mother-in-law breaks a piece of wedding cake on the bride’s head as she enters the house after the ceremony, they will be friends for life.

Bridget Haggerty is the author of The Traditional Irish Wedding