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    There is one wedding Irish 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'.

    When I told my daughter about this Irish superstition, she
    changed her wedding date so that she'd be married in April!

    What began as a search for Irish traditions and customs
    that she could incorporate into her celebration ended up as
    an incredible pile of notes that eventually took on a life
    of its own. Long after her wedding, I was still obsessed
    with delving into history and folklore, looking for
    everything I could find on how weddings were celebrated in
    Ireland long ago.

    I am convinced that if couples make the effort, they can
    have a totally Irish celebration from beginning to end -
    even to the pre-wedding parties. There's one quaint custom
    where the groom was invited to the bride's house right
    before the wedding and they cooked a goose in his honor.
    It was called Aitin' the gander — it has to be where we get
    the expression 'his goose is cooked!' We threw one of
    these dinner parties for my daughter and everyone had a
    great time. (The apple-potato stuffing has become a family

    There are so many other traditions, customs and just an
    incredible amount of folklore to draw upon, that it would be
    remiss to be of Irish descent and not take advantage of all
    the possibilities. Here are just a few ideas culled from
    what eventually has become a 200-plus page book called 'The
    Traditional Irish Wedding' and it is now available in the
    United States and will be released in Ireland this spring.
    As complete as I could make it, the book covers attire,
    decor, menus, recipes, music, toasts, vows, and perhaps of
    most value, a resource listing that will help you find
    everything from Irish wedding gowns and tiaras to sheet
    music for a Celtic Mass.

    Here are some more:

    * Bunratty Meade is a honey wine that's served at the
    Bunratty Castle medieval banquet. It's from a recipe based
    on the oldest drink in Ireland and if you've never tasted
    it, it's well worth trying. In the old days, it was consumed
    at weddings because it was thought that it promoted
    virility. (If a baby was born nine months after the wedding,
    it was attributed to the mead!) Couples also drank it from
    special goblets for a full month following the wedding,
    which is supposedly where we get the word honeymoon. This
    was to protect the couple from the fairies coming to spirit
    the bride away.

    * Lucky horseshoe. Irish brides used to carry a real
    horseshoe for good luck. (Turned up so the luck won't run
    out). You can get porcelain horseshoes which most Irish
    brides carry these days, or one made of fabric which is worn
    on the wrist.

    * Magic Hanky. This 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. With a
    couple of snips it can be turned back into a hanky that
    your child can carry on his/her wedding day.

    * Make-up bells. 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. Giving a bell as
    a gift has become an Irish tradition. You could also have
    your greeters hand out tiny bells to your guests to ring
    as you process. (You might want to let them know when
    they're supposed to be rung - perhaps mention it in your
    program along with an explanation of the custom). Guests
    could also ring their little bells at the reception in lieu
    of clinking glasses.

    * Irish Dancers. Consider hiring a group of Irish dancers to
    hand out your programs before the ceremony. Dressed in their
    full regalia, it would add a wonderful touch of of pageantry
    and color. They could also dance at the reception later. We
    did this at my daughter's reception and it was a major hit.

    * Music. There's so much wonderful Irish music available,
    you'll have no problems in finding appropriate selections
    for both the ceremony and the reception. The difficulty will
    be in deciding which pieces to play!

    * Readings: My daughter had the following Irish wedding vow
    on the front of her program:

    By the power that Christ brought from heaven, mayst thou love me.
    As the sun follows its course, mayst thou follow me.
    As light to the eye, as bread to the hungry, as joy to the heart,
    may thy presence be with me, oh one that I love,
    'til death comes to part us asunder.

    On the back of the program, she had this old Irish proverb:
    Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow.
    Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
    Walk beside me and just be my friend.

    * The Irish Wedding Song. Very popular at contemporary Irish
    weddings. We had two friends sing this at my daughter's
    reception while the newlyweds cut the cake. (Afterwards I
    thought we should have had the lyrics typed up and placed on
    the tables so that everyone could join in).

    * Flowers. In the old days, many Irish brides wore a wreath
    of wildflowers in their hair; they also carried them in
    bouquets. For my daughter's wedding, our florist designed
    gorgeous bouquets that included a flower called Bells of
    Ireland. In Wales, brides carried live myrtle and gave a
    sprig to each bridesmaid which they planted. If it grew, the
    bridesmaid would marry within the year. If you're planning a
    more general Celtic celebration, this might be worth

    * Ancient custom: In the old days, couples ate salt and
    oatmeal at the beginning of their reception: Each of them
    took three mouthfuls as a protection against the power of
    the evil eye. Also, when a couple is dancing, the bride
    can't take both feet off the floor because the fairies
    will get the upper hand. Fairies love beautiful things and
    one of their favorites is a bride. 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. I've also heard that it's bad luck for
    anyone to wear green at an Irish wedding - but I think it
    really only applies to the bride. It's also bad luck for a
    bride or the groom to sing at their own wedding.

    Portents and omens:

    * 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

    * 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.

    Many other customs are interspersed throughout the book,
    e.g. (from the reception section) the top tier of your
    wedding cake should be an Irish whiskey cake which is saved
    for the christening of your first baby. I've also heard of
    another custom which just came to my attention and will be
    included in the next edition: a bottle of champagne is saved
    from the reception so that it can be used to 'wet the baby's
    head' at the christening.

    In finally making this book a reality, my hope is that when
    he says to you 'would you like to be buried with my people',
    or you say to him 'would you like to hang your washing next
    to mine', you'll say yes, and then use the suggestions to
    help you plan an Irish celebration reflective of your roots
    and as romantic as your heritage.

    And for all engaged couples and their families in the midst
    of pre-wedding chaos, I raise a parting glass: May all your
    joys be pure joy and all your pain champagne.


    Bridget Haggerty

    Get this book by visiting here: <A HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0937702188/theinformatabout">AMAZON BOOKSTORE</a>

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