There’s something quite enchanting about the Irish – the playful lilt, the twinkle in the eye, the generous hospitality, that penchant for song and dance and irascible love of life can win over even the most hardened of hearts. Then, there’s the country itself, a lush, green land of outstanding natural splendour. As they immigrated to new lands across the world, the Irish took with them jovial traditions we now take for granted. One of these, the feast day of St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is celebrated around the world on the 17th of March…and, say the Irish, ‘tis the luckiest day of the year to wed!
But gaudy rainbows and little leprechauns leaping about, on your wedding day? Not so much, we hear you say! We agree. Fortunately, a St Patrick’s Day wedding needn’t be about these tacky clichés – cast them aside, and instead take your cue from Ireland’s rich cultural and natural heritage.
Emerald Isle, Emerald Ring!
While modern day advertising campaigns sell us diamonds, there are rarer and more precious gemstones that make for a spectacular engagement ring. Take the highly-prized emerald –
Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, was given a corker of a green gem by the man who gave up the throne to marry her – ex-King Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor; while Jacqueline Kennedy also sported a giant emerald, courtesy of hubbie JFK.
Get the Right Green for Your Scheme!
It’s Emerald 17-5641, which Pantone describes as ‘lively, radiant, lush – a colour of elegance and beauty that enhances our sense of wellbeing, balance and harmony’. Neutral shades like ivory or grey, or soft lilac, pale teal or dusty pink provide a muted backdrop to dazzling emerald. For a bolder look, pair emerald green with a rich, dark purple.
Theme it Celtic Cool
Take your wedding stationery design reference from the very particular fonts and motifs which are associated with Celtic culture – that typical Irish upper-case calligraphic writing which was the early Christian monks’ twist on ancient Celtic runes, and traditional Celtic artwork featuring striking geometric symbols such as spirals, chevrons, scrolls and knots.
Pot o’ Gold
Says Irish mythology, those mischievous little fairies known as leprechauns stash their gold coins in pots at the end of rainbows – out of reach of the sticky fingers of human beings! You may never get your hands on the leprechauns’ gold, but you can have a little table bling on your wedding day. Used sparingly and in the right places, gold plays a perfect accent to emerald green.
Did you know that traditional Celtic wedding dresses are blue, not white (which is where the tradition of wearing something blue on your wedding day started)? For a hint of Irish, rather than full on Celtic, opt for a pale teal, duck egg blue or grey-blue to compliment brilliant emerald green accessories and décor.
Style it Simple
Irish brides don’t do veils, m’darling! Instead, they wear uncomplicated, pretty wildflower wreaths. Braided hair symbolises power and luck for Gaelic gals, so best advise your hair stylist to get plaiting. And if you’re a flaming redhead, all the better m’dear!
And a Sixpence in Her Shoe
Another Irish wedding tradition now practised worldwide, thanks to the Irish Diaspora – a lucky silver sixpence in the bride’s shoe. Originally, the sixpence was the bride’s dowry, presented to her by the family’s feudal lord (for the working poor) or father (the aristocracy).
Kilt Him Up!
While it’s the Scots that take all the credit for tartan and kilts, it’s actually a Celtic and not just a Scottish thing…which means that kilts are formal menswear in Ireland, too. So whether it’s a nod to your own Celtic heritage, or perhaps just to the spirit of St Patrick, say bye-bye to the wedding suit and top o’ the morning to the Irish kilt!
Ireland is littered with old stone churches, medieval castles and other stately homes – providing princess brides with dramatic backdrops for the big day, and seriously romantic honeymoon spots, too. The best time of year to visit Ireland is in the summer – June through September. Be warned, though: even then it can get chilly so pack warm!
- Search for your perfect fairytale Celtic castle over here…
Luck of the Irish
The Irish do love their horses, and the horseshoe remains a lucky charm – particularly at weddings. Ask your local stable yard if they have any old ones lying about, and put them to creative use in your wedding décor – in table centrepieces, as door or wall hangings at your reception venue or in floral arrangements at the church. Do remember to display your horseshoes the right way up, though – that’s with the open ends facing up, so that your luck doesn’t run out…!
Tie the Knot – Literally
We speak figuratively about tying the knot when we wed, but this idiom actually comes from the ancient Celtic and Norse hand-fasting (or hand-binding) ceremony, a symbolic act in which a holy man or woman would fasten the couple’s hands together with cord. In this way, two lovers would promise (or contract) themselves to each other, for as long as it suited both parties (the Judeo-Christian concept of marriage for life didn’t necessarily make sense to the pragmatic Celtic and Norse way of life!).
We can thank the Irish for bringing the séibín (pronounced ‘shebeen’) – a ramshackle, casual pub which operates without a liquor licence – to South Africa, where it’s been absorbed into local culture. An Irish whiskey bar is sure to keep the lads happy, and for the sweet lasses, stock up on Bailey’s Irish Cream. And don’t forget the Guinness to get the shindig going. Slainté!
Remember: that’s whiskey with an ‘e’; whisky refers to the Scotch variety.
Traditional Irish wedding cakes are rich fruit cakes with white icing, often topped with a shamrock for good luck. This beautiful Boho-inspired wedding cake gives the old favourite a new spin, referencing Irish folklore, which is full of fairies and forests, magic and mystery. Almost a pity to cut into it and give it away, now!