It’s no secret that us Irish can be a superstitious bunch. Whether it’s warding off those temperamental fairies, paying heed to old piseogs ‘just in case’, or avoiding curses and plagues, we often seem to end up doing nonsensical things in the run up to important occasions to make sure everything goes according to plan. Weddings in particular are an event when people seem to be especially superstitious. Brides and grooms all over the world still adhere some of the old traditions like not spending the night before the wedding together, wearing something old, new, borrowed and blue, and so on.
Irish people however have a whole other set of obscure superstitions when it comes to weddings. Some of these are associated with religious blessings, some are rooted in old family traditions, and some are just plain weird! Here, we’ve rounded up all of the old Irish wedding superstitions we could find so you can make sure your big day goes off without any fairy spells, hexes or sudden disasters!
Preparing for the Wedding
To ensure good weather and great photos on the day, someone from the happy couple’s family would place or bury a Child of Prague statue on the grounds of the church the day before the ceremony (or first thing in the morning on the day). St. Patrick’s Day was considered to be the best day to get married. There are two common poems that detailed what months of the year and days of the week a couple should or shouldn’t get married: Marry when the year is new, always loving, kind and true When February birds do mate, you may wed, nor dread your fate. If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you’ll know. Marry in April when you can, joy for maiden and for man. Marry in the month of May, you will surely rue the day. Marry when June roses blow, over land and sea you’ll go. They who in July do wed, must labour always for their bread. Whoever wed in August be, many a change are sure to see. Marry in September’s shine, your living will be rich and fine. If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry. If you wed in bleak November, only joy will come, remember. When December’s showers fall fast, marry and true love will last. Monday for health, Tuesday for wealth Wednesday the best day of all, Thursday for losses, Friday for crosses Saturday is no day at all.
There was also a poem for the colour the bride should wear too (yes, they really thought of everything!): Marry in white, everything’s right Marry in blue, lover be true Marry in pink, spirits will sink Marry in grey, live far away Marry in brown, live out of town Marry in green, ashamed to be seen Marry in yellow, ashamed of your fellow Marry in black, wish you were back Marry in red, wish you were dead Marry in tan, he’ll be a loved man Marry in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl.
Before the Ceremony
While getting dressed, the bride’s veil should be placed on her head by a woman who is already happily married, to make sure that she is always happy in her married life too. More often than not this was the bride’s mother. The Bride would also wear wildflowers in her hair and bouquet and carry a horseshoe (always pointing upwards so the luck never ran out) into the church for good luck. Another tradition was to carry a white embroidered hanky, which would later be turned into a christening bonnet for her children. Placing a small Irish penny in the shoe was also considered to be lucky. On the morning of the ceremony, if a piece of tableware was broken around the bride or groom or if a dog happened to lick either one of them, this was not a good sign.
On the Way to the Church
When making their way to the church for the ceremony, the bride and groom would be distraught if they passed a funeral; it meant bad luck for the entirety of their married lives. If they heard a cuckoo calling or saw a trio of magpies however, that meant good luck for their entire marriage instead. Bad weather on the day of the wedding was seen as a guaranteed sign of a long, happy marriage. But given the ever-changing weather in Ireland and the prevalence of rain showers, this is one particular superstition that can be taken with an especially big pinch of salt!
During the Ceremony
Guests were handed out small bells to ring at certain periods of the ceremony. This was intended to ward off evil spirits, and later became a way to celebrate the couple - much like today’s tradition of throwing confetti. If the bride’s dress somehow got a tear during the ceremony, never fear; this was a sign of extreme, immediate good luck! No particular luck - good or bad - comes to the groom if the same thing happens to him however. If the ring fell to the floor at any point during the ceremony, the procedure would likely have to start all over again, as this was considered extreme bad luck. It was also considered bad for the bride or groom to sing.
Leaving the Church
When leaving the church immediately after the ceremony, the bride should look at the sun so that her future children will be beautiful (although we don’t advise that you look directly at it on a clear day - at least not without sun glasses!) Also after the ceremony, the groom should throw a handful of coins into the crowd outside the church in order to bring good luck to the married couple. This one makes for a good photo opportunity and can be a nice counterpart to the bride throwing her bouquet. When the bride and groom steps outside from the church, a wedding guest would throw a shoe over their head to bring good luck to the happy couple. If you attempt this, make sure your aim is good enough to aim over, not at, the couple! When the bride and groom walk out of the church to greet their guests, it was highly important that the first person to give them their well wishes was a man, not a woman (who knows why!).
At the Wedding Reception
Before the guests and the couple arrives at the wedding reception, some whiskey would be sprinkled on the grounds to ward off evil spirits, ensure everyone had an enjoyable evening and wish the bride and groom well. During the first dance, the bride would not under any circumstances lift both feet off the floor. If she did, the fairies would swoop in and take her away, because they had a special liking for brides. At the start of the wedding feast, the bride and groom would eat a small portion of salted porridge before the ‘proper’ food was brought out, to protect them from the ‘evil eye’ (i.e. curses and bad luck). When retiring for the night, the bride and groom should always, always leave at the same time, and together, or else they will spend much of their married lives apart. Furthermore if the bride was left alone the fairies would be sure to come and take her away.
Green was once deemed an unlucky colour in Ireland since it was a favourite of the fairies (this was before it was adopted by the nationalist movement of the early 20th century as a symbol of Irishness). Any guest who showed up to the ceremony wearing green would most likely have been shunned and never spoken to again! If a guest was seen to tie a knot in a handkerchief during the ceremony, it was said to bring ill-will to the couple, especially regarding children; none would be born to the couple until the knot was opened again. If a guest kisses the bride before the groom gets a chance, that was one of the worst cases of bad luck possible. Hence the part of the ceremony when the groom kisses the bride on the altar for everyone to see!
After the Wedding
Have you ever wondered where the phrase ‘honeymoon’ came from? On the wedding day, both bride and groom would would drink meade (also known as ‘honey wine’) to encourage fertility and of course to keep the fairies at bay. One month after the wedding day they would drink a cup of it again - i.e on their ‘honeymoon!’ Along the same lines as this, the bride and groom should not enter their home until at least a month after the wedding if they wanted a long, happy marriage together. As the bride entered her home for the first time as a married woman, her mother in law would break a piece of the wedding her cake over her head as she stepped through the door. This was to ensure that both women would always be friends. The entire wedding party - bride and groom included - should take the longest road home from the reception so that (symbolically at least) they’re guaranteed to always journey together.