An Irish wedding is very similar to US and UK weddings. The bride wears a white dress, there’s always cake, and it’s an all-day affair full of music, food and celebrations. Many of the traditions are the same too. The exchange of wedding rings, throwing the bouquet, bridesmaids and groomsmen, and so on.
Every country has their own unique elements to add to the day however. For example, in Poland it’s customary to have a special photo shoot after the wedding day. These are the ‘official’ wedding photos instead of any pictures taken on the wedding day itself. In Italy, guests give envelopes with money to the bride for a chance to dance with her. In Sweden, the bride and groom walk into the church together.
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Another element of wedding that varies hugely from country to country is the recital of wedding vows. In Ireland, not only are there traditional vows that couples use, but there are also two choices. Couples have the option to exchange vows in English or in Irish. While saying them in Irish Gaelic gives the ceremony a very traditional and cultural feel, not everyone will be able to understand what the bride and groom are saying!
Most couples, even the gaeilgeoirs among us will often choose English or a mixture of both. If you’re thinking about adding some traditional vows to your big day, here some options; both English and Irish.
Here is an extensive guide with Traditional Irish Wedding Vows, Irish and Celtic Wedding Blessings, and even a couple of wedding vows in the Irish language!
1. Traditional Irish Wedding Vows
Catholicism is the biggest religion in Ireland. Many couples still opt for a traditional church wedding so the majority of Irish wedding vows come from Roman Catholic ceremonies. Here is the most commonly used set of religious vows, followed by the less commonly used vows.
Groom: I (name), take you (name) as my wife,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
till death us do part. (Or: all the days of our life.)
Bride: Repeats this with alternate names and titles.
Priest: What God joins together man must not separate.
May the Lord confirm the consent that you have given,
and enrich you with his blessings.
The couple then exchange rings.
Priest: Lord, bless (name) and (name) and consecrate their married life. May these rings be a symbol of their faith in each other and a reminder to them of their love. Through Christ our Lord.
The couple then recites the following prayer, and the ceremony is complete;
Bride and Groom: We thank you, Lord, and we praise you for bringing us to this happy day.
You have given us to each other. Now, together, we give ourselves to you.
We ask you Lord:
make us one in our love:
keep us one in your peace.
Protect our marriage. Bless our home.
Make us gentle. Keep us faithful.
And when life is over unite us again
where parting is no more in the kingdom of your love.
There we will praise you in the happiness and peace
of our eternal home. Amen.
2. Celtic Wedding Vows
Some old Celtic vows from the time before Catholicism was widespread in Ireland include;
“Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone.
I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One.
I give ye my Spirit, `til our Life shall be Done.
You cannon possess me for I belong to myself
But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give
You cannon command me, for I am a free person
But I shall serve you in those ways you require
and the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from my hand.”
“I vow you the first cut of my meat, the first sip of my wine,
from this day it shall only your name I cry out in the night
and into your eyes that I smile each morning;
I shall be a shield for your back as you are for mine,
never shall a grievous word be spoken about us,
for our marriage is sacred between us and no stranger shall hear my grievance.
Above and beyond this, I will cherish and honor you through this life
and into the next.”
“I, (name), in the name of the spirit of God that resides within us all, by the life that courses within my blood and the love that resides within my heart, take thee (name) to my hand, my heart, and my spirit, to be my chosen one. To desire thee and be desired by thee, to possess thee, and be possessed by thee, without sin or shame, for naught can exist in the purity of my love for thee. I promise to love thee wholly and completely without restraint, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in poverty, in life and beyond, where we shall meet, remember, and love again. I shall not seek to change thee in any way. I shall respect thee, thy beliefs, thy people, and thy ways as I respect myself.
“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.”
“We swear by peace and love to stand,
Heart to heart and hand to hand.
Mark, O Spirit, and hear us now,
Confirming this our Sacred Vow.”
“You are the star of each night,
You are the brightness of every morning,
You are the story of each guest,
You are the report of every land.
No evil shall befall you, on hill nor bank,
In field or valley, on mountain or in glen.
Neither above, nor below, neither in sea,
Nor on shore, in skies above,
Nor in the depths.
You are the kernel of my heart,
You are the face of my sun,
You are the harp of my music,
You are the crown of my company.”
“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.”
“May the gentle breeze bear witness to this ritual, and carry its message to all lands. May the sun warm their hearts, and its ever burning fire fuel their desire for each other. May the water provide for them from its bounty, and comfort their souls with their sounds. May the land lend its strength and reveal its mysteries.”
3. Irish Wedding Blessings
The following are some old Irish blessings, usually used during toasts and speeches but can easily be reworked into some very romantic and personal vows;
“May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon your fields. May the light of friendship guide your paths together, May the laughter of children grace the halls of your home. May the joy of living for each other trip a smile from your lips, a twinkle from your eye. And when eternity beckons, at the end of the life heaped high with love, May the good Lord embrace you with the arms that have nurtured you the whole length of your joy-filled days. May the gracious God hold you both in the palm of His hands. And, today, may the Spirit of Love find a dwelling place in your hearts.”
“May joy and peace surround you both, Contentment latch your door, And happiness be with you now And God Bless you Evermore. May you live you life with trust, And nurture lifelong affection, May your lifelong dreams come true for you, Move ever that direction.”
“Happy is the bride that rain falls on. May your mornings bring joy and your evenings bring peace. May your troubles grow few as your blessings increase. May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past. May your hands be forever clasped in friendship and your hearts joined forever in love. Your lives are very special, God has touched you in many ways. May his blessings rest upon you And fill all your coming days.”
“May you feel no rain, for each of you will be a shelter to the other. May you feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth for the other. May there be no loneliness for you; Though you are two persons, but there is one life before you. May you go to your dwelling place to enter into the days of your togetherness, And may your days be good and long together.”
“May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow, May the soft winds freshen your spirit. May the sunshine brighten your heart, May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you. And may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.”
“May the longtime sun shine on you, All love surround you, And pure light within you, Guide you on your way.”
“There they stand, hand in hand, and exchange wedding bands. Today is the day of all their dreams and plans. And all of their loved ones are here to say, God bless this couple who marry today.”
“In good times and bad times, in sickness and health,
May they know that riches aren’t needed for wealth.
Help them face problems they’ll meet on their way —
God bless this couple who marry today.
May they find peace of mind comes to all who are kind,
May the rough times ahead become triumphs in time,
May their children be happy each day —
God bless this family who started today.
As they go, may they know every love that was shown,
And as life it gets shorter may their feelings grow.
Wherever they travel, wherever they stay,
God bless this couple who marry today.”
This is a common Irish blessing bestowed on the couple by the priest before leaving the church:
“May the meaning of this hour be fulfilled through the days and years to come. May the love of this man and this woman, their unity of spirit, grow deeper and stronger in the uncertainties and changes of life they will share.
Loving each other, may they love all persons. Trusting each other, may they learn to trust life. May their love reach out to the love of all, that their lives may bless all whose lives they touch. May they find comfort together in shared hours of shadow, as well as in the bright sunshine of joy.
May they be to each other both strong and gentle. May all who follow their lives with interest and affection have cause to rejoice not alone in their happiness, but in their brave and generous living which makes life beautiful and significant.”
4. Wedding Vows in Irish
And finally, for anyone who wants to attempt to say your vows in Irish, here is a similar version of the traditional Irish wedding ceremony vows above;
“Chun grá a thabhairt dá chéile go dílis, más fearr sinn, más measa, más saibhir, más bocht, más tinn nó más slán go scara an bás sinn (nó gach lá dár saol.)”
This translates to the ‘love each other faithfully, for richer or poorer’ section of the ceremony, i.e the vows proper.
“A Thiarna, beannaigh na fáinní seo. Deonaigh go mbeidh siad seo a chaithfidh iad dílis dá chéile i gcónaí. Go ndéana siad do thoilse agus go gcaithe siad a saol faoi shíocháin leatsa agus i ngrá lena chéile. Trí Chríost ár dTiarna.”
This is the translation of the priest’s blessing of the rings, i.e “Lord, bless these rings and let them be a reminder of their love for one another”… etc.
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