Irish Catholic Wedding Traditions

Ireland church image by AGITA LEIMANE from

Many couples today try to honor their past and their heritage when it comes to planning their wedding. Couples with an Irish Catholic background,for example, might want to bring in certain types of traditions and customs. The traditions found in an Irish Catholic wedding include both modern-day interpretations and older customs. Modern-day couples may want to play Irish music and use the color green in their wedding, but others focus on the traditions associated with their ancestors.


Shamrocks and clovers are both associated with the Irish, and both have a place in an Irish Catholic wedding. Faux flowers are available for those who live in an area where shamrocks and clovers are not readily available. Couples may opt to use carnations or another less expensive flower, particularly those dyed in green. The edges of the flowers remain a bright shade of green, and the interior petals have a lighter coloring. Bells of Ireland, which are a traditional green flower, are another option some couples may prefer. Use the flowers in the flower girl baskets, as boutonnieres and in the bouquets carried by bridesmaids.


Handfasting is a traditional custom that took place in Irish Catholic weddings. Originally, the custom was held in rural areas and was a declaration of marriage, although at times it was also used as an announcement of an upcoming wedding. The couple held hands and had their hands bound together with ribbons or string as they announced their commitment to each other. The use of the Claddagh ring was also common and is still used today. The ring consists of two hands holding a heart, with a crown on top. The crown represents loyalty, the hands indicate friendship and the heart stands for the couple’s love for each other.


Irish Catholic weddings use specific types of food, including mead and particularly mead made with a honey base or flavoring. The honey represented virility, and some historians believe that it gave way to the term honeymoon, indicating the time the couple spends together after the wedding. Irish weddings also use fruitcake instead of the sugary cake often served at wedding receptions. The fruitcake may have a layer of frosting or icing on top. Modern-day wedding often use a Irish whiskey or cream filling inside the cake. Other traditional foods for this type of ceremony include soda bread, cabbage, potatoes and corned beef.


Wedding vows at an Irish Catholic wedding focus on the Bible and the traditions of the church. The priest covers three areas during the ceremony: the rite of nuptials; solemn promise; and a third part, which varies depending on the church. The couple may also opt for a short song or musical piece to be played before the exchange of rings. The vows focus on the expression of love between the couple and celebrating their new commitment to each other.

Other Traditions

Carrying a horseshoe on the wedding day is another tradition dating back to historical Irish Catholic weddings. Originally, brides carried an authentic metal horseshoe, but today it’s more common for the bride to carry a porcelain or ceramic horseshoe for luck. Brides also carry a magic handkerchief, which is a simply piece of fabric tucked inside their bouquet. Later, the handkerchief is turned into a bonnet or hat for her first child at his or her christening. Bells are another tradition and involves the couple giving bells to their guests. The guests ring the bells throughout the ceremony, and the couple takes one bell home. When they fight or have an argument, they ring the bell and drive away the evil spirits causing the fight.