Many people are drawn to the beauty and romanticism of a Celtic inspired wedding. They are captivated by the Ireland that they have seen in movies and popular television, filmed on location in this country and by the mystical land of their ancient ancestors, the Celts. That Ireland, the one that you saw in movies, heard about from your parents or grandparents or just imagined, is real. And easily accessible. And I am here to help you find the perfect forgotten and gorgeous place for your Irish wedding.
Ireland is full of beautiful, semi wild places- by that I mean to get to somewhere that looks deserted since the ancient Celts it doesn’t take long…
Ireland has a small population, based mostly in its cities and towns and an abundance of ancient sites that make the perfect locations for contemporary Celtic inspired ceremonies. Some places in Ireland that really inspire people are ancient castle hotels, ringforts or cashels (medieval earth or stone circles used at the time as enclosures for dwelling places and livestock), stone circles (alignment of which is related to sun rise/ set or in some cases stars or the moon therefore implying a ritual use- possibly one ritual they were used for was weddings), liminal places (places on the edge and where landscape changes- a perfect example is the cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare. This type of zone was considered powerful by the ancients and was often where gold dispositions were left or where complex tombs were placed. These two examples of worship- leaving of gold, and veneered death at the same type of landscape leads one to believe that these liminal zones, due to their power as perceived by the ancient Celts, could also be perfect for marriage or other important vows).
Some people may be drawn to places of worship and peace, such as the Skelligs (as seen in Star Wars), Glendalough or the less touristy Holy Island on Lough Derg http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/places/holy_island1.htm (Known in Irish or Gaelic as Inis Cealtra, this monastery was founded in 520AD by Colum. The island was raided by the Norse in the beginning of the ninth century. There is a Round Tower on the Island (known as the anchorites tower) and seven small ruined churches. Anytime I’ve been there I have seen at most one other group walking about. The island is a very short boat ride from the shore. Once a year there is a religious pilgrimage to the Island. A real gem of a spot for a ceremony.) Not too far away (15 miles) is the birthplace of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland from 1002 to 23 April 1014. Another quiet and beautiful historical location. The spot where ancient kings of Ireland were crowned- Uisneach is another unbelievable location for a small ceremony. Again- what an astounding historical location! Many people simply choose their ceremony location because of the beautiful landscape… Connemara is Co. Galway, Doolin or the Burren in Co. Clare, Dingle in Co. Kerry to name but a few.
As well as picturesque and historical or archaeological locales, Ireland has several venerable wedding customs and traditions, some said to date back as far as the ancient Celts.
One Celtic tradition worth noting was that they had ceremonies outdoors, close to nature. All of the sites that I mentioned above fit these criteria. Another aspect of the Celtic ceremony was the circle- this like the wedding ring symbolises an unbroken union and was drawn in the earth or can be drawn with other materials (such as petals, ivy, stones, glitter) around the couple at the start of the ceremony.
Traditional music is a big aspect of Celtic inspired weddings. Many people mention the Uillean Pipes, which are a traditional Irish instrument but they are so loud and rousing, like a call to arms, that I prefer the flute and the accordion or the fiddle. Any musician who can really play Irish music will know many many tunes, which are played in sets of three.
Music played live by traditional musicians is perfect for the ceremony and the reception. Some musicians will also have a singer with them and may be able to bring a traditional Sean Nos dancer (percussive dancer) if you request.
A Handfasting ceremony is an old wedding custom- its where we get the expression ‘tying the knot’. The couples hands are bound together by the celebrant after the exchange of rings. It creates great photo opportunities and it is an ancient custom- it used to be how people actually got married!
The Honeymoon is a very old custom too- a newly wed couple drank mead- honey wine- every night for a lunar cycle after their wedding to ensure fertility and good luck.
The last two points I’m going to mention are hair and the dress. For the Celts, plaited or braided hair was lucky. Maybe this is a hairstyle that you can use on your wedding day? As for the dress, for the Celts the color blue was lucky. White wedding dresses are relatively modern. Perhaps you can incorporate some blue into your wedding dress or ensemble to honor the ancients?
I am a wedding celebrant in Ireland and I perform all kinds of ceremonies including those mentioned above. Get in touch and I can help you to organize your Celtic inspired wedding in Ireland!