The Diversity of Wedding Ceremonies in Ireland

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With Ireland’s Census 2011 just around the corner (on the night of April 10th), and the first Civil Partnership ceremonies taking place this week, we’ll soon be discovering what a multicultural, diverse country Ireland really is.  People from all over the world have come to live here, and many of them have fallen in love, gotten married, and had children.

Until the results of this census are known, we won’t really have a clear picture of modern day Irish society.  The most up to date data we have is from 2007, but it still paints an interesting picture of the reality of diversity in Ireland.  In that year…

•    There were 22,756 marriages registered.
•    74% were Roman Catholic marriages.
•    23% were civil ceremonies.
•    2% were Church of Ireland marriages.
•    1% were any other religious marriage (Presbyterian, Methodist, Jewish, etc).

Of course, being in Ireland, the wedding ceremony most of us would be familiar with would be the Roman Catholic ceremony, and many of our missies will be having their own Catholic ceremonies in churches around the country.

But there are many other cultures and customs in today’s Ireland, and each of them have their own unique wedding ceremonies.  Here is just a sample of what some wedding ceremonies involve!

Couples are married under the chuppah a wedding canopy made from a piece of cloth or other material attached to four poles, or a prayer shawl (tallit) held over the couple by four family members or friends.  The chuppah represents their new home together as a married couple.

The Saptapadi is an important element of any Hindu wedding, where the couple walks around a sacred fire 7 times. With each circuit, the couple makes a specific vow to establish some aspect of a happy relationship and household for each other.

The Mehndi ceremony is often one of the most important pre-wedding rituals for brides from the Indian subcontinent.  It is a fun filled ritual, which is celebrated mainly by the bride’s family, in which intricate designs are painted on the bride’s hands and feet using henna.  It is believed that the longer the henna designs take to fade, the happier the marriage will be.

A handfasting is a marriage custom in which the hands of the marrying couple are tied together. It is the origin of the phrase tying the knot.’  After the exchange of rings and vows, the couple face each other and join their newly ringed hands. Their right hands are placed above and below these. A cord of 5-6 feet in length is then wrapped a few times around the hands and joined at the top with a knot. They are then pronounced husband and wife, and share their first married kiss.

Traditionally, a tea ceremony precedes the wedding.  First the groom offers tea to the bride’s parents, which symbolises asking for her hand in marriage.  Then the bride will offer tea to the groom’s parents, which symbolises that she has been accepted as their daughter-in-law.


4 thoughts on “The Diversity of Wedding Ceremonies in Ireland”

  1. Fearga says:

    I think its fantastic to see such a wide range of ways to celebrate marraige.
    I heard before about the celtic tradition of tying knots and would love to ahve this at my wedding.
    Are proests familiar with this do you know? I would love to have it.

  2. Annie Byrne says:

    Great post! Ireland is becoming much more diverse and I hope we have more of it!

  3. Kirsten says:

    Hi Fearga,

    We used Dara Molloy – he’s a Celtic priest from the Aran Islands. (

  4. Brian says:

    Generally it isnt carried out in catholic ceremonies, its much older than the current catholic wedding ceremony and it isnt included generally by the church – we did a handfasting ceremonny with Dara Molloy – he is brilliant and it is very very unique ceremony.

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