The wonderful world of Irish wedding traditions
* Magic Hanky. This charming custom involves having the bride carry a special hanky that with a few stitches can be turned into a christening bonnet for the first baby. With a couple of snips it can be turned back into a hanky that your child can carry on his/her wedding day.
* Make-up bells. The chime of bells is thought to keep evil spirits away, restore harmony if a couple is fighting, and also remind a couple of their wedding vows. Giving a bell as a gift has become an Irish tradition. You could also have your greeters hand out tiny bells to your guests to ring as you process. (You might want to let them know when they're supposed to be rung - perhaps mention it in your program along with an explanation of the custom). Guests could also ring their little bells at the reception in lieu of clinking glasses.
* Irish Dancers. Consider hiring a group of Irish dancers to hand out your programs before the ceremony. Dressed in their full regalia, it would add a wonderful touch of of pageantry and color. They could also dance at the reception later. We did this at my daughter's reception and it was a major hit.
* Music. There's so much wonderful Irish music available, you'll have no problems in finding appropriate selections for both the ceremony and the reception. The difficulty will be in deciding which pieces to play!
* Readings: My daughter had the following Irish wedding vow on the front of her program:
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.
On the back of the program, she had this old Irish proverb: 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.
* The Irish Wedding Song. Very popular at contemporary Irish weddings. We had two friends sing this at my daughter's reception while the newlyweds cut the cake. (Afterwards I thought we should have had the lyrics typed up and placed on the tables so that everyone could join in).
* Flowers. In the old days, many Irish brides wore a wreath of wildflowers in their hair; they also carried them in bouquets. For my daughter's wedding, our florist designed gorgeous bouquets that included a flower called Bells of Ireland. In Wales, brides carried live myrtle and gave a sprig to each bridesmaid which they planted. If it grew, the bridesmaid would marry within the year. If you're planning a more general Celtic celebration, this might be worth considering.
* Ancient custom: In the old days, couples ate salt and oatmeal at the beginning of their reception: Each of them took three mouthfuls as a protection against the power of the evil eye. Also, when a couple is dancing, the bride can't take both feet off the floor because the fairies will get the upper hand. Fairies love beautiful things and one of their favorites is a bride. There's many an Irish legend about brides being spirited away by the little people! For the same reason, it's bad luck for a bride to wear green. I've also heard that it's bad luck for anyone to wear green at an Irish wedding - but I think it really only applies to the bride. It's also bad luck for a bride or the groom to sing at their own wedding.