* 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.
Portents and omens:
* A fine day meant good luck, especially if the sun shone on the bride. If you're a Roman Catholic, one way to make certain that it won't rain is to put a statue of the Infant of Prague outside the church before your ceremony.
* It was unlucky to marry on a Saturday.
* Those who married in harvest would spend all their lives gathering
* A man should always be the first to wish joy to the bride, never a woman
*It was lucky to hear a cuckoo on the wedding morning, or to see three magpies
* To meet a funeral on the road meant bad luck and if there was a funeral procession planned for that day, the wedding party always took a different road
* The wedding party should always take the longest road home from the church
* It was bad luck if a glass or cup were broken on the wedding day
*A bride and groom should never wash their hands in the same sink at the same time it's courting disaster if they do
* It was said to be lucky if you married during a 'growing moon and a flowing tide'
* When leaving the church, someone must throw an old shoe over the bride's head so she will have good luck
* If the bride's mother-in-law breaks a piece of wedding cake on the bride's head as she enters the house after the ceremony, they will be friends for life.
Many other customs are interspersed throughout the book, e.g. (from the reception section) the top tier of your wedding cake should be an Irish whiskey cake which is saved for the christening of your first baby. I've also heard of another custom which just came to my attention and will be included in the next edition: a bottle of champagne is saved from the reception so that it can be used to 'wet the baby's head' at the christening.
In finally making this book a reality, my hope is that when he says to you 'would you like to be buried with my people', or you say to him 'would you like to hang your washing next to mine', you'll say yes, and then use the suggestions to help you plan an Irish celebration reflective of your roots and as romantic as your heritage.
And for all engaged couples and their families in the midst of pre-wedding chaos, I raise a parting glass: May all your joys be pure joy and all your pain champagne.
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