In years gone by, traditional brides in Ireland used to wear a blue wedding dress. Blue was considered pure. It wasn’t until 1499 that white wedding dresses started being worn by Irish brides because then white symbolized virginity and purity. Another unusual tradition that Irish weddings generally followed years gone by was in the locking of the church door during the ceremony. This was supposedly done to prevent the groom from running away during the wedding. Another old, unique tradition in Irish weddings was when the bride and groom tied an actual knot. The couples hands were joined together using a rope or cord. This was done to symbolize the union of the bride and groom and the bond of marriage and this is where the phrase ‘tying the knot’ comes from.
During the ceremony, the bride and groom were meant to walk together to the church before they exchanged their vows. The onlookers would bless their union by throwing rice and other large items like pots and pans to the bride and groom. The bride was expected to have her hair braided on the wedding day. Braided hair represented luck and feminine power. Most brides wanted their wedding to fall on the St. Patrick’s Day because long ago it was considered the best day to have a wedding anniversary in Ireland.
The Irish considered the honeymoon as a special month when the couples would spend their days drinking honeyed wine in a secluded place. This is where the phrase honeymoon is coined from as it was seen as the ‘month of honey’. It was assumed that after the month was over, the bride would become pregnant and the family wouldn’t separate them especially if they had eloped. Nowadays, the traditional Claddagh Ring is often given as a wedding ring.
British wedding traditions are quite interesting. The most common one is the fact that bridesmaids were expected to wear white and look like the bride in order to confuse/ward off the evil spirits. The Church of England had its own standard vows which were not supposed to be altered. This is why traditionally the bride and the groom did not kiss after saying the vows. However, this soon changed.
The bride’s wedding bouquet had to include myrtle which was considered a herb of love. Brides from the royal family had to include a spring of myrtle in their bouquet as seen first in Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840. When the bride found a spider on her dress, it was considered as a sign of good luck. However, if they met a funeral on their way to the ceremony, it was a sign of bad luck.
In British weddings, the bouquet was not thrown to wedding guests. This tradition began in 1923 when the Queen Mother placed her bouquet on the grave of a World War 1 soldier after her wedding to the then Duke of York. She did this in honour of her late brother who was also killed at war. This tradition has been followed by royal families since then.
In British weddings, sapphire was included in the brides’ wedding rings because it symbolizes happiness in a marriage. Ideally, bridesmaids in British weddings are meant to be children and the bridal party is also smaller compared to other countries.
In traditional British weddings, the bride must enter first down the aisle. The bride is then followed by the young page boys and bridesmaids. The other common British wedding custom is when they place a penny or sixpence in the bride’s shoes.
These are some of the traditions and customs which surround British and Irish weddings. They have changed overtime so most of them are now not put into practice. However, they remind the British and Irish people of their diversity so everyone should appreciate them and it is also interesting to see how wedding traditions and themes have changed over time.