Ireland is full of traditions and we’ve chosen to highlight a few of our favorite Irish wedding traditions. We’ve had Wild Westies from all over celebrate their weddings and anniversaries with us.
You might be familiar with the wedding tradition of “something old, something new / something borrowed, something blue.” The rhyme is even referenced in a text from Donegal by a teacher, Somhairle Mac Ádhaimh. As far back as the 1400’s, Irish brides wore a blue dress, rather than a white. Blue was symbolic of purity, much like white is today. We don’t see a lot of blue wedding dresses today, but a few Irish brides might tuck a blue handkerchief under their gown for good luck. Some sources say that the handkerchief is later given to the firstborn child, and, if the child is a girl, she will take it with her on her wedding day to continue the tradition. Pink was a popular choice for bridesmaid dresses – to offset the blue and declare a lady’s single status!
You might know them as ‘mummers’ or even ‘wren boys’, but according to our colleague and Sligo historian, Joe McGowan, the Strawboy tradition is more specific to Irish weddings than other celebrations. Strawboys are usually a group of men dressed in conical straw hats and straw skirts- heavily disguised so nobody in the party knows who they are. While their visit is short [usually a half hour or less], they are considered bringers of luck and prosperity to the newlywed couple. Strawboys crown the couple in straw, sing, dance and make a celebratory spectacle among members of the wedding party. Consider these fine fellows the original ‘wedding crashers’. They’d travel across Northwestern Ireland; even as far as Dublin, and surprise couples with their presence.
Grushee Rush In
Speaking of Dublin; user Maura Murphy of Adrian O’Neill’s Sligo History & Heritage Club page on Facebook mentioned a tradition she believes comes from that very city: the grushee.
“A male member of the bridal party, could be the best man or father of the bride, would throw a decent handful of coins up in the are above the waiting heads of the local children outside the church after the wedding,” says Maura. “The rush to pick the most up by the children was called the grushee.” She adds that the children would then rush off to the ‘flick’ [movies] as the coins would cover the expense of a Saturday picture show – Saturday being very popular for Irish weddings.
In line with the throwing of items, one might expect rice, or flowers, maybe even confetti. The last thing any new bride might expect is to have boots flung her way. These boots were often a traditional symbol of good luck, however – whether they wound up tied to the back of the car. You might’ve seen it in the movies, boots or cans, and sometimes both. It’s unclear why this is perceived as lucky – but at the very least, it was a unique way to, er, shoe in some good feelings for the bride and groom.
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Joe McGowan once also told Wild West Irish tours about the ‘Faery Tree of Benbulben’ – an interlocked pair of trees that grow as one, marking a majestic “X” against the sky. Rumor has it that if one were to make a romantic gesture in front of this tree, the faeries in the surrounding wilderness would bless the union.
Don’t Wear Green
Last but not least, perhaps one of the most interesting facts discovered about Irish wedding traditions is that nobody wears green on the day of the wedding. Not the bridesmaids [unless they’re specifically sisters to the bride who are older and unmarried], not the guests, and certainly not the bride. Green on your wedding day is deemed incredibly unlucky and frowned-upon for reasons unknown. A really surprising tradition, considering one of the first things people think of when they think ‘Ireland’ is ‘green’!
While these are only a handful of Irish wedding traditions, we encourage you to share yours with us. Come to celebrate a union in the Wild West of Ireland and perhaps you’ll find that you make your own traditions in the process.
– Sam Fishkind.