March is a great time of year for looking at Celtic Wedding traditions! Celtic traditions have influenced weddings for centuries. I am going to look at the 3 parts of a Celtic Wedding: the ceremony, the meal, and the dancing.
1. Celtic Wedding Ceremony
Wedding ceremonies using Celtic traditions can tie the past to the present. Bagpipes would precede the wedding party into the church leading the wedding walk. Once all are gathered, the officiant will lead a hand fasting ceremony tying the couple’s hands together. Handfasting symbolizes the binding together of two people (thus the phrase “tying the knot!”). After the couple has declared their vows, they will light a Celtic unity candle, representing two becoming one.
3 Celtic Wedding Ceremony parts
- Wedding walk led by bagpipes
- Unity Candle
2. Celtic Wedding Meal
In days gone by guests would walk long distances to attend weddings. So, guests expected a hearty meal so they could make the journey home. Travel has improved, but many of the Celtic meal traditions remain.
One ancient tradition to ward off evil was for the bride and groom to consume salt and oatmeal at the beginning of the meal. Salt and oatmeal may not fit in with your wedding theme. But a tasty touch for today would be a salted caramel oatmeal cookie as a sweet starter.
As a sign of trust, the couple would drink from the Quaich. This is the ‘Loving Cup.’ It is a two-handled silver bowl which is filled with whisky, by the bride, and then passed around for the wedding party to sip. Often the Quaich will be tipped over above the head to show that the contents have been drained.
Saving the best for last is why we have cake after dinner. Breaking bread over the head of the couple is a roman tradition that inspired the wedding cake. Traditionally, a Celtic wedding cake is a three-layer, whiskey-laced fruitcake with almond paste spread on each layer. The top layer is preserved to eat at the christening of the couple’s first child. But you can do what fits your wedding style and add the touches that fit you best.
3 Celtic Meal Elements
- Salt and oatmeal to ward off evil. (salted caramel oatmeal cookie)
- Quaich- ‘Loving Cup.’ Shared drink of whisky.
- 3 layer whisky laced cake
3. Celtic Wedding Dancing
No wedding is complete without a first dance. Even in Celtic traditions it is customary for the bride and groom to have the first dance as the guests of honor. A Waltz or a Jig would have been the most popular first dance choices.
Now it is time to get the rest of the guests up and dancing. Couples will gather behind the bride and groom as they lead a grand march around the room. Most often they would march to Bagpipes or a band.
Then they are ready for the real fun. Ceilidh or Ceili Dancing. A cèilidh or céilí is a traditional Scottish or Irish social gathering involving set dances. These set dances can include Strip the Willow, the Gay Gordons, Fairy Reel, and other traditional dances.
3 Celtic Wedding dances
- First Dance Waltz or Jig.
- Grand March
- Ceilidh or Ceili group Dancing
You now have 3 of the parts of a Celtic Wedding. Have fun using the parts that fit your wedding style. Did you miss one of your favorite traditions? Leave a recommendation below.