As I write this, I’m sitting in the (fleeting) Irish sun, nursing a cup of coffee after a long night at an Irish wedding yesterday. When I married my Irishman in 2008, at a ceremony and reception at our college in central Maine, I had no idea how different Irish and American weddings can be. I had a glimpse – my husband insisted on a few inclusions, like speeches and an extended curfew. But after more than five years in Ireland and countless weddings here, I thought it would be fun to outline some differences for you today. Weddings today are more and more a mix of different cultures, so who knows, you might like the sound of these and want to tap into your Irish heritage on your wedding day!
Irish Weddings Are Longer
Irish weddings can be more like marathons than sprints. They often start as early as 1pm and last for at least twelve hours. There is usually a generous gap between the ceremony and the reception, and then after dinner and dessert a band will often play before a DJ comes on for a late set. We attended a wedding a few months ago where the band was only taking a half-way break at 12:30am! The DJ was booked to start at 1am! And the bar at the venue was open until 5am. We were the first to leave at 1:30am – even before some of the children and older people! At our own wedding, my husband insisted that post-dinner dancing and drinks last until 1am, which was quite a bit later than most American weddings we have attended. By the end, we were exhausted but our Irish guests were still going strong!
(Pssst — want an all-nighter wedding? Read our tips on how to plan one here!)
Speeches / Betting on Speeches
Irish weddings don’t just have toasts from the wedding party, they have speeches. They can go on for minutes, but more often they go on for a lot longer. So long, that for the last few years there’s been a trend at Irish weddings for the guests to bet on how long the speeches will go on. And that trend has stuck around long enough that local betting companies have printable betting sheets couples can leave on each table to make it more official. I have to admit, I’ve never won, but if you do win you’re expected to buy a round of drinks for your table.
We introduced speeches into our wedding and I’m so glad we did. Instead of a quick toast, my husband, father, best man, father-in-law and maid of honor all gave the most beautiful speeches. I just got to sit back and enjoy! I can’t say exactly how long our wedding speeches ran, but I do know they were long enough for the Irish tables to work out their bets and for the Americans to decide they had to have them at their future weddings!
If you’re asked to be part of an Irish wedding, you’re in luck. The bride and groom are expected to pay for their bridal party’s attire for the day. However, as a guest, you’ll be expected to dress to the nines and sometimes take the day off work. Thursday and Friday weddings are very common in Ireland. We’ve even been invited to a Wednesday wedding this year! But with Irish vacation days numbering in the high teens, it’s not as much of a sacrifice as taking the day off for an American wedding.
Fruit cake is the traditional wedding cake flavour of choice. But thank goodness, chocolate biscuit cake is taking up a strong second lately. Most couples have wedding cakes made primarily of an appealing flavour but keep the top layer fruit cake. Sometimes they will even have a family member make that part of the wedding cake with a family recipe. The wedding cake is usually served well after dinner and dessert have come and gone, and the wedding cake will come out as a midnight (or later!) snack.
Infant of Prague
Most Irish couples know better than to plan for an outdoor wedding or reception without a back up plan because the Irish weather simply can’t be predicted. But in the many weddings I’ve edited as the online editor of Confetti Magazine, one of the clear themes is a reliance on the Infant of Prague for an extra edge against the Irish weather. The Infant of Prague is a little wooden statue that gets moved from indoors to outdoors under a hedge on a day that really relies on good weather. Sometimes the Infant works and sometimes he doesn’t, but he’s certainly trying awfully hard across Ireland on a weekly basis!
If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that you definitely have to be ready to sleep late the day after an Irish wedding! So tell me, do any of these traditions appeal? Anything you’d like to include in your wedding or any traditions from other cultures you plan on working into your wedding?
Emily Westbrooks is an American-born writer and blogger based in Dublin, Ireland. She is the Online Editor for Confetti Magazine, one of Ireland’s top bridal magazines. She also writes her own lifestyle blog, From China Village, where she chronicles her adventures in Dublin, travels around Europe, DIY projects and Irish design. She shares her home with her husband, one cat, and four sassy chickens!