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Irish Wedding Night Traditions

An Irish Marriage Blessing

May God be with you and bless you;
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
May you know nothing but happiness.
From this day forward.

When planning our wedding in Ireland, my Irish born fiancé and I knew that we would want to incorporate some of the Irish traditions into our wedding.  Having grown up in the United States, I started researching everything I could find with regard to Irish wedding traditions.  During my research, I focused not only on the traditions regarding the ceremony and the reception, but also on the traditions that dealt with the wedding night itself.

As with many cultures, many Irish wedding traditions are steeped in myth, superstition and folklore.  A prime example of this is the belief that the new bride must enter her home by the main door, and that she must not trip or fall; hence the custom of the groom carrying his bride over the threshold.  This tradition is carried on today, although I believe it is done for a romantic motive in mind rather than for a superstitious one.

Another superstition stated that the spouse who went to sleep first on the wedding day would be the first to die.  This superstition seems pretty far fetched, but I am sure there are those who have fought prangs of sleep to ensure that they are they will be the last to go.

One interesting custom, practiced long ago in some rural areas, was for the new couple to spend their wedding night in a barn.  The bride’s girl-friends would dress her for bed, and then each of the male wedding guests would enter the barn and give her a kiss good night.  The male guests would then have a lot of fun trying to delay the groom from joining his new bride.  Throughout the evening, the newlyweds would expect pranks and the like until everyone was too drunk or tired to bother them any longer. 

Some generations ago, Irish newlyweds decided to try to escape this embarrassing tradition by sneaking away from the party. Thus the birth of the tradition of tying tin cans to the back of the wedding car to prevent the newlyweds from escaping the party with out being noticed. 

Today, there are some pranksters who have tried to renew this old wedding night tradition.  One such prank involved a groom who worked in the securities industry.  Using sophisticated sensors, the groomsmen wired up the wedding bed with a pressure mat connected to a bell.  When the newlyweds laid down on the bed, the sensor went off - alerting the entire hotel and producing a roar of applause.  While this prank was harmless enough, I have leaned that a few groomsmen have taken the pranks a bit too far and have tried to hide themselves away in the bridal suite in the hope of catching the newlyweds off guard.  However, unlike our ancestors, some of these shenanigans are not met with a jolly thump on the back, but more likely a thump on the jaw; chiefly from the bride!

Another humorous wedding night tradition that I read about, but have not been able to verify, was the ‘salmon leap’.  The ‘salmon leap’, was supposedly the traditional way the groom joined his bride in the wedding bed.  The groom would crouch on the floor and then spring into the bed in a single leap, imitating a spawning salmon.  I’ve asked around, but no one seems willing to admit that they abided by, much less, have any knowledge of this strange tradition.

One note I found particularly interesting was that the origin of the word, “Honeymoon”, comes from the Ireland.  The original Irish translation for the word “honeymoon” is mi na meala, which literally means the month of honey.  Irish custom held that the newlyweds would drink Mead (honeyed wine) at their wedding feast and for a full month after the wedding.  In other words, for ‘one moon’, hence the term honey moon.  The intent was to promote fertility (perhaps by breaking down inhibitions) and as protection from the ‘little folk’ who might try to carry the Bride off.  More likely, the time was spent to ensure that the newlyweds would quickly procreate in case their families tried to separate them, especially if they had eloped.

While many couples today no longer need to consummate their marriage on the wedding night, the magic of the day and of their new life together offers the newlyweds a sense of intimacy that is truly special.   When considering their wedding night, many couples are planning ahead and are making conscious efforts to ensure that it is a night to remember.  From champagne and chocolates to bubble baths, newlyweds are focusing not only on the reception, but on the intimate time they will spend together when the evening draws to a close.




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