The true Celtic wedding customs and traditions come from clear
springs, the reverence of water sweet and straight from the rock and
soil. Customs were inspired by the fragile beauty forest flowers, the
moon light and the constant turn of seasons over the years. Under the
wild and natural settings people gathered in great circles, close to the
breath of their gods who sanctioned the unions. Indeed, the very term,
“bride,” has Celtic roots in the goddess, Brigid. Some say that her
maiden name was “bride.” Through her fiery nature, she was considered
“bride of the earth,” keeper of the hearth.
For the Celtics, location was critical. In ancient times, just as
today, where an actual wedding took place was imbued with significance.
Celtic wedding ceremony was witnessed by communities of friends and
loved ones, including, perhaps, the yew tree, two thousand years old,
wise and timeless. All the elements were intertwined, imbued with soul
and tied to a great web of life. How to take the spirit of this
perspective into modern day can require, perhaps, celebrates the
connection to nature and the uniqueness of one’s particular Celtic
Every Celtic bride and groom has to decide whether the marriage will
take place in a natural setting, less touched by human hands or in a
building such as a church. Traditionally, weddings were held in
circles, rather than aisle. Circles are the blueprint behind life
giving systems in nature. They are a symbol of wholeness and
completeness, in contrast to the more linear and hierarchic perspective
of religious institutions. Those interested in being true to ancient
Celtic ways would choose to be married in a circle.
They also might consider being married barefoot—an ancient Celtic
wedding tradition. To feel one’s feet directly on the soil is a way of
connecting to Mother Earth. It is also a sign of simplicity and
humility. We are all made of earth and we are ultimately children of the
earth. To be barefoot in one’s ceremony connects into this ancient
Food, naturally, played an important role in Celtic wedding
traditions from ancient times. Family and friends of the bridge and
groom gathered, along with the community, to take part in a great feast.
So it is today, where food continues to be a major part of any Celtic
wedding ceremony. Irish weddings and Scottish weddings have their own
particular fare. While the average groom would not likely go out and
shoot his own venison with a bow and arrow, it would be inconceivable to
step away from a Celtic wedding hungry!
Music, of course, also plays an important part in Celtic weddings.
We do not know the music of the ancient tribes, but today, bag pipes, of
course, are often the choice. Listening to them stirs the soul. In
the right setting, one can feel one’s ancestry and imagine being back in
Scotland or Ireland… standing somewhere on the health, feeling the wind
in one’s hair! But if not bagpipes, the harp does just fine. Within
the confines of a beautiful church, listening to the harm in the setting
of a wedding can invoke the blessings of the angels.
Handfasting is another Celtic wedding tradition. The term actually
comes from Old Norse: Hand-festa, which means to strike a bargain by
joining hands. In the context of commitment and marriage, handfasting
is a mutually agreed upon act. A cloth or ribbon is bound around the
bride and grooms hands. It has signified, over the years, betrothal or
even actual marriage, depending upon the context.
Clothing is also part of many Irish wedding traditions and Scottish
wedding traditions. Kilts are popular. Scots naturally want to wear
their family plaid. Groomsmen may not have kilts, yet vests or sashes
can be made out of the tartan for the ceremonies. Customarily, at
least in Scottish weddings, the groom was given a piece of his family’s
plaid to pin on the bride after the exchange of the rings.
Finally, a ring with Celtic design has also become a Celtic wedding
tradition. The notion of exchanging rings originated with the Romans.
Their exchange has come to represent a public sign of ceremonial
commitment. Everything about a ring can have resonance with symbolic
traditions, from its circular shape, to the materials used in its
creation, the inlaid gems or stones chosen, and the engraved symbols on
Caim Is a Celtic word. It means an invisible circle you put around yourself for immediate protection if you feel under threat. Draw an invisible circle around yourself with your right index finger by extending your arm towards the ground and turning clockwise. As you do this, become aware that you are safe and encompassed by the powers you believe in; that you are encircled, enfolded and protected.