Celtic Wedding Themes and Traditions

Celtic wedding themes and traditions are simple and meaningful. Their weddings often took place outside with nature to bless the union. Nature was very important to the Celts. They believed the soul existed within and outside of an individual. The soul would manifest in the trees, the rocks, the waters and the sun. Humans and the world around them were intertwined, with the soul tied to the spirit of the earth.

Their belief in marriage was that two souls would join together so their strengths would be twice as great and hardships only half as hard. Marriage was an institution not to be entered into lightly. It was the union of two souls, two hearts and two minds. Modern couples can take some of these meaningful beliefs and incorporate them into their wedding ceremony by using some of the old Celtic wedding traditions, rituals and symbols.

The feast was one of the most important aspects of a Celtic wedding. Unlike today, where the ceremony and reception are viewed separately, traditional Celtic weddings incorporated everything into one big ceremony. The families and friends of both the bride and groom were there along with members of the community.

The term "bride" is Celtic in origin and refers to Brigid, an exalted goddess of Celtic lore. The veil is a very old tradition. Before the bride is veiled, she is a maiden. When she wears her veil, she becomes a goddess in her own right, and she takes on mystery and feminine powers. When she is unveiled by her groom, she returns to this world changed, as her old life has ended and a new one begins.

The ceremony itself was a simple ritual called handfasting. The bride and groom would stand facing each other holding hands and they were bound by a ceremonial rope, cord or wrap. This is where the term "tying the knot" comes from. Handfasting symbolized the unity of the couple. There are many variations on how handfastings were performed, and they seem to vary throughout the times and regions. Some involved only one cord or rope, while others involved up to six. Scottish weddings used a piece of the family tartan to tie the wedded couple. In some rituals, to finalize the marriage, the couple would hold hands and jump over a branch or a broom into their new life together.

Many customs are specific to local areas of Ireland, Scotland and Brittany. Some Celtic wedding accessories have survived the times and are still used today, such as the Claddagh ring. This ring was named after one of Ireland's oldest fishing villages, and it has been in use in Ireland for several hundred years. The two hands clutching a heart are for friendship, the crown for loyalty or fidelity and the heart symbolizes love. The custom is that if you are single you wear the ring on the right hand facing out. You wear it facing in if you are spoken for. To show you are engaged, you wear the ring outward on the left hand. During the wedding ceremony, the ring is then turned inward to signify the final devotion of the heart in marriage. Even if you don't use a Claddagh ring for Celtic wedding bands, the Claddagh symbol can be incorporated into your modern wedding on invitations and decorations.

Another beautiful way to incorporate Celtic symbols into your wedding is with Celtic knotwork designs. The designs were created using one or several unbroken lines. The more the lines interlaced each other, the more they would protect against evil. The meaning of the symbols can sometimes be confusing because the Celts did not keep records of their meaning. Consider love knots and the triquetra, a three-pronged commonly seen in Celtic tradition, which can be incorporated into Celtic knot wedding rings.

If you are of Scottish heritage, you can always incorporate your family tartan or plaid into your wedding. If the groom and groomsmen don't want to wear the traditional kilts, they could have sashes made out of the tartan, or even vests to be worn with the tuxedos. It was also customary in Scottish weddings for the groom to pin a piece of his family tartan on the bride after the exchange of rings.

Another Celtic symbol dates from Wales during the 17th century. It is a Welsh Lovespoon. A lovespoon is a decorated, hand-carved wooden spoon. A young man would present it to his sweetheart as a token of affection and/or betrothal. It is thought the lovespoon represented an early form of an engagement ring, or the acceptance of a serious courtship. The carver was skilled because even very large spoons were carved from just one piece of wood. The spoon could be plain or intricately designed with symbols. The exact meanings are uncertain, but there are a few accepted symbols and corresponding meanings. The heart symbolized that my heart is yours, two hearts symbolized that we feel the same about each other, a horseshoe was for good luck and happiness, the knot symbolized everlasting love, leaves and vines symbolized love growing, double spoons symbolized the couple together forever and a triple spoon symbolized family. If you can find any of these or can have someone carve them for you, they make a special item for you to present to your loved one.

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