Irish Wedding Traditions

The covenant of marriage is a sacred one—special because of the proclamation of love, the commitment made before God, and—of course—the Irish traditions that accompany the ceremony. As wedding season comes into full swing, we’re brushing up on several of our favorite Irish wedding traditions.

 

Wearing The Claddagh Ring

Claddagh rings are an icon that is  symbolic of love, friendship, and fidelity in Ireland. The tradition is for single women to wear the ring on their right hand with the crown turned inward. When you are in a relationship, the ring is flipped to have the crown face outward. When a woman becomes engaged, the ring moves to her left hand. On this hand it means “Let Love and Friendship reign forever, never to be separated.”

Handfasting

Have you wondered where the phrase “tying the knot” originated? It comes from this Irish practice, which literally means to bind the hands—or wrists—of the bride and groom together, thus uniting them. Originally, the man and woman were bound for a period of time, and at its end they could decide to separate or go into a lifelong union.

Incorporating Bagpipes or a Harp

Both the harp and the bagpipe have Celtic roots .The harp served as Ireland’s national emblem for a number of years, and bagpipes are still a popular part of the culture today. Having a harpist or bagpiper at your ceremony can add historical Irish flair to the celebration.

Ringing Wedding Bells

Bells have a couple of meanings in Irish marriages. First, ringing bells on a couple’s wedding day is said to keep any evil spirits away from the sacred vow of marriage and bring good luck and fortune to the couple. Secondly, they have a slightly everyday application that many couples—Irish or not—still use. “Makeup bells,” as they are known, are meant to be rung by one spouse when a couple has an argument. When the bell rings, they must makeup and forget the quarrel. For both of these reasons, bells make a popular gift for Irish brides and grooms.

What are some of your favorite Irish wedding traditions?

Explore the Wild Atlantic Way

What is the Wild Atlantic Way?

If you haven’t been to Ireland in the last three years, you may not be familiar with this term. The Wild Atlantic Way is a stretch of 2,500km or (roughly 1,500 miles) that runs along the western or Atlantic coast—hence the name. The Ireland tourist industry touted it as “the world’s longest defined coastal route.” In addition to the route itself, there are hundreds of built-in attractions from Downpatrick Head to Blasket Island—along with plenty of delectable dishes at local restaurants and enough festivals and events to give you something to celebrate almost every day of the year.

Where exactly is this located?

The route stretches from Donegal in Northern Ireland to southern Cork by meandering down the western coastline.

 

Valentia Island in Country Kerry, Ireland

 

What’s the best way to see the Wild Atlantic Way?

The best way to see (and experience) the Wild Atlantic Way is your way. You can start at the northern-most point and follow the trail south, or you can simply visit different areas based on what you enjoy and what your time allows. There’s no wrong way to see the Wild Atlantic Way!

 What are some of the things you can do there?

The vast expanse is broken into six regions: the Northern Headlands, the Surf Coast, the Bay Coast, the Cliff Coast, the Southern Peninsulas, and the Haven Coast. Based on what you enjoy, here are a few of our picks.

If you like SIGHTSEEING

Rent a car and drive as much (or as little) of the trail as you like. With forests, beaches, mountains, headlands, and more, there’s plenty to see as you wind your way down the coast.


If you like RIDING THE WAVES

Focus your time on a three-and-a-half hour route that begins in Ballyshannon and ends in Erris Head. Billed as the Wild Atlantic Way’s “Surf Coast Driving Route,” this Northern Ireland stretch offers waves for both beginners and seasoned surfers.


If you like FEELING THE WIND BLOW THROUGH YOUR HAIR

Rent a convertible and choose one (or more!) of the amazing road trip driving routes suggested by the National Tourism Development Authority. Click here to view suggested routes.


BONUS: If you like making memories and getting a little credit along the way, pick up a Wild Atlantic Passport. Participating post offices along the route offer these passports, which can be stamped at 188 signature points on the trail. Collect the stamps as you follow the route and you’ll have a book of memories to recount your travels once you return home. Learn more at wildatlanticway.com/passport.

To learn more about this area of Ireland, visit their official travel, wildatlanticway.com.

Have Your Cake and Drink It, Too

Guinness; it’s not just for drinking any more. As part of a continued trend, chefs and confectioners are incorporating the beloved Irish beer into everything from bread to lamb stew.

Since Arthur Guinness began tinkering with ales in the late 1750s and then eventually focused on porters at the end of the century, the Irish have been enjoying the fruits of his labor. Today, the beer not only has a name in Ireland but around the globe. Perhaps it is this popularity that is spurring a movement to the kitchen. To try the trend for yourself, indulge in this easy-to-create cake.

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Classic Cream Cheese Icing

INGREDIENTS

Guinness Cake
1 (12 oz.) bottle Guinness
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
2 cups sugar
¾ cup baking cocoa
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup sour cream
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Cream Cheese Icing
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
chocolate shavings, for garnish

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350°F. Flour and butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Over medium-low heat, warm the beer and butter until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar and baking cocoa until blended.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Add this mixture into the beer mixture, stirring to combine. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add these dry ingredients to the wet, stirring to combine. Pour the batter into the two cake pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the cake’s center comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then remove from pan and continue cooling on a wire rack.

While the cake cools, make the icing. Place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until smooth (do not over-beat).

Ice the cooled cake and garnish with chocolate shavings.

Find the Perfect Gift for Mom

They rocked us when we were babies, made our school lunches as grew, and are still available for heart-to-heart chats—no matter how late in the night it may be. Celebrate the moms in your life with a gift that shows you care about her and her interests. No matter what your mom enjoys, we’ve found the perfect gifts to let her know you care.

If She Likes…Relaxing at the End of the Day

She’ll Love…An Irish Blessing Cushion Cover

Any mom, whether she’s of Irish heritage or not, can appreciate the heartfelt words of this age-old blessing. Plus, this decorative pillow cover adds color and comfort to any room.


If She Likes…Exploring the Outdoors

She’ll Love…A Trinity Shamrock Jacket

If your mom loves adventure, this shamrock-embellish jacket can come in handy for a stroll, hike, bike, or even just running errands around town (which can be an adventure in itself!).


If She Likes…Irish Dance

She’ll Love…A Celebration of Irish Dance Charm Bracelet

Perhaps your loved one enjoyed Irish dance as a child or has always admired those who perform it. This bracelet celebrates all things Irish Dance with charms that feature hard shoes, soft shoes, the Trinity knot, and a recycle symbol with a heart.


If She Likes…Cooking for Her Family

She’ll Love…An Irish Kitchen Prayer Cross

This cross, which reads “Bless us with good food, the gift of gab and hearty laughter. May the love and joy we share be with us ever after,” is a sweet reminder of the times we share enjoying homemade favorites with family and friends around the table.


If She Likes…Curling Up with a Good Book

She’ll Love…Wise Irish Women

Written to inspire and revive, Wise Irish Women shares the stories of 36 women—all of whom have a deep connection to Ireland. These short stories are the relaxing and refreshing way for mom to start or end the day.


If She Likes…Being Fashion Forward

She’ll Love…The Mary Day Cross Body Bag

Perfect for the mom who is always on the go, this leather bag is embossed with eternal knot work to showcase its carrier’s Irish pride. Available in black or brown.


Featured JMH Jewellery

JMH Jewellery is a family business with a 44-year obsession with producing quality Irish made jewelry!  We are manufacturing jewelers based in South Dublin, ideally located close to all our homes! Started by our parents in 1973, shortly after they met, from the beginning JMH Jewellery has been a fusion of design and goldsmithing, producing stunning designs with recognizable style and quality. Our parents instilled their love for fine jewelry, craftsmanship and design in us, and so now Joseph and I work alongside them creating beautiful jewelry, carrying on the family tradition.

The Family Colours seemed like such a natural collection for us to create, from our family to yours, and we are pleased to launch a new necklet style in the collection this year. Personalized jewelry pieces are such a great opportunity to create bespoke family heirlooms. Each stone in these pieces represents a birth month of a family member. Gorgeous!

Its important to know, too, that each piece of our jewelry has been tested and hallmarked at the Assay Office in Dublin Castle, Ireland. This is your guarantee of the purity of the metal in your piece. You will be able to find the hallmark on the back of your necklace, or inside your ring, and you will see the initials JMH, standing for Joseph Michael Harbourne (also known as Joe, or the Boss, or Dad!), alongside that is the Hibernia mark, to say that the item has been through the Dublin Assay Office, and finally the number to indicate the carat gold, or sterling silver.

925 is Sterling Silver        417 is 10ct Gold                585 is 14ct Gold.

We make all our jewellery in house in our workshop, so you can be sure that it has been cast by us, and then driven by one of us into the Assay Office to be tested and marked, before being brought back to the workshop, finished, set, polished and packed, and then sent on its way to you to be worn and cherished.

We hope you enjoy wearing our pieces,

With Love

Eve Turner & Joseph Harbourne

Know Your Irish Symbols

If you’re not familiar with Irish culture, the number of emblems and icons can be confusing. To help you navigate their meaning and significance, we created this quick guide that includes five of the most-often-seen symbols. Read on to learn more about each one.

The Claddagh

The Claddagh is typically seen on a ring, such as this sterling silver one. The ring circle is in the shape of two hands holding a heart. These rings are given as tokens of love, friendship, and loyalty. The name Claddagh comes from a small fishing village located just outside of Galway, which was the birthplace of this symbol.


The Trinity Knot

The Trinity Knot is a continuous, unbroken triple knot that has no beginning and no end point. This knot symbolizes both the holy trinity in Christianity and also serves as reminder of ancient Ireland where the Celts believed the number three held magical powers. It is also called a Triquetra, which in Latin means three cornered. These knots often have a circle that outlines their frame like the one shown on this wall hanging.


The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is a well-known emblem for many cultures. It symbolizes creation and our relationship with nature. The Celts, in particular noted the connection between heaven and earth found in the tree, with the roots reaching deep into the ground and the branches pointing upwards as seen on this suncatcher. Further, the tree is seen as a source of food and shelter.


The Celtic Cross

Surprisingly, this Christian symbol has pagan roots. Lore has it that the shape originated from an ancient sun symbol that St. Patrick modified by extending the lines to create a cross. The circle seen around the top portion is meant to symbolize the halo of Jesus Christ. It is a sacred element that can be found on meaning pieces such as this sterling and emerald necklace.


The Shamrock

As the national emblem of Ireland, the shamrock is associated with all things Irish and is seen as an inviting and welcoming symbol—perfect for welcoming loved ones. The origin of the word comes from the Irish word seamróg, meaning trefoil, which denotes the number of lobes on the leaves of these plants. It has been said that St. Patrick used the shamrock as a tangible way to explain the holy trinity to the Celts.

Crossing the Island: Plan a Weekend Jaunt from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher

Whether you’re of Irish descent or just find yourself daydreaming of this country’s beauty, seeing all of Ireland is a top wish on many people’s bucket list. For those lucky enough to make the trip, Dublin is often a starting and ending point thanks to its accessibility. However, that doesn’t mean all your time in Ireland has to be spent on this side of the island. Consider a weekend jaunt to the Atlantic side to visit the Cliffs of Moher.

The Drive from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher

Approximate Distance: 286 km (178 miles)
Approximate Travel Time: 4 Hours

If you have a need for speed, the fastest route from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher is via the M4/M6 motorway. If you leave Dublin early in the morning, you can be in Western Ireland in time for a late breakfast or early lunch.

 

Athlone bridge and river

 

Need a break? The halfway point between the two destinations is Athlone. Stop here to stretch your legs and get a cup of coffee or even visit a few of their top attractions. Athlone Castle, which sits along the River Shannon, is a popular choice for both adults and children thanks to history and architecture. If you are particularly interested in Irish culture, make a stop at the Derryglad Folk & Heritage Museum, located only a few miles out from the city center.

 

GAWLAY

Getting back in your car, continue along the M6 until you reach Galway. This is where the drive will become more interesting. From here, you’ll take N18 and N67 along the coastline until you reach the Cliffs. While there is a slightly faster route, this is by far the most beautiful. This drive will also afford you numerous photo opportunities as well.

 

O’Brien’s Tower in Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

 

O’Brien’s Tower at the Cliffs of Moher

When you reach your final destination, pause to admire the beauty for an afternoon. The bucolic Cliffs rise to almost 700 feet (at their highest point) above the blue waters of the Atlantic. Many visitors take in the view from O’Brien’s Tower. Built in the 19th century, this vantage point offers spectacular views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, the Twelve Pins, and the Maum Turk mountains.

When you leave the Cliffs of Moher, head back up the coastline to nearby Doolin where you can pop in at a pub for a quick bite. If you wish to stay the night, this town also has lodging.

Prepare for Your Easter Celebration!

Hippity Hop! Easter is on its way—and that means gatherings are order. Whether you’re hosting a crowd or spending the day with a few close loved ones, these tips can enjoy ensure you make the most of the spring celebration.

SET THE SCENE


Part of the fun in celebrating a holiday is in the preparation. Weeks before the Easter season, you can begin to set out special crosses (we love this Celtic Knot Wall Cross), bunnies, fresh lilies from the garden, and other signs of the season. If you plan to host guests, also consider their comfort. Make sure you have fresh towels in the bath and burn a softly scented candle to make your home feel inviting. Add throw pillows to your sofa or guest beds for extra comfort—as well personality. We particularly love this “welcoming” pillow.

FILL THE BASKETS


While eggs often take first priority in little ones’ Easter baskets, there’s always room for a few goodies. Chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and small toys are favorites. If you’re looking for something a bit more unique, we can’t resist the cuteness of these bunny slippers.

ENJOY THE COMPANY


Finally, spending time with loved ones is a huge part of many Easter celebrations. Whether you are going to mass or church services, hiding and hunting eggs, or gathering around the table to share a meal, the day is made better when you are surrounded with friends and family. Set out a favorite tea to sip with friends and sit back to enjoy the day.

Use Irish Preserves to Serve a Crowd

Spring is in full swing, and that means parties and impromptu gatherings are on the rise. It’s no secret that conversations seem to flow more freely and friends seem to linger a little longer when there’s food involved. We’ve found the secret to easy entertaining: preserves. Keeping marmalade or chutney on hand along with a few other pantry necessities such as crackers, scones, or bread can make preparing a snack for a crowd a breeze.

We love the mini sampler from Crossogue Preserves because it has something for everyone. Plus, all of their preserves are made in Veronica Molloy’s kitchen in Tipperary, Ireland. She has become famous for the amazing taste! Here are a few of our favorite ways to use Crossogue Preserves.

 

FOR A COFFEE DATE


Having a friend drop by for coffee? English muffins with marmalade pair deliciously with a cup of joe. Try the Strawberry & Champagne Preserves in the sampler set for a sweet and satisfying treat. If you have more time on your hands, prepare Irish scones (try Hogan’s Irish Scone Mix) to go with the preserves. This is also an easy morning fix for overnight guests.

 

FOR A FAMILY GAME NIGHT


It’s hard not reach for a snack when you’re in a heated game of checkers or cards. Keep all the players happy with this easy-to-make appetizer. Pour a jar of Irish Harvest Fruit Chutney into a small bowl and cut a baguette into small, thin slices. Serve the two on a cutting board for a simple yet delicious treat. For added flavor, pour the chutney over a block of cream cheese to create a spread.

 

FOR COCKTAIL HOUR


Use Katie Reilly’s Irish Soda Bread Mix to make a traditional sweet raisin bread that you can pair with the sampler set’s Irish Whiskey Marmalade. If you don’t have time to make the soda bread, try pairing the preserves with a small loaf of rye bread or baguette slices. Serve with your favorite beverages.

Galway Crystal History

Ireland has long been known as a premier producer of fine crystal. The country’s tradition of quality craftsmanship coupled with a desire to pass down this knowledge from generation to generation has resulted in some of the world’s most reputable glass companies, including Galway Crystal.

The Kells Decanter Set from Galway Crystal

Throughout 2017, Galway is celebrating its 50th anniversary. And while they have moved from the Nun’s Island facility where their work was originally produced, they still maintain the same techniques that have attracted kings, presidents, and celebrities. Their pieces have been presented or used in both the White House and the Vatican. Galway Crystal even makes commissioned trophies and awards for sporting events and competitions, including the European Tour, the Football Association of Ireland, and the world famous Galway Races.

Galway Crystal’s Marriage “Make Up” Bell

Luckily you don’t have to be a dignitary or win a sporting event to enjoy Galway Crystal in your home. Any special occasion is a reason to give one of these beautifully crafted pieces. For example, a wedding or engagement party is the perfect time to present a couple with a Marriage “Make Up” Bell. Irish tradition holds that one spouse can ring this bell to end any marital spats. If it’s a new baby you’re celebrating, an angel figurine makes a sweet—and sparkling—addition to watch over the nursery. For Father Day’s, we love the idea of giving dear old dad a decanter set that is beautiful and timeless—and sure to be handed down through the years. Whatever your special occasion, Galway Crystal has been working since 1967 to mark the event with a treasured piece.