The Emerald Isle, with its fabled stretches of coastal green landscapes, offers an evocative inspiration for an utterly breathtaking wedding. Ireland conjures visions of vintage Irish lace and Waterford crystal next to the warm brown of a wooden bar. This inspiration is ideally suited to a décor that leans to the nostalgic, especially with elements such as a wedding dress or motifs that have a more retro and old world elegance.
Whether you wish to honor your family’s heritage or because its majestic verdant beauty inspires the romantic in you, adding touches of Ireland to your décor will transform your event into an unforgettable destination wedding. Giving attention to the defining elements of your wedding will help to thread your chosen theme throughout. Focusing on these first, keeping in mind they should all flow together, then sprinkling in the details, makes for a cohesive design aesthetic.
Here are our favorite show-stopping moments:
ATTIRE: Here’s your chance to channel your inner Celtic princess. Get fancy. Think layers of intricately woven Irish lace or delicate details of sumptuous silks and sheer tulle. If your wedding date falls during a cooler month, flirt with a neckline detail, a lace sleeve or a full lace back. This aesthetic is perfect for playing with vintage looks made modern. If creams and blush aren’t for you – go blue! Pay homage to Irish traditions and wear a blue-hued gown. Irish brides, until the late 1400s, would wear blue as a symbol of purity.
For the groom, opt for dapper, very tailored suits or suspenders and dress pants. Irish linen or wool, depending on the weather, will keep your men in authentic fabrics.
That is unless you have a gentleman that is brave enough to bare his legs. In that case, a noble Tartan kilt, usually associated with Scotland but also popular in Ireland, is the utmost ensemble for a dashing man who wants to celebrate his lineage.
VENUE: Unless you happen to have a castle in your backyard, go for something a bit more abstract for your nuptial backdrop. A private estate with a sprawling lush lawn, the green field of a quiet forest, or a mossy knoll in your favorite park, any of these are reminiscent of the evocative scenery of Ireland.
If your wedding takes place indoors, choose a warm and cozy, wood-rich environment that leans towards the masculine. It will act as a perfect partner to the more feminine elements of your decor.
FLOWERS: Bells of Ireland immediately come to mind when thinking of florals for an Irish-inspired wedding, but many other blooms pay tribute to this bountiful land. Amaryllis, Easter lilies, roses, chrysanthemums and wild flowers are all beautiful choices for your bridal bouquet or centerpieces. Also, consider bringing touches of the landscape into your design by creating a green path down the aisle for your ceremony or a table runner of moss for the centerpiece at your reception.
TABLETOP: Antiqued and brushed metals add a vintage yet contemporary design for your tablescape. Add in touches where you want to illuminate intricate details like a golden charger paired with elegant china or a particular motif, like a gilded Celtic knot, that might double as a napkin ring. This is also an excellent opportunity to add in color! Opt for an emerald goblet or dark green taper candles held by candelabras.
COLOR PALETTES: By choosing Ireland as your inspiration and to our delight, you have been given the gift of using green, nature’s fabulous neutral! What an amazing color to work with, since it comes in so many gorgeous variations. Choose from emerald and teal, which are rich and jeweled, to forest and hunter, which are deep and velvety. Or use doses of all the greens your mind can imagine to give a tonal wave of color and add a modern twist. Layer in hints of limes, chartreuse, moss and of course, Kelly green. If you prefer a more tempered color choice, look to the season and venue for the best green and choose complementary hues.
FOOD: Beef. Potatoes. Whiskey. You could go with a menu this obvious (and it would be amazing, if a bit cliché), but you wouldn’t be taking advantage of the food renaissance that’s happening now in Ireland.
For the cocktail hour, a raw bar of ocean jewels, oysters, shrimp and clams is a must. And how adorable would tiny bites of shepherd’s pie, corned beef sliders and shots of Irish potato soup be? Take an elevated nod to hearty pub food and keep things compact and bite-sized. Doesn’t everyone love a gorgeous spread of artisanal cheeses? Pair cheeses with an offering of varietal smoked salmon and a display of traditional Irish soda breads. Ireland is ripe for tasty nibbles; showcase any of these for a delicious pre-dinner tease.
Definitely present a delectable cut as the headliner for the main course; there’s no substitute for a melting, juicy morsel of meat, but try a locally farmed lamb instead of the typically served beef. And don’t forget to honor the coastal landscape of Ireland. Highlight the land and sea by offering cod, Atlantic salmon or even lobster as an entrée.
DRINKS: Yes, you’re having a whiskey bar, even a whiskey tasting if you want, but don’t stop there. Incorporate Ireland’s love of tea as they consume more tea per capita than almost any other place in the world! Have fun creating a signature tea-infused whiskey cocktail like this Irish Whiskey Green Tea Punch.
A well-stocked wedding will be sure to have all the favorites: Guinness Stout, an Irish Whiskey (or two) and a tart and refreshing Irish Apple Cider will round out the bar and leave something for everyone’s tipple and tastes. For a vintage twist, serve any Irish socialite’s drink, a Black Velvet. This champagne + stout cocktail will look much more elegant than a pint in your bridesmaids hands.
WEDDING FAVORS: Favors are meant to be fun and whimsical, so let the Irish clichés run wild here…
It is an Irish tradition to ring a bell, a “makeup bell” as it were, to signal the end of a tiff. Wedding bells are popular symbols of nuptials, so why not mark each guest’s presence by a mini wedding bell. Horseshoes are famous for bringing the luck of the Irish. Gift your guests with tiny versions to carry home the well wishes and the eternal luck of your special day. For a lovely and unforgettable keepsake, gift all the lovely ladies with Claddagh Friendship rings (a ring with two hands clasping) and the gentlemen with Irish linen handkerchiefs.
TRADITIONS: Sharing cherished traditions is an intimate way to add an extra special meaning to your day. Some Irish traditions have been integrated into modern cultures and are recognizable around the world. We might say “tying the knot” as a cheeky way to say we’re getting married, but this term actually started with the Irish ritual of hand fasting. Hand fasting, or tying, is an ancient Celtic ceremony in which the couple joins in tying their hands as a symbol of eternal and infinite love. The ribbons are tied around the crossed wrists of the couple, and they are forever bound to one another.
Music: The Harp is an ethereal and unbelievably romantic instrument that adds a romantic touch to your ceremony with the sound of an angelic song. A national symbol of Ireland, a harp is traditionally played at times of celebration. Anything strummed on a harp sounds magical, so don’t be afraid to ask for your favorite contemporary song to be played as you walk down the aisle. While bagpipes are the more traditional and bold sounding instrument, they can be just as beautiful and graceful as the beloved harp. With his tartan kilt and unmistakable sound, the bagpiper adds a sense of royalty and is an exciting start to the processional as he leads your guests to the reception.
There are so many details from the Irish culture to draw from and these are just a few. Be sure to choose details and traditions that speak to you and don’t seem contrived. Incorporating authenticity and quality makes the difference between a chic and genuinely inspired event and a sloppy “Kiss Me I’m Irish” party that’s more like a bad hangover.
With such a wealth of romantic traditions and culture to draw from, you’re definitely blessed with luck if choosing Ireland as your wedding inspiration!