March came in like a lion in Austin, but also brought us one of the most exciting times of the year, South By SouthWest (a.k.a. SXSW or South By). We enjoy the Education, Interactive, Film, Music, Comedy, and Sports themed conference and all that it brings to our town. Usually, it also consumes St. Patrick's Day, but this year, the day falls after the last SXSW event, allowing the holiday to stand on its own.
- the claddagh ring -- This Irish engagement ring is worn face out when a woman is available and face in when she has committed to someone. The ring "represents love, friendship, and loyalty" and is worn on the right hand until a woman is engaged; then it is moved to the left.
- a braid in the hair -- A braid is an ancient Irish symbol of luck or power.
- handfasting or "tying the knot" -- The couple clasps their hands together; a ribbon, cord, or rope--often matching the wedding theme--is wound around joined hands as a symbol of agreement to spend their lives together.
- carry a horseshoe "up" -- Horseshoes hold good luck, but just like in Texas, the open end of the shoe must point up so the luck won't "fall out".
- lavender -- Lavender symbolizes devotion and love; herbs represent fidelity.
- ringing of bells -- Bells are said to keep evil spirits away. [Maybe if the bells are loud enough, "that" member of the family won't attend the big day! ;) ]
- Irish wedding blessing/toast -- "Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, 'tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask [for] blessing in [this] hour of need." Guests respond: "On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new....bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need."
- superstitions! -- Don't marry on a Saturday! Avoid all funeral processions on wedding day. The bride and groom should not wash their hands in the same sink at the same time.
Of course, you'll also want to consider lace, bagpipes, and kilts (or at least a little tartan pinned under your gown) for a full Irish effect on your big day.
Whether you can trace your lineage back to the motherland or you're just "a little Irish" one day of the year, these traditions can help you personalize your ceremony and reception to the uniqueness that is you and your mate. And if you need some inspiration (or just to decompress!), join most of Austin at Fadó Irish Pub or Opal Divine's Austin Grill.
What other traditions would you like to learn more about? As Americans, we are influenced by so many parts of the world. What parts speak to you? And, what parts do you want to know more about?