There are several traditional Irish wedding vows to choose from, and lovely Irish blessings and prayers that may be included in the exchange of vows.
The basic exchange of Irish wedding vows in the contemporary Irish tradition is much like that of other western traditions:
"I, ___ now take you, ___ to be my (husband/wife). In the presence of God and before these witnesses I promise to be a loving, faithful and loyal (husband/wife) to you, for as long as we both shall live."
An older tradition for Irish church weddings follows this vow: "By the power that Christ brought from heaven, mayst thou love me. As the sun follows its course, mayst thou follow me. As light to the eye, as bread to the hungry, as joy to the heart, May thy presence be with me, Oh one that I love, 'til death comes to part us asunder."
The Irish Vow of Unity is among the simplest and most beautiful of Irish wedding vows, spoken by the bride and groom:
"We swear by peace and love to stand, Heart to heart and hand in hand. Mark, O Spirit, and hear us now, Confirming this, our Sacred Vow."
When the exchange of vows includes an exchange of rings, the traditional Irish ring is the Claddagh. The circular band forms two hands holding a heart with a crown on top, and signifies a bond of love, loyalty, friendship and lasting fidelity between the giver and the wearer. The ring is given with the Phrase of the Claddagh: "With these hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my love."
There is a code to wearing the Claddagh, which may hold a few different meanings. A Claddagh ring worn on the right hand with the crown pointing away from the fingernail signifies that the wearer's heart is free. When worn on the right hand with the crown pointing toward the fingernail, the wearer is involved or engaged. When worn on the left hand with the crown pointing toward the fingernail, the wearer is married and their heart is forever taken.
A third important ceremony in an Irish exchange of vows is the Loving Cup ceremony, much like those in other cultures where the couple sip sacramental wine during the exchange of vows. The words spoken by the officiant go as follows:
"And now please drink to the love you've shared in the past." (The couple sip from the cup) "Drink to your love in the present, on this your wedding day." (The couple sip from the cup) "And drink to your love in the future and forever more." (The couple sip from the cup)
Reflecting your Irish heritage in your wedding ceremony is a way to not only celebrate who you are but also to share within your love a romantic and beautiful tradition. As you reflect upon the different ways in which to incorporate Irish wedding vows into your special day, we will leave you with this traditional Irish blessing.
"May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
May God be with you and bless you; May you see your children's children. May you be poor in misfortune, Rich in blessings, May you know nothing but happiness From this day forward.
May the road rise to meet you May the wind be always at your back May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home And may the hand of a friend always be near.
May green be the grass you walk on, May blue be the skies above you, May pure be the joys that surround you, May true be the hearts that love you."