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Celtic Wedding Rituals -- Tying the knot

One of the most elegant rituals you can choose for a wedding is the traditional Celtic hand fasting. After the vows, the bride and groom's wrists are bound together with five colored ribbons, each symbolizing an aspect of marriage and their shared commitment. It is a long standing Celtic tradition that is still quite popular, and happens to be the origin of the expression "tying the knot" which has grown to mean getting married. Though this tradition is a lovely and meaningful tradition, many other Celtic wedding traditions have not aged as gracefully.

All marriages start with a proposal. Proposals such as "Live in my heart and pay no rent" or "Would you like to hang your washing next to mine" might have been uttered to a would be fiancé.

As beautiful as the ceremony was, after the ceremony wasn't so sweet. The bride and groom might eat three handfuls of salt and oatmeal as protection against evil spirits, which probably wasn't as tasty as cake and champagne.

If the wife wanted good relations with her new mother-in-law, she'd have hoped that the groom's mother would break a cake over her head as she entered the marriage home. If she was so lucky, superstition said the two would remain friends for life, though she quite a mess to clean up after.

If the mother-in-law breaking cake wasn't bad enough, try all the guests. Unmarried youths would wait anxiously for wedding guests to break short bread over the heads of the bride and groom, at which time they would scramble to collect a bit of it from the ground to eat, thereby insuring a good match when it was their time to marry.

Celtic wedding nights were not free of traditions either. On the wedding night the bride's girlfriends would dress her for her special night and put her in bed, then leave her waiting for her groom. But before the groom was allowed to enter, all the male guests would drop by to kiss her goodnight while she blushed in her night clothes.

Once the groom was with his bride for the night the couple could expect no peace either. By custom, the guests were expected to drink and harass the newlyweds until dawn. It could be as simple as peeking in the windows or as bold as kidnapping the bride or groom. Perhaps this is why honeymoons became popular, getting far away was the only way to find peace on the couple's first night as man and wife.

The groom had another strange tradition as well. When the couple was ready to seal their union, the groom might crouch on the floor and leap into bed imitating a salmon. This "salmon leap" was symbolic of a salmon swimming up stream to spawn. Hopefully the new couple had a strong enough bed for this strange play.

Cultural theme weddings are a popular trend for modern couples, bringing charm and uniqueness to an already special occasion. But, in regards to the Celtic theme wedding, time has proven itself an able filter of tradition, leaving some of the more humorous and messy traditions in the past where they belong.

Copyright Andrea Britt, 2005

Andrea Britt is owner of where you can find elegant, unique wedding favors and bridal shower favors for your wedding reception and bridal shower.

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