Wedding Options: Irish Wedding Dresses

Brides looking to add to the solemnity and elegance of their weddings frequently look to other cultures for inspiration, especially when it comes to choosing a wedding dress. Irish wedding dresses — also known as Celtic wedding dresses — are gaining in popularity because in terms of style, they don’t differ very much from the traditional Western aesthetic. At the same time they are unique enough to ensure that all eyes are on the bride from the start of the ceremony to the end of the reception.

The Look

Irish wedding dresses tend to appeal to the feminine, romantic bride because they are reminiscent of the dramatic, opulent gowns worn by the Celtic princesses of legend. Once upon a time, Irish wedding dresses were blue, a color representing purity and innocence, but now they can be in every hue under the sun. Common characteristics include long flowing sleeves, cathedral length trains, overdresses and corsets, and golden embroidery. And yet, as regal and as stately as Irish wedding dresses are, they are also comfortable because they are designed to fit and flatter the bride’s curves.

Finding Irish Wedding Dresses

Brides considering this look won’t have much luck in most mainstream bridal salons, but that isn’t to say that Irish wedding dresses are difficult to find. Online Renaissance costumers and corset shops are usually the best sources, and finding these is as easy as going to your favorite search engine. Unlike traditional wedding dresses that need a lot of alterations to fit, most Irish wedding dresses come from small, independent dressmakers and are made-to-order according to the measurements of the bride. They are also typically priced quite reasonably.

If, however, you would rather not leave something as important as your wedding dress up to chance (and the vagaries of the postal system), consider hiring a local seamstress to design and sew an Irish wedding dress custom made to your specifications. While this is likely the more expensive option, it is also the option that allows you complete freedom to choose the fabrics, colors, and embellishments you love best.

The Magic Handkerchief

The single unifying feature shared by all Irish wedding dresses is the magic handkerchief crafted from the same fabric as the bride’s dress. Though not part of the gown itself, it is a necessary accessory carried by the bride in her bodice or sleeve. After the wedding, the handkerchief is stitched into a simple baby’s bonnet symbolic of the bride’s future motherhood. If her first child is a girl, she will eventually be given the magic handkerchief to carry at her own wedding and hand down to her own daughter.

If you’re considering wearing an Irish wedding dress, don’t think that you have to integrate other Irish rituals or rites into your wedding ceremony. Rather, your choice of wedding dress can be just one of the ways you feature the traditions of other cultures in your wedding. In other words, your gown can stand alone as a tribute to the brides of Ireland’s past and your love of legend.


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