Irish culture is full of expressive traditions. Many of these traditions are enjoyed and celebrated around the world, particularly those related to love and marriage. Whether you plan on getting reciting your wedding vows on the Emerald Isle, or you’re an Irish American looking to reconnect with your Celtic roots, Irish toasts (like “May God be with you and bless you, may you see your children's children”) make a great addition to any wedding celebration.
As with any cultural tradition, it’s important to fully understand the significance of an Irish wedding toast. From the history to the intentions, there’s a lot to learn about this affectionate practice.
Fortunately, the experts at Zola have insider knowledge of these Celtic celebrations. Because if there’s one thing we know, it’s weddings.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about Irish wedding toasts, from their history to their modern usage:
Wedding toasts date back as early as the sixth century. Toasting at weddings was originally done to splash liquid from one glass to another, assuring guests that the wine was free from poison. Fast forward a few centuries, and the purpose of toasts became more celebratory and less survivalist.
Traditional Irish wedding toasts began sometime around the 17th century. The act of raising a glass was originally done as an offering to the Celtic gods. This is why many Irish wedding toasts come in the form of blessings.
Throughout the years, Irish wedding practices remained popular for several reasons. Irish blessings are said to bring good luck to a newly married couple and set them up for a long, happy marriage as they embark on their new life.
Irish toasts are often well-versed, pleasant, and to the point. And because so many Americans are of Irish descent, this Irish wedding tradition tends to be popular in the United States.
Now that you have a little background information, it’s time for the fun part: choosing your toast.
Irish culture contains a diverse set of toasts, blessings, and proverbs, so couples have plenty of options when deciding on the perfect toast for their celebration. From short, light-hearted quips to longer poems and religious blessings, here are some of the most popular Irish wedding toasts and traditional Irish wedding blessings:
For a quick toast that will fit into any wedding celebration, these traditional Irish phrases are funny, sweet, and always charming. The following toasts can be used at the beginning or end of speeches, or even randomly throughout the reception:
“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you’re going, and the insight to know when you’re going too far.”
“That the sound of happy music and the lilt of Irish laughter fill your heart with gladness, that stays forever after.”
“‘Tis glad I am, and glad I’ll be, knowing you like the likes of me.”
“Here’s to the groom with the bride so fair, and here’s to the bride with the groom so rare!”
If you’re committed to reciting a toast in the Gaelic language, you’ll want to rehearse quite a bit beforehand. Fortunately, many of these toasts are short and easy to grasp, so you won’t be studying for too long. Below are some popular Gaelic toasts to help celebrate the happy couple:
“Sláinte chuig na fir, agus go mairfidh na mná go deo” – Translation: Health to the men and may the women live forever!
“Beannacht Dé leat” – Translation: God’s blessing on you!
*“Go n-éirí an bóthar leat” –* Translation: May your journey be successful.
“Mo sheacht mbeannacht ort” – Translation: My seven blessings on you.
“Sliocht sleachta ar shliocht bhur sleachta” – Translation: Blessings on your prosperity.
Many Irish toasts follow a similar pattern, starting with the phrase “may you.” These blessings are simple, easy to understand, and often flow like poems. If you’re looking for something short to include in a speech or your vows, give some of these Irish blessings a try:
Good Weather Blessing This blessing wishes mild weather on the married couple, acting as a symbol for good days to come:
“May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow May the soft winds freshen your spirit May the sunshine brighten your heart May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you And may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.”
Short Rhyme Blessing This toast is short, sweet, and—best of all—it rhymes. Use this to cap off a best man or maid of honor speech:
“May your troubles be less, And your blessings be more. And nothing but happiness, Come through your door.”
Blessing for Children Parents of the couple can recite this blessing in hopes of a future filled with grandchildren:
"May all your troubles be little ones and all your little ones be trouble-free."
Community Blessing A strong sense of community is important in Irish culture. This blessing is a great way to kick off a happy marriage, especially for couples who are moving into their first home together:
"May your neighbors respect you May trouble neglect you May the angels protect you And may heaven accept you."
If you’re looking for a longer Celtic wedding blessings to use as a toast, there are plenty of beautiful options to choose from. These toasts work well during the reception dinner, given by family or members of the bridal party. Take a look at some of these lengthy and articulate Irish blessings:
Traditional Irish Blessing This blessing is a bit longer, giving you more to work with when crafting a speech. The traditional Irish blessing covers many aspects of marriage, thus sending the couple off with nothing but optimism and joy:
“I wish healing upon you The healing of Mary with me, Mary, Michael, and Brighid Be with me all three. Fly with the birds of the air Fly with the wasps of the hill Swim with the sea-going whale For they are swiftest Be upon the clouds of the sky For they are the rainiest Be upon the river’s current Cascading to the sea”
Welsh Love Poem This Welsh love poem dates back to the 14th century, but the sentiment remains true even in modern-day relationships:
“It was sweet, sweetheart, a while Beneath the birchgrove’s shade to live. To cuddle up was even sweeter, In the wood’s retreat close hidden, Wandering hand in hand along the seashore Lingering hand in hand along the wood shore Lying beside each other in the grove, Mutually shunning folk, complicit in a complaint, Living together with kindness, quaffing mead, Resting in each other’s love, one heart, Keeping tryst with love’s secret.”
Blessing of a Lover This long-form blessing reads like a beautiful poem, and it’s the perfect toast for the married couple to share with one another:
*“You are the star of each night,* *You are the brightness of every morning* *You are the story of each guest* *You are the report of every land* *No evil shall befall you* * on hill nor bank,* *In field or valley* *On mountain or in glen* *Neither above nor below* *Neither in sea nor on shore* *In skies above* *Nor in the depths* *You are the kernel of my heart* *You are the fact of my sun* *You are the harp of my music* *You are the crown of my company.”*
The Closing Blessing This long-form blessing is perfect for an end-of-the-night toast. Family or friends may give this toast following the cutting of the cake or when sending off the newlyweds on their honeymoon:
“May the meaning of this hour be fulfilled through the days and years to come. May the love of this man and this woman, their unity of spirit, grow deeper and stronger in the uncertainties and changes of life they will share. Loving each other, may they love all persons. Trusting each other, may they learn to trust life. May their love reach out to the love of all, that their lives may bless all whose lives they touch. May they find comfort together in shared hours of shadow, as well as in the bright sunshine of joy. May they be to each other both strong and gentle. May all who follow their lives with interest and affection have cause to rejoice not alone in their happiness, but in their brave and generous living which makes life beautiful and significant.”
Most Irish toasts tend to be on the shorter side, so you may want to add them onto the end of a longer speech you’ve prepared. This will add more bulk to your toast, particularly for important family and bridal party members—such as the best man, maid of honor, or parents of the couple.
When it comes to giving a proper Irish wedding speech, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First and foremost, a quick crash course in giving toasts:
Timing: A toast should be given at the wedding reception, typically during the dinner portion of the evening or after cutting the cake. Attempting to give a toast during the ceremony or cocktail hour can result in an awkward interruption, and later in the evening, people may be too busy busting a move to properly listen.
Drink: While your drink of choice is ultimately up to you, a traditional wedding toast is done with Champagne or sparkling wine. For Irish weddings, whiskey, Guinness, and Baileys have commonly enjoyed beverages, as well.
Schedule: Most weddings follow a certain schedule when it comes to toasts. The first toasts are usually made by the best man and maid of honor. Then, the couple themselves will get up and give a loving toast to one another. Finally, the parents of the couple will give a speech thanking everyone for coming, particularly if they’re hosting the wedding.
Right Hand: Sorry lefties, but a traditional wedding toast is meant to be given with a full drink in the right hand. Of course, this is simply a fun tradition that can easily be modified if needed.
Keep It Appropriate: Everyone has different standards for what is wedding appropriate, but a toast should generally be tasteful, respectful, and full of good wishes. You also want to make sure your toast stays within an appropriate time frame to give others a chance to speak.
In terms of timing and schedule, you can make things easy for eager toasters by posting the day’s schedule on your wedding website. Don’t have your site live yet? No problem. With Zola’s easy-to-use wedding website builder, you can start with a ready-made design, customize it with photos of your love, and quickly share it with friends and loved ones.
Ireland’s rich history has led to a mixture of languages throughout the country’s culture. Although many Irish blessings can be read in English, older ones are often recited in Celtic languages—particularly Gaelic.
While sticking with tradition is great, it’s also good to know your limits. If the person giving the toast isn’t familiar with the Gaelic language, it may lead to confusion or awkwardness.
Overall, incorporating English will generally be helpful among mixed companies. If you’d like to incorporate a traditional Gaelic blessing, consider explaining the translation within your speech. This can open the door for an interesting and heartfelt conclusion to the toast.
By adding the actual words for the blessing or toast to your program, guests may have an easier time following along and understanding the meaning of the tradition. Your loved ones want to be involved in the day’s events, and this is an easy way to make them feel included.
Couples can add their Irish toast to the wedding program by using one of Zola’s customizable card templates. These stylish designs will help keep everything organized and punctual, without sacrificing any aesthetic elements.
To help you celebrate your Irish marriage, here are some of the other popular Irish wedding traditions you may want to consider for your big day:
Embellishing Your Dress: It’s traditional for Irish brides to incorporate Celtic symbols into their wedding gown, typically in the form of professionally embroidered knots, shamrocks, and crosses.
Wearing a Kilt: Similar to Scottish ceremonies, an Irish groom may wear a unique type of kilt on their wedding day. The kilt can be accompanied by an authentic Irish warrior jacket, or a simple dress shirt and tuxedo jacket for a more relaxed look.
Tying the Knot: Taking place during the wedding ceremony, this Irish wedding tradition involves tying the couple's hands together using a ribbon or rope. For a more simplified version, some couples choose to tie only their right hands together.
Wedding Bells: In Irish culture, the sound of wedding bells is said to ward off evil spirits.
Claddagh Ring: Claddagh rings, which feature two hands surrounding a heart to signify the couple’s sacred vow, are traditional Irish wedding bands. For an authentic Irish ceremony, the ring is placed on the left hand with the heart facing away from the body.
Overall, Irish traditions can be a wonderful addition to any wedding reception. Irish and non-Irish couples alike can enjoy the romantic, hopeful, and exciting customs that exist within this culture.
From well-known toasts to the phrase “tying the knot,” it’s clear that Ireland has made a significant impact on modern wedding practices. If you’re looking for a way to make your wedding unique, Irish traditions are a great way to do this.
Irish customs often surround the idea of luck. But couples won’t need any luck when they plan their wedding with Zola.
Zola’s wedding tools are designed to make wedding planning easy. From stylish programs to free wedding websites, all of your information will be organized, accessible, and attractive. If you’re in search of a venue, photographer, or caterer, look no further than Zola’s list of pre-screened wedding vendors in cities around the country.
Say slán to stress, and say dia dhuit to your dream Irish wedding with Zola.