Wearing an Irish Lace Wedding Dress for Your Destination Wedding

Are you planning to wear an Irish lace wedding dress or veil? Whether you’re planning a destination wedding in Ireland, or want to include Irish lace as a link to your family’s heritage, you’ll be part of a rich cultural tradition with a fascinating history. In fact, the story of Irish lace is interwoven with the story of Ireland itself. Read on to learn more about this ancient craft, and how you can incorporate it into your big day.

Irish bride lace coverlet

The history of Irish lace

Lace was first produced in Ireland in the 18th century. It was adapted from European needle lace, and brought to the island by Catholic nuns and wealthy Protestant philanthropist ladies. It became a means for poor women in remote parts of the country to support their families, since it required little equipment and cotton was cheap and easy to clean. By the time of the Great Famine, there were numerous lace-making schools, where lace making was taught to anyone willing to learn, and Irish lace became an important part of famine relief schemes. It became highly sought-after by fashion conscious ladies in Paris, Vienna, Brussels, London, and New York.

One of the features of Irish lace is that different parts of the country produce distinctive variations, each with different techniques. For example, Kenmare lace from County Kerry, Carrickmacross lace from County Monaghan, and Youghal lace from County Cork. The unique style of the lace was passed on from one generation to the next, and unique motifs were treasured family secrets. While some of these designs have unfortunately been lost, the skill of Irish lacemaking lives on. Irish lace wedding dresses are especially popular. The lace has also inspired many high-end designers, most recently the exquisite Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2020 collection.

Fit for a princess

Irish lace also has an important royal connection. Queen Victoria and Princess Alexandra were particularly fond of Youghal lace, and Queen Mary, wife of George V, ordered a lace train to wear on their visit to India. Since Queen Victoria popularised the white lace wedding gown, Irish lace (and Carrickmacross lace in particular) has been worn by a number of distinguished royal brides, including Princess Diana and Kate Middleton.

The Carrickmacross style is a combination of needlework and appliqué, with characteristic motifs including leaves, hearts, flowers, Celtic symbols, and small raised dots called ‘pops’. During the making of Kate Middleton’s dress, the lacemakers had to wash their hands every thirty minutes, and needles were changed every three. While time-consuming, it is this level of craftsmanship and creativity that makes an Irish lace wedding dress fit for royalty.

Irish lace wedding dress

How to incorporate Irish lace into your wedding

But what if an Irish lace wedding dress or veil isn’t your style? You can still include Irish lace in your wedding. One tradition for Irish brides is to carry a lace handkerchief tucked into the sleeve of their dress or wrapped around their bouquet. The handkerchief is later used to make a christening bonnet for the couple’s first baby. Another idea is to wear a lace garter, You could even have an Irish lace motif worked into your wedding invitations, or reproduced on your wedding cake!

However you choose to incorporate it, Irish lace is sure to add a beautiful, traditional touch to your wedding day.

Slán go Fóill,


Images by Christina Brosnan, Fred Marigaux, Lisa O’Dwyer

7 Irish Wedding Traditions to Include in Your Destination Wedding

Irish wedding traditions may date back many centuries but many are still around today. In fact, several Celtic wedding traditions have crossed over into popular culture, like honeymoons and handfasting ceremonies. Others, like aitin’ the gander (where the couple’s families feasted on a goose before the wedding) may be less well-known. But incorporating Irish wedding traditions into your big day is a lovely touch, whether you’re planning a destination wedding in Ireland or want to add an Irish touch to your ceremony back home first. Here are seven of my favourite customs.

The Claddagh ring

One of the best known Irish wedding traditions, Claddagh rings have been exchanged since the 17th century. They are also often handed down from mother to daughter. The ring’s design depicts two hands holding a crowned heart, representing love, loyalty, and friendship. When the wearer is single, the ring is worn on the right hand, with the point of the heart towards the fingertips. When in a relationship, it is turned, and once married, moved to the left hand.

Irish lace

Irish wedding dresses often include beautiful Irish lace detailing. These intricate laces have been made in Ireland since before the mid-eighteenth century, and patterns differ depending on where they are made. One of the most popular is Carrickmacross lace from County Monaghan, worn by Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William.

Uilleann pipes

Bagpipes are an important part of both Scottish and Irish culture, but here in Ireland, we favour the Uilleann pipes. They have a quieter, sweeter sound. They’re part of many ceremonies and celebrations, but are especially atmospheric at Irish weddings. It’s a very special way for the bride to walk down the aisle!

handfasting ceremony for irish destination wedding

The handfasting ceremony

If you’ve ever wondered where the phrase ‘tying the knot’ comes from, here’s your answer! Handfasting is an ancient Celtic wedding ceremony, where the couple’s hands are bound together with rope, ribbon, or lace. The love knot symbolises unity, even in times of trouble. I love how this Irish wedding tradition can be personalised, using fabric or colours that suit your wedding style.

The honeymoon

In ancient Ireland, guests toasted the newlyweds with mead, a drink made of honey. It was believed to endow luck and fertility, and keep away the fairies. After the wedding, the couple were given enough of the brew to last them a month, or the cycle of one full moon. ‘Mi na meala’, the ‘month of honey’ is where we get the term ‘honeymoon’!

Braided hair

In Celtic tradition, the braid is a symbol of feminine power and good luck. Many Irish brides have worn their hair in braids, often interwoven with ribbons or lace. There are so many beautiful braided hairstyles to choose from, whatever your hair type or length!

Ringing the bells

According to this Irish wedding tradition, the sound of bells is meant to ward off evil spirits and keep harmony in the home. Some Irish brides carry small bells in their bouquets, while others receive a small bell as a gift. This is sometimes called a ‘make-up bell’, as couples can ring it during their marriage after an argument, as a reminder of their wedding vows. Bells always make a lovely addition to your Irish wedding ceremony, or can be given as favours, to honour this tradition.

Which of these Irish wedding traditions is your favourite?

Slán go Fóill,


Images by Lisa O’Dwyer