In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a reflection on one of my favorite Irish symbols – The Claddagh by Chanelle Carlin, Washington State Wedding Officiant and Your ‘Celebrant for Life’

For those who know me or have spent any time reading my website, you know that I lived in Ireland for eight years…and loved every minute of my time there. So, in honor of the month we’re in…March… and a little over a week from St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would share a post today about one of my favorite Irish symbols and one that couples often ask about…the Claddagh.  Before I get to that, I thought I would reflect on Ireland for a sec. It is the one place apart from Camp Killoqua in Stanwood, Washington that ever truly felt like home. Sometime, I will share a bit more about my Irish experience and how it influences me as your Celebrant for Life. In the meantime, here are a couple of photos from my time there. The first is a photo of the top of the street that I lived on when I first moved to Ireland (after staying with friends). If you look closely, there is a red brick building in the middle of the photo on the right. That was my building. I shared a flat (apartment) with two other girls. My first job in Ireland was down at the other end of the street on the left.

Dublin Street, Monaghan. The street where I first lived in Monaghan, Ireland. 

woman standing in a pink coat next to a hedge in rural ireland with gray buildings in background
Me standing along the side of a hedge in Clogher, Co. Tyrone (approx. 2010)

The Claddagh – enough about me for now…

I thought you might enjoy a little history as well as info on how to wear the Claddagh ring, plus one VERY important piece of info that you’ll want to read at the very end. 

The Claddagh is one of Ireland’s most recognized and precious images. Two hands embracing a heart adorned with a crown symbolize the purity of a cherished relationship – friendship (hands), love (heart) and loyalty (crown).  

Image by Mégane Percier from Pixabay 

Claddagh is a Place 

When we hear “Claddagh”, most of us think ring or maybe even door knocker. But Claddagh is actually a place. It’s located in County Galway on the west coast of Ireland and THE place where a fisherman-turned-goldsmith transformed his undying commitment to the woman he loved into the renowned band of gold. (More about the legend in a bit…)  

In an area once known as the Fish Market and named after the Irish word for “shore” – an Cladach, Claddagh is one of Ireland’s oldest former fishing communities. It is located in Galway city, just across the River Corrib from the Spanish and Caoċ Arches, the remaining structure of a protective wall constructed in 1584. Very little of the original village is present today due to shifts in industry, emigration, disease and war but the history and lore remains. You can find out more about Claddagh here .

Image by Snail from Pixabay

Hands, Heart & Crown 

There are many legends surrounding the original design of the Claddagh ring and most point toward Galway fisherman Richard Joyce.  In the late 17th century, Joyce was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. While in servitude, he forged a ring of gold for his true love back in Galway featuring three symbols: a heart of love, a crown of loyalty and hands of friendship.  After his release back to his village of Claddagh, he married the woman who had waited years for him to return. “With these hands I give you my heart, and I crown it with my love”. 

Image by Mégane Percier from Pixabay   

Traditionally, a Claddagh ring was passed from a mother to her daughter. Or in my case, from daughter to mother. I gave my mom a pair of Claddagh earrings when I lived in Ireland. Often a family heirloom, the symbol of love, loyalty and friendship is also commonly exchanged between friends.  

Most popular though is the wearing of a Claddagh ring as a symbol of romance. The Claddagh ring is to be worn in a specific way depending upon your relationship ‘status.’ 

How to Wear a Claddagh Ring 

Before getting married, the ring should be worn on your right hand. 

If you’re single, wear the ring with your heart facing out. This tells people you’re open to dating, i.e. that your heart is available to give to another person. The heart should point toward the end of your finger, rather than the center of your hand, and the crown should point inward. 

Once you’re dating someone and you feel committed, wear the ring with the heart facing in. This shows your heart is currently unavailable. The Claddagh should be turned around so the heart points toward the center of your hand. 

Once you are married, the ring can be moved to the left hand. For some, you can move the Claddagh ring to the left hand once you’re engaged (heart pointing out to the tip of your finger) and then turned around to have the heart pointed toward the center of your hand as part of the wedding ceremony. 

Image by Kilkenny Design 


Regardless of whether or not you’re looking for love, one thing is certain – never buy your own Claddagh ring. It must be gifted or received. It’s bad luck, and who knows more about luck than the Irish? 

Image by Alexa from Pixabay   

I hope you enjoyed this brief little post about one of my favorite Irish symbols as we get ready for St. Patrick’s Day. Do you have a favorite Irish symbol? Have you been to Ireland? I’d love to hear one of your stories. 

Thank you as well to and for much of the information gathered for this post. 

About Chanelle:  

Photo credit: Roxanne Best

Chanelle Carlin is Your Celebrant for Life. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, coach, and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Believing that life and love should be celebrated every minute, she collaborates with couples who’ve already started building the foundations of their relationship over the years and are now ready to venture forth into marriage with a custom, memorable (for all the right reasons) elopement/intimate wedding ceremony. While Chanelle works throughout the Pacific Northwest and Ireland primarily, she gladly travels to wherever her couples prefer to marry. As their Celebrant for Life, Chanelle also celebrates all the special milestones and moments that matter in each of her couples’ lives. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA, and totally LOVES her life. You can visit Chanelle at, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.