There’s nothing like an Irish wedding.
Last weekend, one of our dearest friends here, Kieran O’Sullivan, got married. I’ve had some small indications before of what a “real” Irish wedding was like, but I still found myself in awe of this incredible celebration. Now obviously, this wedding, as any, was unique to the couple no matter what their heritage, but there were some truly stunning parts of it that were characteristically Irish and thus were particularly memorable for me.
This was by far the fanciest wedding I’ve ever attended, anywhere! From the time I entered the church, all I could do was stare and gape at the amazing array of hats and fascinators surrounding me. Wow – how beautiful! I wish I had been brave enough just to take pictures of womens’ heads… but since I was a polite spectator, you’ll have to use your imagination.
I love the way Irish ladies take dressing up so seriously. Every lady and girl in attendance was dressed in fine clothes – not just a nice skirt and top, but proper formal gowns and party dresses in all colours of the rainbow. Many had their hair and makeup professionally done, and the accessories were extensive and classy. Matching handbags, shoes, shawls, hair pieces, nails and jewelry were “musts.” The lads didn’t look so bad, either – suits and ties on nearly everyone. But mostly, I still just keep thinking about the hats. So glad that we’re keeping milliners in business around here between weddings and the races – wouldn’t it be a shame to lose such a stunning form of art?
The wedding was held in one of the oldest and loveliest RC churches in town, St. Augustines (or The Augustinian as the locals call it), and it is known for its music and the acoustics of the sanctuary. Throughout the ceremony, the place was filled from the altar to the balcony, every beam vibrating with the sounds of perfectly ethereal voices and songs. A female soloist performed a version of the 23rd Psalm (aka “Se an Tiarna M’Aoire”) in Irish, and a boys choir (the bride, Sarah, teaches in one of the boys’ schools) did a piece, and a couple of male traditional Irish singers (ironically, my boss, Patrick Branigan, and his brother, Kevin!) sang as well. I lost count of how many times I got goosebumps during the singing.
There is such a pure quality in traditional Irish music, especially when it’s sung a capella, as most of these songs were. Including these pieces made for quite a moving ceremony, and one I won’t soon forget. When the couple was pronounced man and wife before the congregation and we all clapped, everyone on the altar stepped forward and began to sing “Red Is The Rose” until the rest of us joined in and we sang the couple out of the church. Wow. That’s all I can say (Still! Four days later!). Wow!
There’s a nice version of the song below:
The music at the reception was a bit different but very fun – mostly classic rock tunes for everyone to dance to. In fact, their first dance was “It’s The End of The World (As We Know It),” which showed off the couple’s collective sense of humour quite well. Later, the groom even got up with the band and sang to his bride, which was really sweet and got everyone on their feet.
Any truly great wedding has to have a few “Oh My God” kind of stories attached to it. This one was no different, thanks to a lively gentleman with a cane, sitting near the front. He rocked to himself and buoyantly clapped and called out “Tip-top!” after every song, some of which he heartily joined in on. The bride thought he was with the groom’s family, and the groom thought he was with the bride’s, and the congregation figured he was just someone’s crazy uncle as everyone tried to stifle giggles during his cheerful outbursts. Turns out he was just one of the town drunks, probably stumbled in the side door from the Admirals’ Pub next door. And he was having a wonderful time.
At the end of the day, what makes a wedding memorable is how much or how little you enjoyed yourself, right? Let’s be honest. But I have to say, this was one of the nicest weddings I’ve ever attended. The ceremony was beautiful, the reception long and relaxed with plenty of good food and drink and friends to go ’round. We caught up with people we hadn’t seen in months and really made a day of it.
That is the single best part of Irish weddings, in my opinion – there is no rush. You plan on being there for the whole day, and maybe into the next! This wedding was set to begin at 2 p.m. – it got started a bit late, so I got to chat to friends in the church while we waited. Then we drove to the reception in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, and enjoyed punch while the wedding party had photos taken. Then dinner, speeches, music, dancing, cake, “afters,” and all the rest. The hosts were over to us several times (and there were lots of guests to tend to!) and couldn’t have been more craic. We brought Shea with us, so we only stayed until around midnight, ha ha, but friends of ours reported staying until 6 or 7 a.m. This was a real party. A true Irish wedding. 🙂
Now, Kieran and Sarah are on their Honeymoon on the West Coast of the USA, so if you see them, pat them on the back for taking the plunge! Then buy them a drink. And lastly, tell them we said hello and not to hurry back. They deserve a break, I think! 🙂
I think other nationalities – ahem, Americans – should take a leaf from the Irish. Admittedly, most American weddings I’ve been to were much smaller and simpler, probably because the parties involved couldn’t afford a big to-do. Fair enough. Irish folks don’t get married as often or as quickly as Americans, in most cases. They date for a long time, buy a house together, have a few kids, get engaged, and after a couple of years of saving, THEN they have a wedding and get married. Americans do it the other way around, usually, which opens up another whole conversation. But I do think weddings are pretty standard in the States and don’t end up standing out as much as they could as a really and truly special day.
I went to sooo many weddings in high school and college, and after a while, sorry to say, they got a bit boring and sameish. It was usually a quick church ceremony, same old songs and readings, then a reception with some cake and maybe finger food afterwards, perhaps a speech from the best man or whatever, done and dusted in the course of a couple of hours. Maybe, there was a meal and/or dancing. Occasionally, drinking. That’s not to say these weren’t nice weddings! It’s not about the food or the money spent! (Everyone should have the wedding they want, which is most important, who am I to say what’s best?) But for me, as a guest, it’s great to honestly look forward to the event, get really dressed up, find yourself moved during the ceremony, and overall spend the day in joyful celebration with friends and family without worrying about the time. Isn’t that what it’s all about, anyway?