Day 4, Friday, 14 September 2012
The raison d’être for my Irish vacation was the wedding of Eoin (pronounce this Owen) and Tracy. And this is how an Irish “city wedding” happens, the Reader’s Digest condensed version: the ceremony is in the church; then everyone repairs to a nice hotel, where there is a sit-down dinner, and afterwards drinking and dancing. The wedding couple pays for this; they have very long engagements, during which they save and budget for the big event. This, I think, is a good way to do it. It focuses the mind.
There was some worry there’d be rain, but the day was lovely. The wedding party and many of the guests take rooms in the reception hotel—so they may party with impunity: as in the States, drunk driving is a serious offense in Ireland—and we’d be among that number. And we already knew how nice the Portmarnock Hotel is.
But first, the ceremony. Margaret and I picked up Jill and Alli at the hotel, then drove in to Dublin. I dropped all of them at the church, then went around the corner and picked up Gerry and Bridie, his mother. We were all in our wedding finery.
The groom is Gerry’s nephew Eoin (and if you’ve seen my Facebook page, you know I claim him—and his siblings—as mine too), and the church is the one he grew up in (St. Brendan’s in Coolock village, now just a suburb of Dublin).
The officiant, however, was the parish priest (Fr. Ben Moran OP) where the bride, Tracy, grew up, in Tallaght (also a suburb). This meshing of two families’ spiritual homes made for a very sweet, personal wedding.
Of course, we Yanks were pretty excited to see some of the fam we hadn’t yet laid eyes on (because they’d been immersed in wedding preparations). When Alli visited Ireland two years ago, she stayed with Eoin and Tracy, and formed a fast friendship. I’m close to Eoin’s sisters, Clare and Orla, who were bridesmaids; they’ve visited both Tennessee and California. So there was excitement all around.
American readers will be interested to know that an Irish bridegroom does not look at his bride as she walks up the aisle. No, the groom isn’t allowed to look until she reaches the altar. It is a sweet moment. Eoin had been visibly antsy, a bundle of nerves—but he calmed right down when Tracy took his hand.
It was a lovely service, full of personal moments. It was even mentioned that folks had come all the way from America. 🙂 I’m so glad I came.
After some back and forth about getting six people from Coolock to Portmarnock in a car meant for four (some of our group took the party bus), we arrived at the lovely Portmarnock Hotel and checked in. Did we have a great view, or what? A corner room on the third (top) floor with a charming window-door through which we were able to step out onto the roof.
While we were waiting for the wedding party to arrive, the guests congregated in some public rooms, where we were offered tea, coffee, or champagne, as well as little snacks.
Then we were let into the banquet hall. Every table was beautifully decorated, every guest accounted for.
Gerry and I were seated near the wedding party table at the head of the room, with Maureen and Bridie, and with Gerry’s younger brother Richie, his wife, Isolde, and their twin daughters, Grainne (pronounce this GRAHN-ya) and Ashling, and Ashling’s delightful boyfriend, Damian.
And then the food, oh my.
I kept a menu but at the moment it’s in the mail from Ireland and I can remember little else. 🙂 (UPDATE: after the vol-au-vents, we were served cream of seasonal vegetable soup, roast turkey and baked ham or Irish salmon, seasonal vegetables and potatoes, meringue nests filled with fresh fruit and ice cream.) Every single thing was delicious and beautifully presented.
After dinner at an Irish wedding there will be speeches, so it’s become tradition to place friendly wagers on how long the best man’s speech will be, and how long the speeches in their entirety will be. Five euro was the price of entry at our table, and I placed my guesses. I’d been staying in the best man’s house, so I figured I had an inside track—and I nailed it (within five seconds)! Ashling was the other winner and we pooled our take to buy a round of drinks for the table. Make mine Jameson, neat. 🙂
Oh, and the speeches were lovely too.
Now the banquet hall had to be cleared for the dancing, so the entire party returned to the public rooms, where a good time was had by all.
A half-hour later we were back in the hall, celebrating the first dance and later being entertained by Irish dancers. “Is this typical?” I asked, and was told Eoin and Tracy wanted to do something a little different. It was delightful.
By then, of course, much of the room was well and truly wasted. Irish dancers! Irish whiskey! Oh my! When Gerry and I left at 10:00 pm-ish, they’d brought out trays of soup and sandwiches, presumably so people could keep drinking. I won’t be giving too much away by telling you that when we ran into Eoin and Tracy on our way to breakfast twelve hours later, we learned the last of the group had gone to bed at 6:30 am. I’m not sure I’ve ever stayed up that late—and I hope when I get married again I won’t be expected to!
Eoin had been twitching and twisting in the wind at the altar, waiting for his bride to enter. (You can see it on the video Gerry made.) When she finally made that long walk and he turned to see her beside him, he said, “Wow!” and immediately teared up. Sweet.