Friday, 26 June 2015
An Irish wedding is an all-day affair. The wedding starts around lunchtime and if it’s a church wedding it’ll last at least an hour. Then we all sort of stand outside and chat for a while before heading off to the hotel where we’ll have dinner later. And speeches. And some of us will dance.
In this particular case the wedding was at 1pm in Lusk. We’d driven up here a couple days ago, so we knew exactly where we were going. We weren’t prepared, though, for the madhouse of the church grammar school having just let out, and fifty moms in cars taking all the parking in and around the church. I let Bridie and Gerry out and parked—probably illegally—several blocks away, grumbling the whole way.
Damian and Ashling (my niece) are a delightful couple. Though they grew up not far from each other, the met in—of all places—Houston, Texas, where they were working on advanced degrees in biomedicine research. They became friends, really good friends, which is, I can tell you, a wonderful foundation for a marriage. They’re both very smart, he is warm and welcoming, and she has a goofy, fun sense of humor.
As has been the case in each of the previous weddings I’ve been to in Ireland, the spouse’s family—and that’s important, too, the family you marry into—has been absolutely lovely. Damian’s family was no exception. Damian’s brothers stood up with him (one, the best man, had just flown in from Australia, where he currently lives and works); Damian’s friends hovered close and seemed to be very friendly with his parents. These little details reveal a lot about the kind of person Damian is, and the kind of people who raised him. Later in the evening, Damian’s father gave a lovely, touching speech.
So that was the wedding. I have many photos, but the wedding couple asked that none be published, via an announcement on the dinner tables. I don’t know if everyone saw this request, but it won’t be me who breaks the embargo.
After the ceremony in Lusk, we went to the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge (originally Bewley’s). Ballsbridge is a pretty, upscale neighborhood in Dublin. Miss Emily Gp.S. took us right there, though it felt like we were taking the grand tour of Dublin, with a million turns and twists. I wonder, now, if there wasn’t a faster way.
Be sure you take a look at that link above. The building is gorgeous, Victorian era. Someone told me that day it had been a monastery but actually it was a charity school for orphaned girls, run for ninety years by the Freemasons. The school included a library, dormitories, schoolrooms, recreation and dining areas, as well as an assembly hall. That assembly hall is now called Thomas Prior Hall (a much newer name), and is where the wedding dinner was held.
So we got there, finally, though we were probably the last to arrive.
Anyway, one of the things Americans need to wrap their heads around is the lack of parking, the lack of loading and unloading, even the lack of a clearly delineated entrance to the hotel lobby. Because in an old, historic city (Viking era, for heaven’s sake), with hotels in old, historic buildings, you just don’t always get that. (Besides, it would be tacky, no? All that signage and suchlike would spoil the ambience.)
So we pulled up, and I’m oohing and aahing, but wasn’t sure where to go. Thinking like a Yank, I drove into the parking garage. (Because there will be an elevator, right to the lobby … right? Uh, probably not. But I hadn’t gotten that far yet.) I started to drive down past the ground floor (which had very limited parking), just following along the way one does in a parking lot, and ended up at a one-lane spiral—and the way down was so narrow, so tight, so twisty, that I announced NO WAY and backed back out! Laugh if you want. I consider myself a pretty experienced Dublin driver, all things considered, but I didn’t think I could get into that parking garage without grazing the walls.
And here’s the thing, here’s the lesson for those of you who might find yourself driving in Ireland: there’s nothing wrong with admitting defeat. I just backed out. Slowly. When I was almost out, another car came up behind me, but it was obvious I was backing up, and the driver pulled back to let me out. As we passed, I rolled down my window and apologized for holding her up, but that narrow ramp scared me, I said. I just couldn’t face it, I said. She laughed very sympathetically and commiserated with me. We had a moment. 🙂
I ended up parking by the restaurant entrance.
Then the real adventure began. We found our way into the lobby after a couple of false turns—it was like a maze!—dragging our luggage behind us, then got checked in. And guess what? Third floor, and no a/c here, again. Let me say, again, it wasn’t hot outside. But a small room on an upper floor with no fan to move the air around becomes like an oven.
So let’s not stay in it! We hustled back downstairs to the reserved part of the bar, where we had finger food and champagne. (And where, I have to be honest, it was also hot. I’m very fair and flush easily. You can see this in the photos.) Photos? Yes! I took a ton of photos, trying to get one of me with everyone in my Irish family. Since these aren’t wedding photos—and I’ve left out any of the wedding party—I feel free to show them to you. It’s my family, all dressed up. 🙂
We spent an hour and a half cutting up with the fam, enjoying the photographing and the chat. I’ve always felt loved and welcomed with Gerry’s family—they’re really lovely people—but this time I felt a part of them. I hesitate to note this, because Gerry and I have been together twelve years—can a simple wedding on the steps of the courthouse have made that much difference? In some ways, I guess, it can.
We went in to dinner, then, and I found myself sitting next to Patrick, whose partner, Grainne (the bride’s twin), was seated at the wedding party table. This was my first time to have more than a laugh and a joke with Patrick—he’s a lot of fun—and I was able to have an actual conversation with him. He has an interesting accent (born South Africa, mother is Irish, lived in England, school in Ireland, living in England now). Food was good (though, as usual, the beef was overcooked).
Between the heat—even with the high ceiling, the room was very warm—and the long day, I was working on a headache the likes of which I haven’t had in years. Splitting. After dinner, of course, there were speeches, and then I told Gerry I needed to go upstairs. Which is when I discovered another truism about Irish weddings: if you take a room at the wedding hotel as a part of the wedding group, you will be given a room much closer to the wedding festivities than you might ordinarily care to have. For Tracy and Eoin’s wedding, our room’s window was open to the courtyard where all the smokers went to talk very loudly at 2am (we heard all sorts of interesting things). At Neil and Maureen’s wedding hotel, our room was at the top of the stairs from the lobby on the second floor (the Irish would call this the first floor); since there was no elevator, every single person staying at the hotel that night had to pass (loudly, sloshed) by our room.
Ashling and Damian’s wedding was no exception, and I have photographic proof: The building you see outside our window in the photo below is Thomas Prior Hall. What you can’t see, at the bottom, is the door, the only door to the outside. Which means it was open (remember, the room was very hot) and people were always standing in it, or on the sidewalk in front of it, trying to cool off. Again, we heard all sorts of interesting things, although one tries not to. 🙂
Gerry tells me the music went until 1:30am but I put the Magic Sleep Machine on around 10:30 and went right to sleep, strangely exhausted. Thank goodness.