- The wedding party
- The stag night
- The preparations
- The ceremony
- The reception
- The honeymoon
- Famous quotes
Roxanne and I arrived in Ireland on the 3rd of July, just over a week before the wedding day. We thought a week would have been more than enough to finish organizing our big day, and we were right: we spent a few days enjoying our holiday with relatives and going around to meet the photographer, the florist and all the others.
Slowly guests started arriving into the country from Italy, England, Romania etc. For some reason, everyone chose a different day to get to Killenaule, so we had people turning up right until the very day before.
In a similar fashion, I was waiting for my waistcoat to arrive until the last minute: it turns out that the guy I bought it from decided to send it through normal post about 10 days before — “They normally arrive in less than two weeks”, he wrote to me in his last email.
I ended up having to drive to Clonmel the afternoon before the wedding with half the wedding party in my car looking for a waistcoat. I eventually managed to rent one (with matching shirt and cravat) for just 40 Euro.
The wedding party
The following table lists all the members of the wedding party, for your own reference.
|Matteo Lagomarsino||Best man|
|Simona Angheluta||Maid of Honor|
|Roberto Pischedda||Head Usher|
The stag night
In Italy, England, US and in many other countries a “stag night” may end up in many different ways: dinner with friends, strip club, wild practical jokes to the groom, and so on. In Ireland, it generally means one thing: drink. It occasionally ends up badly (there are rumors a poor fellow who was thrown out in a river and got married with a broken nose), but generally everything turns out just fine: have a few pints, sing and dance, and have a couple of eggs in the morning. That normally does the trick — if you’re an Irishman.
I was well aware of my in-laws drinking habits, so I decided to take uncle Felix’s offer: “I’ll have a taxi ready for you whenever you want to sneak out of the pub, and make sure you do” — he said.
The evening started with a few pints at Laffansbridge, an old country pub in the middle of nowhere, probably one of the best places for a pint of Guinnes in the whole Tipperary. The little smart guy who runs it has one simple rule: at midnight the light goes off and no more drinks are served, so all 16 of us got into a minibus by then, heading for the next pub.
Quinn’s is the family pub, in the sense that it is owned by Felix Quinn Jr, son of Felix Quinn Sr, brother of Anastasia Quinn, mother of James O’Mahoney, father of Roxanne O’Mahoney, my wife (families are still very large and very close, in Ireland). Being the family pub, Quinn’s doesn’t close at midnight; in fact, it often doesn’t close at all for family and friends (i.e. the entire village of Killenaule).
As soon as we got in, Claire (wife of Felix, son of Felix, etc. etc.) greeted us with a full round of pints, and then another, and yet another…
Around the third round someone asked me if I could sing a song — a request I politely but firmly declined due to my total ignorance in Irish folk songs and my total inability to utter sounds in even the slightest musical way. Luckily, someone else volunteered and sang a beautiful ballad, perfectly in-tune, with no music backing at all: Irish people are amazingly musical when sober, imagine when drunk!
When people started getting into their fourth round (note the pronoun), I decided to try out an old trick to keep myself sober: I drank less than half a pint, and then pretended to drink the rest, leaving always something in my glass. In that way – I thought – I could pretend I didn’t need yet another pint. Unfortunately the pub owner spotted me straight away and said “That pint is stale… here, have another one, on the house!”. At that point I decided it was better for me & the rest of the Italians to quietly sneak out.
I was at home (uncle Martin’s house) and in bed at about 1:30 AM. I almost didn’t sleep at all that night, as expected, so I wasn’t too bothered when the rest of the drinking comrades came back, singing and shouting at 4:30 am. Simona [the Maid of Honor and girlfriend of my brother-in-law Zac], on the other hand, wasn’t too amused when Zac turned up after drinking the (Irish) Nightly Guideline Drink Amount: approx. 10-11 pints of Guinness — those he could count, that is.
This part of the day is best reported in chronological tabular form:
|7:35|| The groom
|8:00||The bridesmaids are up and about, ready to go to the hairdresser|
|9:00||Uncle Martin and the rest of the gang slowly regain consciousness. The groom spends about half an hour trying to explain uncle Martin that he’s his only hope to collect and bring back the flowers for the church (_"Ahhhh you want me to do it… you could have said so since the beginning!"_).|
|9:45||The groom takes the bridesmaids into town, to the hairdresser|
|10:00||The groom attempts to gather his groomsmen for the first time|
|10:15||The groom starts having a chat with the best man and the head usher. The other ushers are somewhere around.|
|10:30||The groom realizes that one of the ushers (Zac) has the most terrible hangover on Earth and the other (Caspar) slept solidly from 3 am (while still in the pub) until now|
|11:00||The groom attempts to gather his groomsmen for the second time, this time telling them it’s time to get ready (he’s not taken seriously)|
|11:30||The groom attempts to gather his groomsmen for the third and final time, now everyone is starting to try out their suits|
|11:45||For some weird reason auntie Noelle decides to call the groom and tell him that the florist is not accepting checks, after 5 minuts of absolute panic, she says we’re going to get the flowers anyway and there’s nothing to worry about.|
|12:00||All groomsman are dressed. It starts raining.|
|12:30||Zac decides he needs some fresh air and takes a walk outside in his morning suit, regardless of the heavy rain and the groom’s prayers|
|13:10||The groomsmen go to the church.|
|14:00||Guests start arriving|
|14:20||The brides arrives and the ceremony starts.|
The wedding ceremony was very suggestive, almost magic. As soon as I looked at Roxanne in her wedding dress all worries faded away, and we both enjoyed the wedding rite. I must say I also don’t remember much of the whole ceremony, but I’m told it’s a common thing to happen.
As the ceremony started, we sat down without looking at the audience, so I didn’t feel paranoid and enjoyed listening to the priest’s speech, the readings and the songs. Canon Liam Ryan embodies the typical Irish priest: about 70-year-old, tall, extremely talkative, cheerful and very charismatic. He shocked us all during the reharsal telling us what we’d have had to do the day after, and it felt like a lot of work. The groomsmen and the bridesmaids were terrified: “So I have to help you sit down, move the chair… like that… then… go back… no, wait, what was that again?”. Matteo and Roberto couldn’t believe the whole choreography involved in the event: it’s nothing like that in Italy, but they were glad they were part of it in the end.
It all happened exactly like Father Ryan predicted, he even guessed almost all the few mistakes we made: “You have to walk slowly in front of the bride” – he said to Delia, the bridesmain – “and if you think you’re going slow while you’re doing it, you’re probably going way too fast”. But nobody noticed, really, and nobody cared: they were all too excited to mind that, and everyone’s eyes were on Roxanne, anyway. She was really, really gorgeous and her dress was fabulous. It felt unreal, at times: we both felt we were in one of those movies…
The most peculiar thing about the whole ceremony was perhaps the different languages involved: English, Italian, Gaelic and Latin. I doubt there was a single person among us who could understand the entirety of the mass, but it was very evocatory. The whole mass was predominantly in English, with the following exceptions:
- The First Reading was in Latin (my mum read it superbly — she’s a Latin teacher!)
- The Second Reading was in Italian
- Our Father was sung in Gaelic
By our own common decision, we didn’t ask for a professional video of the ceremony, only photos. Nevertheless, my uncle captured most of the ceremony (and the most embarassing bits of the dancing after the reception) using my dad’s video camera.
When the ceremony ended it was still raining heavily, so after an endless amount of pictures taken we went straight into our Rolls. Technically, that was not our Rolls of course: we rented it from a local car hirer, and it was worth every penny. A lot of people get married in a VW Beatle or in a Mercedes at most, but Roxanne and I really love old cars, so when we saw Ruby, a red 1961 Silver Cloud II, we just had to get it. Champagne and chauffeur included, of course.
The chauffeur was a very jolly and chatty fellow from Waterford, and drove that beauty of a car for a very long time. Unfortunately though his sat nav decided to stop working and he wasn’t really local, so erhm…, well, let’s just say we were really lucky that at least the brideknew her way around. We made it safe and sound to Raheen House in no time: so fast that everyone else arrived about 10-15 minutes afterwards.
Raheen House is a very charming XIX century Georgian House. One of those places you normally see only in movies: tapestries on the walls, old armchairs, stuffed heads over the doors (an african buffalo, a huge deer, an antelope, and some more)… you get the picture. Unfortunately it can only accomodate 120 people, so it isn’t a very popular location for wedding receptions in Ireland, because the number of people invited at Irish weddings ranges from 150 to 300. We were about 60 in total, nevertheless the dining hall looked quite full and lively, with 7 big tables covering all the room.
As soon as we got there, my best man was informed by the staff that he had to introduce the bride and groom. “What? No, wait! What do I say… how… what? Fabio, come back!” he freaked out, but as soon as I wrote down the two lines he was supposed to say in English everything was OK. Not only did he introduce us properly, he also made a terrific speech: he obviously gave it a lot of thought and it sounded just perfect.
After he spoke, it was my dad’s turn. Now, my dad speaks perfect French but never got a chance to learn and practice English (yet), so not only he had to write down his entire speech, he also had to annotate the pronunciation of every word. He managed fine though. It felt a little bit long, but he said really wonderful and touching words about Roxanne and I, our respective families, and countries. I’ll publish it soon on the Internet, for posterity’s sake.
The last three speeches were Jim’s (the father of the bride), who did great as always, without reading anything, right on the spot. And so did Roxanne and I: we basically just said a few words thanking all the guests for coming, and half of them for helping us with the wedding as well. Every speech (except mine and Roxanne’s) was characterized by subtle and very discreet exhortations to produce progeny (“get on with it!”), but other than that they were fine.
After all the traditional obligations, we finally started our dinner. The food was delicious and extremely tasty: Raheen House is renown for that, as we were told, but we honestly weren’t 100% sure until we started trying it. And there was also plenty of it, so everyone felt really satisfied towards the end of the meal. So satisfied that we decided to postpone the cake till later (see below) and indulge with wine instead.
Wine, right. They were going to charge us 20€ per bottle for some weird Chilean or Australian stuff. Silly and almost offending, especially considering that my family has been producing wine for family and friend’s use for at least three generations! This was my dad’s primary concern until we left for Ireland: “You sort the restaurant out, because I’m going to bring some bottles, no matter what”. He shipped over 96 special bottles of our 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages. Ninety-six. We used about 25 of them for the meal and the rest of the evening, then we gave one to almost every guest, three to the staff of the restaurant, a few more to other hotel and B&B owners, six to each uncle of the bride, etc. etc. None came back to Italy, that’s for sure.
Right after the meal the band came in, and we got ready to dance. Roxanne and I had to start with our First Dance, of course, then everyone else slowly joined in. The group was playing a mixture of traditional Irish music, ballads and rock ‘n’ roll: they were amazing, and especially the Italian’s were really impressed.
Not as impressed as when they noticed uncle Martin dancing. I’ve never seen anyone in my life dancing so vigorously and wildly in my life. He has his own special technique that cannot be described with words. I’ll try to post a video of him soon. He really felt the rythm and never missed a step. Like a whirlwind he dragged everyone in, dancing with him: first his daughters and sons, then his brothers, the he thought he’d take my auntie for a spin, then the bride (well, mostly her dress), then even me! I don’t remember much, I think I was in the air at one point, and then all over the place…
Everyone of course joined in and started drinking and dancing for the whole evening. When the band performed the last two songs, I just remember a huge circle of nearly all the guests holding hands dancing around Roxanne and I, then coming closer, then far, then closer again. It was definitely the wildest night in our whole life.
The day after we slowly recovered. We didn’t sleep much, but we managed to get up and have breakfast with some of the guests at the hotel, before they started heading back. Then we decided to go shopping in town: it was basically Roxanne and I, plus her brothers, her parents, and my parents. Not much of a honeymoon, as my mum pointed out, but we didn’t mind.
After spending the following day saying goodbye and thanks to all the relatives, we finally headed to Co. Galway, in Connemara. We booked three nights in the fabulous Abbeyglen Castle, highly recommended. Our superior room had a fireplace, a four-poster bed and jacuzzi bath: the bare essentials for a honeymoon really. Roxanne and I really enjoyed those three days, finally alone in the most breathtaking and romantic area of Ireland. Three days weren’t enough, really, but we’ll eventually go back there hopefully: maybe Sir Paul Hughes, proprietor of the castle, will still remember “the bride and groom”, as he kept calling us throughout our brief, but very pleasant stay.
Exactly as auntie Noelle said, everything was over in a blink: the ceremony, the reception, the honeymoon… everything went back to normal, eventually. It took a while to get used to our normal life: we had to go on a shopping spree before we went back to work… let’s say the money we got as present from most of the guest was well spent in a 42" LCD HD TV, surround sound system, etc. etc.
…And we still have our other half of the honeymoon, too! Probably Miami Beach and Bahamas, next November.
Our wedding photos were taken by Pat McCoole, who did a truly amazing job portraying the magic of our special day.
- On the wedding day, it rained non-stop from 12 am to 7 pm.
- The groom drove for a total of 1758.7 Km in 14 days.
- On his stag night, the groom only drank 2.5 pints of Guinness (almost everyone else had 10, on average).
- The night before the wedding, the groom slept only from 5:30 to 7:30.
- Only the middle tier of the wedding cake was eaten on the wedding day. The top tier was eaten during the following days by relatives and the bottom tier was shipped to Italy, together with the Bride’s dress.
- The father of the bride decided to change into more comfortable clothes right after the ceremony. He borrowed a waistoat and a jacket for the speech.
- Uncle Martin danced with a lot of people after the meal, including the bride, her father, and the groom.
- When he arrived at the church, the groom immediately realized he left the mass booklets and the confetti in the back of his car, at home. They were eventually brought to the church by a cousin of the bride just a few minutes before she arrived.
- At the very start of the ceremony, the groom told the priest to tell the best man to get a mass booklet so that he and the bride can follow the mass properly. After 30 seconds of lip-reading and signalling, the best man understood and fetched one of the infamous booklets.
- The bride forgot her change of clothes in uncle John’s car, who had to drive in early in the morning or she would have had her breakfast in her wedding dress.
“This journey feels like going to Lourdes: you come back and your life changed forever.”
— The best man, when he arrived in Killenaule.
“Is there a garage around?”
— Auntie Isa while waving a car mirror, when she arrived in Killenaule
“Do I really have to do a speech? Are you sure?”
— The best man, when he met the groom in Ireland.
— The best man, when he was given the rings in custody.
“She’s the most calm and organized bride in history.”
— Auntie Noelle, about the bride on the wedding day.
“You could tell he was panicking on the phone”
— Auntie Noelle, about the groom on the wedding day.
“Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes…”
— The father of the bride to the groom, during the traditional handshake of the wedding rehearsal.
“Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes…”
— The groom to the father of the bride, during the traditional handshake of the wedding ceremony.
Best man: “[…] this is the first time for me to speak in public, in front of an English audience […]”
Audience: “Irish! IRISH!!!”
Best man: “…oh, right, Irish! Sorry…”
“I need another shirt!”
— Uncle Martin, after about 2 hours of continuous dancing with almost all the guests.