Before I begin, let me make this fairly plain. My husband and I are already married. We got married at a lovely, small civil ceremony in front of a judge and 2 witnesses in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico in October of 2009. By the time we attend our “Irish wedding” this weekend, we will have been married for 15 months.
So why have another wedding in Ireland? Well, for one and most importantly, my husband is, in fact, Irish. From Dublin, to be exact. And despite the fact that, now, he is rather annoyed at the process of actually planning a real wedding, from the get-go, he did want to have a spiritual ceremony in his home parish with his family there. It’s a Catholic thing. And an Irish thing (despite the fact that he is not a particularly standard version of either).
I get that, and I wanted the same, so we began planning.
But here’s the thing, and this is something that anyone considering marrying an Irish man (or woman for that matter) should consider: Irish people take weddings very seriously. Even if your intended spouse is not particularly bothered about all the nuptial hoopla, chances are, his family will be.
Read on for how to plan your Irish wedding…
And so it goes. I am not a traditional person, neither is the husby. That’s probably why we got married in front of a judge and two witnesses to begin with. But his family, it seems, is taking this whole thing very seriously. And perhaps they have a right to. They weren’t at the first one, after all.
I’ve learned a few things during this process. And so, here are my tips for planning the wedding of a lifetime to your Paddy Beloved.
1) The wedding part of an Irish wedding is a very formal affair. Most Irish people opt to get married in the home church of the bride, and the Catholic church is traditional and strict about the affairs of the marriage rite. If you were hoping to walk down the aisle to anything other than a hymn or classical song performed by a guitarist or string trio, you can think otherwise.
2) The reception part of an Irish wedding is a big party in a hotel ballroom. We strayed from this, mostly because we wanted a small to-do with good food and great drink. That’s why we decided to host our reception at The Brazen Head, one of our favorite pubs in Dublin.
3) The guest list is long. Expect your future in-laws to want to invite all of their siblings, along with your spouse-to-be’s cousins, great aunts, great uncles, grandparents and plenty of friends of the parents thrown in for good measure. This number alone can rack up to hundreds (quite literally), without even counting your own family or friends.
4) There are two ways to marry in Ireland: via Catholic ceremony or civil ceremony. Even if you choose a civil ceremony, the Irish government has fairly strict rules about where you can get married and who can marry you (has to be in a room with four walls and a ceiling, so put away your ideas of marrying on Curracloe Beach, which, for the record, would be the most gorgeous wedding of all time).
5) Start early. I am talking at least 9 months in advance, even if you are only planning a small thing like us. You’ll need at least that much time to get all the paperwork sorted out and to fulfill the waiting period and time limit imposed by the government and/or the church.
6) If you choose to go the Catholic route and one of you is not Catholic, prepare for paperwork. If you aren’t already living in Ireland, you’ll have to consult with a local parish wherever you are living to go through a martial prep course and fill in the necessary documents to petition the church to let the Catholic marry the non-Catholic. There are tests and witnesses and more documents to fill out, all of which have to be sent between your “home” parish wherever you live, and the parish in Ireland where you intend to exchange vows.
7) Give your future in-laws plenty of leeway. It’s very likely that they are going to approach a wedding differently than you do (unless you are particularly traditional yourself), but if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that the Irish know how to throw a good party.
8 ) Be yourselves. There is no more important aspect to a wedding than that it reflects the couple, so spend some time incorporating your own special elements into the day, no matter how big or small they may be.
And, that’s it! Our planning is done (thank goodness), so let the party start! And good luck to you, if you’re just beginning. Be sure to check back in a few weeks’ time, when I’ll update you on how to survive your Irish wedding…