Going, going, gone, thank God! - Irish wedding traditions change for the better


Going, going, gone, thank God! - Irish wedding traditions change for the better
Illustration by Caty Bartholomew

I was at a good wedding last week. It began in a small country chapel, and the celebrant was splendidly merry and friendly while at the same time properly marking the sacramental solemnity of the occasion.

When the bride was making her entrance, for example, he said, "Is she not looking just gorgeous? Let's give her a round of applause.” That set the tone for the service and for the day that followed too.
We may be in a recession, but there was no sign of that on this day.  The reception was in an excellent hotel.

It began with champagne for all and one of those chocolate and marshmallow fountains so beloved by the ladies. There was a luscious strawberry at the bottom of every champagne glass too.

The dining tables were kept flowing with wine throughout the meal, good cigars were distributed, there was more champagne for the toasts at the end, the food was brilliant and featured spring lamb and sea bass.

Then a splendid band began playing the music that lasted without a break until the early hours of the next morning, the floor still crammed with dancers. Two well-stocked bars were kept busy throughout.

The families and friends of the bride and groom, from all over the country and beyond, mixed and mingled well from the beginning. It was altogether a wedding in the best tradition of rousingly enjoyable

Irish weddings, and it was a pleasure to be there.

And it was during an evening conversation with another silvered veteran of many weddings that it was pointed out to me how the wedding ritual in modern Ireland has been immensely improved by the omission of one element which was an essential part of the wedding days of the past.

There is no Going Away any more!

Many of you will remember the tragi-comic going aways of the new husband and wife up until about 20 years ago. My friend said, “It happened to you (and indeed it did) and it happened to me, and Lord it was awful." And upon reflection it surely was.

Think about it. The happy couple and/or their families (or both) spent every available shilling on putting on a great day for all they knew and loved and to mark the celebration of their marriage, the biggest day of their lives.

They worked for months to ensure that everything was organized down to the last detail. It invariably went like clockwork 99 percent of the time.

There came a time in the evening when everybody was chatting and drinking and singing and dancing, when the craic was at its peak.

And at precisely that point, having been absent from the scene for maybe 45 minutes, the bride and groom sheepishly enough appeared again to show that they were Going Away.

She had shed her lovely wedding dress and was invariably wearing an outfit that did not flatter her at all, and revealed that with her hair down she was looking plain exhausted.

He was out of his Sunday suit and clad in a new sports jacket and slacks. He also looked exhausted.

But the ritual had to be observed. The poor bride had been equipped with a much smaller bouquet than she had borne in the chapel or, worse still, about a third of that bouquet which had clearly been gutted for the ritual.

Amidst ribald cheers, the unmarried girls at the wedding were harried and hunted into the area in front of the poor bride, who then turned her back and flung the bouquet into the melee that developed in front of her.

Invariably you saw the disappointment on her face because the best friend she had aimed the flowers at never managed to catch it. It was supposed at the time that the lady who caught it would be the next bride to go to the altar.

Then, again with much fuss and ado, the couple were grabbed up body and bones and thrown up in the air a few times before being hurled out into the night and actually Going Away.