Celebrating A Wedding on Ireland's Coast
A few years ago some dear friends determined to marry, and although they live in the Pacific Northwest, they decided to have the ceremony in Ireland. After some searching however, they were unable to find someone appropriate who could legally perform the ceremony. It seems they didn't have the right religious affiliations.
Scott and Chanin thought the solution would be to have a legal ceremony performed by a Justice of the Peace in a park in their own city just before they continued to the airport to fly to Ireland. Then they could have someone they chose serve as celebrant of the ceremony in Ireland. That person wouldn't need to be able to marry them legally. But they wanted someone who could convey the feeling that they wanted on this special day, with whom they would feel comfortable, and who could carry the service and convey the message that was right for them. Yours' truly, the Big Splash at Friends of Water was the person they asked. Of course I was delighted to do it.
The wedding was to be on the Cliffs of Moher in the Burren in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland.
I flew to Dublin, where I was picked up by Dieter, our mutual friend and Chanin's business partner. Dieter had been working in Germany (they own a language translation firm) and flew over to pick me and drive across the country. The first time we stopped was to get a meal at a crossroads in the west, I think at Loughrea. It was a Sunday. Most of the people in the bustling pub were watching a game on television. There were all sorts there, including entire families. People were very sweet and welcoming. I told them we had just flown from the west coast of America to have dinner there. Hey, my heritage is Irish: I'm entitled to a little blarney. (See Poppy Swam From Ireland on that topic.)
At the coast we took a short visit to Dunguaire Castle at Kinvarra, built in the 1500s on the site of an earlier stronghold going back to the 600's. It was reportedly the strongly of Guaire, the king of Connaught. We didn't have time to stay for one of the medieval banquets they hold there regularly.
We continued down the coast and had a lovely stop at the little harbor town Ballyvaughan. We strolled around the park along the inner harbor and chatted with locals and travelers.
In time we found our party having drinks in the Pub at the place where we were all staying, and where the wedding reception would be. Over a Guinness we met friends and family who had come from England and the US to help Scott and Chanin celebrate.
The next day we all took a ferry out to the largest of the Aran Islands, Inish Mor. Some rented bikes or went in a horse cart to tour the island. There are remains of ancient forts on the island. Others strolled, enjoying the few shops and the sparce and beautiful land and sea scapes in the village of Kilronan. We bought a few things. My favorite purchase was a lovely soft red shawl for Corinne - The Wave as she is known at Friends of Water. We all gathered for a meal that was great fun. Getting to know the group of families and friends, with time to just sit and talk, was a delight.
The morning of the wedding itself Scott and I drove to the Cliffs of Moher to select the exact spot for the ceremony. When we were there the walkway off the the south was closed off. We walked up the hills above the cliffs to the right, toward the North. Eventually we got to the high spot where there is an old stone O'Brien's tower. We decided the right spot was on a grassy knoll at the top of the cliffs outside the walled-in walkway, just near the tower. That put us about 230 meters, or some 755 feet above the ocean, with views out to sea, and along the cliffs, which run for 5 miles, or 8 kilometers.
Walking up to this spot took us about 10 minutes. We knew that would make it a difficult walk for Chanin's grandmother, but with help and plenty of time, it should work out fine.
When the wedding party arrived, it caused quite a stir. The Cliffs of Moher are a very popular tourist spot, and it was the middle of summer. There were people there from all over the world. Everyone loves a wedding. Everyone lives a bride. Chanin was a particularly lovely bride so she had pictures taken of her by people from all over. There is no doubt those photos were shared and enjoyed all around the world!
One group of people from Italy were talking with me as we set up and waited for Chanin's Grandmother to arrive. They asked if we were from the region. When I told them that no, we were from the west coast of America and we'd come just to have the wedding there, they thought that was the most romantic thing they had ever heard of. They simply couldn't believe it. And so they stayed for the ceremony. As did perhaps another 50 people, representing many countries. They were all very respectful, and stayed on the other side of the wall to watch, listen and wish the new couple well.
There was a three-piece traditional Irish music group with us, who played lovely melodies before, during and after the ceremony. The fog that enclosed the cliffs that morning had burned away and it was a clear day. I had my back to the ocean, so that the bride, groom and all the guests were looking out toward the sea.
The talk was based on traditional Irish wisdom, largely gleaned from a book called Aram Cara by John O'Donohue. The ancient Irish did not separate the visible from the invisible, or time from eternity. They did not accept dualism the way most of us do. We won't intrude on the words we said that day, but I'm sure that Chanin and Scott won't mind if I lift just this one sentences to remind us all:
In loving, you become free.