Unquestionably my biggest downfall in life is my intense FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). If it’s Friday night at 11PM and I’m in my pyjamas watching Netflix and someone calls me up out of the blue and says, “Hey, there’s a Jello-wrestling party happening down on George Street and everything’s crazy — wanna go?” I’d be dressed and ready to go faster than you can say “cougar.”
So spending $1,000+ to fly to Ireland for five days to attend two friends’ wedding? OBVIOUSLY.
My love affair with Sligo (along the Wild Atlantic Way) began in 2013 when I showed up with my new friend Julia in Tubbercurry. Sligo is often overlooked for Ireland’s other emerald gems, but it’s here I found my second home in the world. Julia and I fit so perfectly into the Sligo community, it was like we were born and raised there.
That morning, we dozed hungover on the Eirrann bus to Tubbercurry where we’d be meeting Paul Murphy — the owner of Murphy’s Hotel, and our host for the evening. David — a man I met via Facebook — had pre-arranged all my travel plans for me. I found out years later that he told everyone I was a Times reporter. I’m sure everyone was very disappointed.
Anyway, Julia and I almost missed the bus stop, and I yelled at the driver to stop. We hauled out our bags and greeted Paul, who instantly became our comrade. That night, after dinner, him and his lovely girlfriend Sonya invited us to Nathy Brennan’s pub for some pints of Guinness around a wood fire stove. And thus our first meaningful relationship in Sligo Co. was forged.
Three years later, I received an invitation in the mail asking me to attend their wedding in Sligo. And since I’m in the habit of chasing weddings around the world (new blog niche?), I just had to attend.
In mid June, I met Julia in Dublin where we picked up a car and drove to Strandhill. We’d be spending our time at our friends’ house there, where as per usual, we were wined and dined like royalty. Kenny unveiled dish after dish over the course of five days, appealing to Julia’s vegan sensibilities while at the same time indulging my I-will-eat-fucking-anything tastes. The Irish hospitality thing is not a myth.
So naturally on the morning of the wedding, I woke up the most hungover I’ve been in ages. I mean. It’s Ireland.
Julia and I scrambled to get ready for the wedding, and somehow I managed to get my hair looking less like a tangled mop without even looking in the mirror. I mostly sat on the floor and cried. We had about 40 minutes to make the drive from Strandhill to Tubbercurry — and Google Maps didn’t seem to know where the church was. We figured if we showed up randomly in the village, we’d find it. And we were right.
We aimed our little car towards a church steeple and saw a crowd of people headed towards the front entrance. We pulled up next to a couple and I rolled down the window and yelled, “Is this St. John’s Evangelical Church?” To which the couple shrugged and said, “I have no idea!” So I yelled, “Sonya and Paul?” And it was confirmed that Julia and I had somehow made it to the right church in the middle of nowhere because Ireland.
Fast forward to the full-on Catholic church ceremony that lasted for about two hours. Ho-boy. I was raised in a Catholic setting (although I’m Anglican), but even I couldn’t keep up with all the tedious sit-downs-stands-up of mass. I sat twice on the hands of the people behind me when I should have been kneeling. Some red flag of ALERT went off in my head when it was time to give peace, and I nudged Julia to turn around in the pew to shake the hands of the people behind us with a, “Peace be with you!” Poor Julia had never seen the likes.
We also stood out like sore thumbs because the entire pew in front of us cleared out to move closer to the front, and since 6-foot-2 Julia and I were unruly and out of sorts in the church where we knew NOBODY, we were literally surrounded by nothingness in a packed church. Just a big empty space and the two of us, alone, huddled together giggling like idiots.
At one point, during Communion, I turned to the folks behind me and I said, “I’m sorry, we’re Canadian, we have no idea what we’re doing.” And so they went about their bread business ignoring us.
(The whole thing was so ridiculous. I can’t believe no one called us out on it.)
It was also around that time in church when Julia and I, despite our dresses and make-up and jewelry, realized we were drastically underdressed for an Irish wedding. Christ on a cracker, those Irish ladies can dress. Full on prom-like dresses with crinoline, gigantic hats and fasteners, high heels that eclipsed even Julia’s height. I’m pretty sure some of the guests’ dresses were worth more than my entire life. And the colour coordination! Oh my word! The bride’s mom wore a dress worthy of the red carpet. It was jaw-dropping.
Anyway. The actual reception was an hour outside of Tubbercurry, in Enniscrone. Rather than deal with the fuss of getting back to Strandhill, Julia and I booked an overly expensive hotel room where the reception was being held — at the Diamond Coast. We justified this expense by saying we could just sneak back to our room to down some cheap corner store beers rather than 6 eur pints at the bar. This was a brilliant plan, in hindsight, except that to compensate for our awkward stuck-out-like-a-sore-thumbness, we drank half the beers early in the afternoon and were full on drunk by 5PM. The wedding must have had 200 guests, and we were probably the drunkest.
We downplayed it by dancing like insane people.
Sonya and Paul had good sense to seat us with a table of exceptionally delightful and fun Irish folks who were all thrilled to hear that we were Canadian. The ladies were also the ladies Julia and I had ogled and admired from afar for their excellent dressing sense, so we spent some time gushing over their styles. They informed us that in fact Irish weddings have a two day component, and that they’d be around for an all day session the next afternoon at Murphy’s Hotel. Needless to say we didn’t make it.
The speeches were refreshingly short, and the dinner was filling. Roast beef! Julia and I drank a pot of coffee and immediately felt better and ready to roll again.
Here’s another fun fact: Irish weddings almost always have a band. This wedding had TWO bands! We were told to conserve our energy because it’s the sort of the thing that goes on until 6am. Julia and I lasted until 2:30AM before passing out in the hotel room. I woke up the next morning in a puddle of drool, with my bra and underwear tossed around the room like an afterthought. Still wearing my dress. Who knows?
Anyway. If you want to party like the Irish and find out what good Irish hospitality is all about, never turn down an Irish wedding. Believe me.