“Dearly beloved, if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace”. Coronavirus: “I object!”.
Getting hitched is supposed to be a time of joy, happiness, and, yes, a little bit of pre-wedding jitters, but what young couples in Ireland are dealing with instead are cancellations, postponements, and having to cut the guest lift in half. So, what else has COVID-19 changed about the typical Irish wedding and are there any upsides to these restrictions?
The traditional Irish wedding
In the olden days, that is, those bygone days of pre-covid, when we could hug, sit indoors, and cough in public without being treated like a leper, most weddings were a rather large family affair. Your mother would come in and tell you about the “big wedding” that had taken place in your town over the weekend and it wasn’t unheard of to have between 200-400 guests.
Now, couples must adapt to rapidly changing regulations that sometimes contradict the first set of regulations, and chop out all the little things that make the day special and unique. After all, what would an Irish wedding be without the chaotic hokey-pokey dance, sharing shots at the bar with your crazy aunt, and being heckled from the back of the room by your friends as the speeches are given? Instead, it will be a more somber affair, a quiet wedding, which seems unnatural to the Irish way of being.
Adapting to new regulations
At the time of writing this article, the current rules stipulate that, in the Republic of Ireland, a wedding may have up to 50 people in attendance at the ceremony. However, you may have no more than 25 guests seated indoors or outdoors for the reception afterwards. There is no mention if the bride and groom, the priest or civil registrar, or the wait staff have to be included in these numbers, but you are allowed to have a photographer present. In addition to this, there are other restrictions, such as no music, the wedding must be over by 11:30 pm, and additional vendors, such as those organising games or extra decorations, are not permitted.
The endless list of what couples can and cannot do has forced many to abandon their original ideas and try to work within certain loopholes. Currently, organised outdoor events can take place with up to 100 people so, naturally, couples have contemplated the idea of an outdoor wedding in an attempt to bump up their guest list. However, outdoor weddings are tricky as we all know that Ireland is known for its unpredictable weather. You are just as likely to be pelted in the face with hail in May as you are in December and, so, couples have become frustrated with the growing uncertainty.
This is not to say that young couples and their families don’t appreciate the need to maintain health and safety standards, rather that some of these regulations seem arbitrary. For example, a newlywed couple may kiss at the top of the altar, but a first dance is out of the question as they may breathe the same air. Guests must be socially distanced, despite the fact that they have spent the entire morning together getting photographs and, no doubt, most live in the same house, and, lastly, that the event must be over by 11:30 pm. Does COVID-19 only infect people after 11:31 pm?
The strain this has placed on relationships
The incredible strain that COVID-19 has placed on relationships has seen many couples postponing their big day indefinitely as wedding disagreements boil over. Before, if you had an argument over the colour scheme, you could both leave the house, have a talk with friends, go for a run, and mull things over. With the pandemic keeping everyone locked in the same apartment, however, that tension has made matters worse.
Not to mention, that some couples found themselves separated by borders, time differences, and visa applications. For those couples whereby one is hoping to marry an Irish citizen, there is the added problem of bureaucracy. Due to the pandemic, a significant backlog of marriage applications has arisen with the process now taking around double the amount of time it did before COVID-19.
Finally, there is the strain of trying to plan a wedding whilst keeping as many people as happy as possible. The difficult conversation of “Who do we cut from the list?” has exacerbated things. Do you invite only aunts and uncles, but, then, what about your favourite cousins? Can you cut people from the list if you attended their wedding, or will they be insulted? And on and on it goes. Between these conversations, juggling flights with family members, and self-isolation, there seems to be no end to the wedding problems facing young couples today.
The upsides to postponing your wedding
Now, despite all the complicated and ever-changing rules, there is an upside to all of this madness. For one, there is a financial benefit to having a smaller wedding during lockdown. A pre-covid wedding in Ireland amounted to around €30,000, whilst now the cost of having a meal in a restaurant for 25 guests is considerably lower. Not to mention that, in a time of job uncertainty and rising living costs, it has offered couples a chance to scale back large weddings in favour of putting aside money for more important things, such as a mortgage, children, or even a nest egg to fall back on in case of an emergency.
Another upside is that you are no longer obligated to invite co-workers and relatives that you do not like. You know who I’m talking about, the coworker who always has to have the limelight or the aunt that jokingly insults your dress choice. Gotta love that Irish humour!
Moreover, a smaller, more intimate wedding gives couples the chance to mingle at their leisure and actually remember the talks that they had with the people they care most about. So, in some ways, it can be a more enjoyable day and you can have more meaningful moments instead of having the same conversation 200 times.
Will things return to normal after the pandemic?
So, all this talk does beg the question as to what will happen in the future. If given the opportunity, will people revert back to the tradition of large-scale weddings or will it simply be resigned to the cultural history of Ireland? On the one hand, perhaps people will be overjoyed to make up for lost time and wedding sizes may increase. On the other hand, perhaps people are starting to wonder if maybe the pomp and ceremony of weddings has spiralled out of control in recent years.
Either way, time will tell, but, for now, do not despair and perhaps, in years to come, you may look back on this and laugh. If not, you can still sleep soundly knowing that you did what you could and that it was out of your control. After all, the most important people in the wedding are the bride and groom, so do what makes you happy.