Weddings are so different now than back years ago. Today a lot of young couples choose to have a Civil Ceremony in a Hotel or a Registry Office as well as the traditional Church Wedding.
Turn the clock back 50 years ago, things were different for most of the Irish population. The prospective groom would visit the father and ask for his blessing and permission to marry his daughter, permission granted, he would buy an engagement ring for her in the nearest big town, and if it was Dublin it would probably be “Weirs” or “McDowell’s”. Regional towns had their own popular jewellers, in Naas it would have probably have been Hugh Stratham. A large number of young people back then were working in Dublin and other large cities but were living in rural Ireland, so this meant the girl would be moving to his home area, or the town where they were working, so it was a big change in their lives. Plans for the wedding were arranged, the bride’s father paid for the wedding, the mammies made out the guests list which kept changing until it was whittled down to the final list. Phones were rare back then, and letters were the most common form of communication. A story in my family relates that my father had not heard from my mother for two weeks so left the two horses and plough in the field walked back up to the yard and cycled to Dublin some 30 miles away to reassure himself that all was alright.
The Church had to be chosen, and a priest selected, the “Letter of Freedom” obtained, and the date decided on, the ceremony was usually in the bride’s parish, but a lot of weddings were in Dublin. The Hotel was decided on and booked, but some wedding “Breakfast’s” as they were called then, were held in the family home.
Many bridal dresses were made by a good local seamstress after advice on the different materials and “Patterns”. Some women bought their dresses or chose a suit for their wedding, blue was a popular colour if it was a dress or suit and a matching hat was chosen. Her trousseau was purchased and the “going away outfit”. Her sister was usually her bride’s maid or a close friend if she had no sister, and the groom would have his favourite brother or best friend as best man. We must remember back at that time in late 40s and early fifties rural electrification had not arrived in many homes in the country, and the Second World War was not long over. Weddings were held early in the morning so guests would have to be on the road early in order to attend, no afternoon weddings back then.
Wedding presents would start arriving at the homes of the couple, typical presents would have been,
Arklow Fine Bone China Tea Sets
Willow Pattern Dinner Service,
A set of Sheffield Cutlery with Bone handed knifes.
Bed Linen and an Eiderdown,
White Linen Table Cloth.
Picture of the Sacred Heart.
Today we give cash gifts or a Voucher for a “Weekend Away”
The wedding rings were chosen, it was generally the bride who wore a wedding ring back then but some men did wear one as well. The 3 tiered wedding cake was made by a good friend who was known to them or ordered from a local reputable Bakery.
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”. It was a custom for the bride to were something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. The old item was usually a piece of jewellery worn by an old relative, but, it could not be pearls as they symbolized tears. Something new, well everything the bride was wearing was new, something borrowed would be a lace handkerchief and something blue was a piece of blue ribbon sewn onto the slip or garter. The night before the wedding the “Child of Prague” was placed outside on the window sill in the hope of a fine day. Wedding day arrived, in some cases the couple might have a 6am wedding in order to catch the “Mail Boat” to England for their honeymoon. A popular hotel for this, which not too far away from the port was the Ormond Hotel in Dublin.
Breakfast finished, telegrams read from family and friends, speeches finished, and the toast to the couple, some old songs were sung like “Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff” or “The Old Bog Road” or some John McCormack song. Photographs taken and it was time to leave on the honeymoon. Some couples would go to Lough Derg and different places in Ireland. My parents went over to Amiens Street (Connolly Station) and boarded a train with their bicycles and spent a week in Bundoran in Donegal. When the couple arrived home, it was important to have the little blue boxes and post a small piece of the Wedding cake to family who could not attend, some of these would be family members in England or America. In some Parishes it was also the custom to give the brides white dress to the priest so it could be made into
“vestments” for the priests on the Missions.