Those of you who know me well will know that I am a bit of a beer fanatic so when Sinéad and Colm asked if I would marry them at the West Brewery in Glasgow I jumped at the opportunity. They looked at me strangely and asked if I wanted to more about their plans. I said, “more?” somewhat hesitantly and they explained that theirs was to be a small family affair because they originally came from Ireland and not all of their families would be able to travel for their big day. They also wanted it to include a cup of tea, oh and some readings in Irish. “OK”, I said again somewhat hesitantly, “a cup of tea?” “Yes”‘ they said and looked at me expectantly. “Right, you want to include a cup of tea in your wedding ceremony? For yourselves or for everyone?” “Oh, don’t be silly, just for ourselves.” At this point, to be honest, I felt myself slipping inexorably into an episode of Father Ted that I had never seen so I said “oh, right then, that’ll be fine” and clapped my hands in that Father Ted way.
So, come the big day and everyone gathered in the brewery, well, when I say everyone I am including about half of the population of Glasgow because they don’t close the brewery restaurant just for a wedding. We gathered in the small side room for the ceremony and began, of course, with a Band Warming. Thought originally to come from Ireland it is a lovely way to include everyone present in your ceremony as they pass your rings amongst them and wish you happiness.
We then had a reading from Rosie and Aileen who read “Hero and lover and the heart of Ireland” by Aonghas MacNeacail.
A race was once organised between the young maidens of Ireland, their goal was the summit of sliabh na mban (the mountain of the women) where one of ireland’s legendary heros awaited them as prize. The woman of his own choice being among them he told her the shortest route to ensure her victory.
If I were on the summit of sliabh na mban
I would whisper for you the shortest way
Laoch is leannan is cridhe eirinn
Nan robh mise air bhar sliabh na mban
Chagrainn dhuts’ an rathad gear
But what about the cup of tea I hear you ask. well, here is how we included the moment in the ceremony:
We have another short ceremony to perform and I thought that this might be the perfect time for it. Drinking from a Quaich is part of the ancient tradition of hospitality from the Celtic honour system – whoever had shared a cup could not do injury to the other, hence the term “loving cup”. It Is usual to drink whisky from a Quaich, however, Sinéad and Colm are going to make each other a cup of tea. Everyone has their own specific way to drink tea… strong, weak, middling. Whole milk, semi-skimmed, sugar or sweetener. In rural Ireland it is almost a way of telling the time. Tea with breakfast, tea with lunch, 3 o’clock tea, after dinner and maybe a cup somewhere in between if it’s needed. Tea is to comfort and celebrate and to focus on the moments in the day. It is almost a moment of meditation. And Sinéad and Colm will continue to share pots, mugs and cups of tea with each other into the future more than likely every day.
They served each other a cup of tea and sat down. I sat on a stool, very Dave Allan style, and began. “When I first meet a couple I am to marry I ask them to do some homework for me, tell me their story and their hopes and dreams for their marriage ….”