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Irish Wedding Traditions

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Irish Wedding Toasts

Wouldn't you know now, the Irish would have a few things to say on the happy occasion of weddings and other grand events.

Here, then, are a few "rules of engagement" so to speak. These toasts are loosely followed at most Irish weddings. The more jars that are lifted, the more loose they may get.

Father of the Bride

The proud father gives a formal welcome to the guests, thanking them for their presence and making special mention of those who have travelled from afar or have endured difficult circumstances to be there.

He explains what a happy (and, perhaps, troubling) day it is for him, both losing a daughter and gaining a son.

He provides a brief history of his daughter's younger years, with a few remembered occasions of special value which may illustrate her unique character.

He goes on to say how he is sad to lose her, and how happy he is for her on this day.

The father then offers his new son-in-law a formal welcome into the family and says he could not wish his daughter to be in better hands (illustrating the reasons why this is so).

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The bride's father might also mention how he is happy he is to have gained so many new friends in their family through his daughter's new relationship, with some compliments thrown in to highlight the groom's family's finer qualities.

Finally, the bride's happy da will say how married life has its ups and downs, but also how it has brought many rewards into his own life. He might also mention a few brief (humorous) words of advice to the newlyweds on how they may avoid troubles in their marriage.

Summing it all up, he explains how he is confident of his daughter's future bliss, and he ends his short speech by proposing a toast to the health and happiness of the bride and groom.

The Groom's Speech

On behalf of his new bride and himself, the groom first thanks the bride's father for his good wishes, and also for the reception, if he has funded it (or partly funded it).

He extends his thanks to the guests for coming and for their generous gifts.

He thanks his parents for the start they have given him in life, for their encouragement, patience, example, or the training or education they have provided, with illustrations and happy memories.

He pays tribute to his wife's parents, and thanks them for the wonderful "splash" (the wedding).

He thanks both mothers for their help and assistance. If he wishes, he may even present them with flowers or gifts.

He also thanks the best man for the role he has played, with some humorous jibe or illustration when appropriate.

He draws attention to the bridesmaids and compliments them on their grace, beauty and charm. He draws special attention to the role of the chief bridesmaid (maid of honour), thanking her for her assistance in getting his bride prepared and to the church on time.

If he likes, he may then present the bridesmaids with small gifts. He ends by proposing a toast to the bridesmaids.

The Best Man's Speech

The best man begins by telling of his acquaintance with the groom, his character, his antics (the one's fit to mention), his achievements and triumphs (not involving other ladies), and his heroic failures. There are certain to be many of the latter.

It's not unknown for the best man to make indelicate remarks about the bridesmaids or formal girlfriends of the groom which nobody takes seriously. This may, however, result in a dearth of attention from these ladies (and possibly the happy couple) later in the evening.

He says how the groom will be missed, or not missed, by the lads, how he should appreciate what he has found in his new bride and how he has every confidence in the future happiness of the couple. He must do this final part without laughing.

The best man then reads aloud emails, telegrams and congratulatory notes which may have arrived.

If there are too many, it's best to make a selection of the most unusual and important ones in advance and, for the remaining notes, to simply mention the senders' names i.e. "Similar greetings were sent by ... / have arrived from . . ."

The best man's speech usually introduces a lighthearted note to the proceedings and dispels the air of formality which characterizes the two previous speeches. To this end he is free to make fun of the groom, to joke, cajole and banter a little.

He is not, however, encouraged to slag (tease) the bride, no matter how tempting this may be.

Further speeches are frowned upon because they get in the way of the ensuing toasts. Toasts are traditionally done with a pint lifted.

Sample Toasts

Here's to you both, a beautiful pair
On the birthday of your love affair
Here's to the husband and here's to the wife
May yourselves be lovers for the rest of your life

If you lie, may you lie only to keep a friend
If you cheat, may you cheat only death
If you steal, may you steal your lover's heart
If you drink, may you drink deeply of the joy of your new life together