The day of the wedding, I made an executive decision to lay low, relax, and not try to engage in any pre-festivity tourism. I didn't want to be stuck somewhere in Dublin when we were supposed to be at the ceremony, so we stayed close to the hotel for the morning, caught up on our sleep, and took our time getting ready. There was no easy way to get to the venue via public transportation from our hotel, so we opted to drive, meaning that poor Justin would have to act as a designated driver, even though I'm the only who typically refrains from alcohol.
I wasn't sure what to expect from the venue, given that it was a seafood-themed restaurant, but it was actually rather charming, in a quirky, shabby-chic kind of way. The evening started off with cocktails in the downstairs bar, which had been temporarily closed for our event, where we hung out with our American friends and took copious photos together in our finery, before being led up a flight of stairs to a white-washed attic space, filled with natural light from the setting sun. The room was intimate in size, but even so, Abel shepherded us to the front of it, instructing us to sit just behind his parents, since we would be standing in for his extended family.
The bride walked down the aisle to music provided by a small, three-piece band playing traditional Irish music. Her unusual gown combined Eastern and Western influences, since the two of them met and fell in love in Japan, and had their initial, legally binding marriage ceremony there. Sinead had brought back with her a mauve silk kimono with orange flowers, which she had cut up to create a waistband for a standard-issue white dress, as well as an appliqued train and a shrug to go on top. She looked stunning, and radiantly happy.
Katherine acted as a sort of "best-man" for Abel, and gave an unconventional speech during the ceremony in which she compared their relationship to moldy cheese, wishing for them that their perceived flaws and imperfections would actually add character to their union, and improve upon it. I'm not sure I would have put that sentiment in quite the same terms, but it was certainly a memorable analogy, and a moment from their wedding that I'm sure Abel and Sinead will always remember.
After the ceremony, everyone was herded back downstairs for a receiving line and champagne in the same bar area. The American contingent nursed our drinks gradually, waiting for a toast that never materialized. At least in the US, champagne at weddings is often associated with toasts and speeches, but apparently that isn't necessarily the case across the pond. Still, the presence of such good friends made it one of the better cocktail hours I can remember in my years of wedding attendance.
|Taken during the cocktail hour, I think this image of Abel is probably my favorite of the whole day.|
Much to the relief of Katie, who hadn't eaten since early that morning, we were then directed through the restaurant and upstairs into a separate attic space for dinner. This one was surprisingly glamorous in comparison to the restaurant and bar area, full of crystal accents, mirrors, chandeliers, and touches of gold and silver. Six tables were set up for the sixty odd guests, and we found ourselves seated together with all of Abel's American friends, along with an Italian couple who had their adorable infant daughter in tow, and who were responsible for taking the photos for the day.
Wedding food may have a reputation for being terrible, but Abel and Sinead did an excellent job of avoiding that particular pitfall when selecting their venue. We were given our choice of appetizers and entrees, all of which were well above par. Dessert arrived in the form of an apple crumble housed in a mason jar, sort of the foodie equivalent of "putting a bird on it" for hipsters -- any food product that can be squeezed in a mason jar has been. Apparently that trend is happening across the pond as well.
The cake was made by one of Sinead's friend, and was decorated in fondant accented in sakura, or cherry blossoms, in keeping with the Japanese influences throughout the evening. The pieces we got to sample were chocolate and lemon flavored, though the third layer was supposedly constructed out of cookies, or biscuits as they call them in Ireland.
The dancing did not start until late in the evening, which I appreciated, honestly, because it gave me more time to chat with my table-mates in peace, without having to yell over loud music. Abel and Sinead had their first dance to the iconic, "At Last" by Etta James, and then continued to thoroughly get down on the dance floor. I've never seen Abel dance like that before -- in fact, I was unaware up until that moment that he knew how to dance at all, so his skills and enthusiasm came as somewhat of a surprise for me.
Both Justin and I had a great time hanging out and talking with my pals, indulging in the occasional chair dance, and/or sing-along whenever a particularly great song came on. The kitchen even brought out a snack of perfectly crisp and flaky panko-crusted fish and chips to fortify us for the long night ahead of us.
Unfortunately for me, near the end of the evening, Sinead would no longer take "No" for an answer when it came to joining them on the dance floor, and used all of her charm and persistence to drag us onto the floor, where we joined her and Abel for a dance to "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. It turned into as much of a sing-along as a group dance, mostly because the song just isn't that danceable, helping me have a decent time in spite of my hatred for dancing in public.
Eventually, however, it was time for us to say our goodbyes to the happy couple and our other friends. We made some tentative plans to see them one last time on Sunday, before calling it a night. Things didn't quite end there though, as we arrived back at the Ashling to discover that the car park had been closed and locked for the evening, as had the front door to the building. I had to knock on the lobby door, wait for the night desk clerk to let me in, give my name, go back to the car, and wait for someone to come let us in for the night. Apparently, for all their reputation of raucous partying, the Irish must not stay out very late.
Once we got out of the car, I made the unfortunate discovery that at some point, somehow the right front fender of our car had been crumpled in. I don't know if it was the ludicrously narrow opening in a fence we had to drive through in the Burren, some other unnoticed accident, or if someone hit our parked car through no fault of our own, but I was instantly glad that we'd allowed the car rental company to talk us into buying extra insurance coverage, even if it was pricey.
While our day ended on a slightly sour note, the rest of it was perfect. It was a gorgeous day, spent with great friends and delicious food, all in the name of celebrating two wonderful people and their new life together. I will always remember this day as one of the better weddings I've ever attended, and it gives me hope that our own special day will be just as full of joy whenever it comes to pass.