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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

July 11, 2016

Bridal chit-chat (21): The Irish Wedding

evelyn @ 4:58 pm


With just ten minutes to go, the Irish priest, specially imported by the couple from their home parish in the Republic, appears at my elbow, and I have to stop playing the preliminary music.

‘Now,’ he says, obviously settling down to do some planning at this very late stage, ‘the bride and groom are going to light two candles right at the beginning. Can you play something while they do that? Just a few bars’.

I nod. (thinks) No-one has mentioned this before.

‘Then after the marriage ceremony, the couple will light a third candle, so can you play a bit then?’

I nod. Nor this.

‘Perhaps, if you play the same few bars that you did at the beginning, that would be meaningful’.

Hey, hold on. It’s bad enough forcing me to improvise at no notice, but don’t start dictating WHAT I improvise.

I say, ‘Well, I might not be able to remember, as I’ll be improvising, but I’ll do my best’.

‘And then something at the Sign of Peace. Just while they’re all shaking hands. Then stop for the Agnus Dei’.

I nod.

What we’re talking of here is a matter of perhaps 30 seconds for each candle session and less than a minute for the Sign of Peace. If you decide to choose a hymn tune or voluntary rather than improvise you have the problem of bringing it to a convincing conclusion within the allotted time. There is now less than ten minutes left for you to work out how you’ll do this – or at least the first candle bit – not to mention find the music. The only thing that I can immediately think of offhand that might work is Pachelbel’s Canon, and the bride has already chosen that for her entrance.

If, on the other hand, you decide to improvise, ten minutes notice of the need for a thematic link just isn’t fair on the average organist. I don’t even know if I did what he wanted, as my busking is strictly short-term memory stuff.

But the real annoyance was the lack of notice. If this had all been part of the original planning with the bride and groom, there wouldn’t have been a problem. However, it is possible that these tricky little additions are a normal feature of Irish weddings of which I simply wasn’t aware. Irish organists would probably just take it all in their stride.

Maybe that’s why they are so well-paid




  1. Yes the candle ceremonies are very much part of an Irish wedding. We are just back from one recently. Don’t be misled by my married name! I have found some useful links I will send you later for useful information for future reference. Sorry it couldn’t have been in advance!

    Comment by Marian — July 14, 2016 @ 7:16 pm

  2. Thank you for confirming this, Marian. I did wonder. Like you, I have Irish in my background, but I don’t have any relatives remaining, so have never had occasion to attend a wedding there. I would be very interested in any information you can let me have, as you never know when this will happen again!

    Comment by evelyn — July 18, 2016 @ 3:26 pm

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