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Voices

The Irish For: Cúpla focal for the happy couple

Wedding prayers and toasts can sound so beautiful in Irish, writes Darach Ó Séaghdha.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

FOR MOST OF us, January is a pox of a month and we won’t miss it when it scurries off next Sunday.

But this isn’t everyone’s experience.

For the hundreds of couples who got engaged at Christmastime, January has been a month of meeting family, friends and colleagues for the first time since the good news was announced and they set about making plans for the kind of wedding celebration they’d like to have.

And along with the venues, the menus, the outfits and the grouping of guests into tables, there are speeches and readings to consider.

I get asked a fair bit about pieces of writing in Irish that would make for a nice reading – or even just a blessing or toast – at a wedding.

Frequently these requests are from people who have decided to marry an Irish person and want to start things off on the right foot. Sometimes they’re from Irish people who’ve been to an international wedding with bilingual readings and fancied the idea for themselves.

Either way, your wish is my command and I hope some of you find something here that coordinates perfectly with the centrepieces and wedding favours.

Bíonn an grá foighneach agus bíonn sé lách: some wedding readings have been done to death in English, but Irish can make them feel shiny and new.

This is the Irish for “love is patient, love is kind”, one of the most popular readings at Christian wedding services.

Seasoned wedding attendees will know this text so well from previous services that they will understand this even if they only have a little bit of Irish. The full Irish language text is here; the similarly-popular “wherever you go I go” passage from Ruth is here.

Ó Thugas Mo Ghrá Dhuit: Ireland has a vast canon of beautiful love poetry over the centuries and some couples would like a love poem from the past as a reading that is both romantic and steeped in that literary heritage.

The only problem is that a large portion of these poems are about unrequited or tragic love stories and unsuitable for a celebration for the beginning of a new marriage. However, “Ó Thugas Mo Ghrá Dhuit” by Úna Ní Bhroin is an eighteenth century poem without sorrow or bitterness.

A stórach, bheinn beo, sé mo dhóigh, go cena bliana,

Gan dadamh a ól ná lón ar bith d’iarraidh,
Mo bhéal ar do bhéal-sa ’s mo dhóid ar do cliabh-sa,
Ag éisteacht do ghlóir ghlic do thóigfeadh mo phianta

I could live for a year, I know, my love
Not asking for food or drinking a drop
With my mouth on yours, my hand on your heart,
Hearing your talk would heal my hurt

The full text is included in Filíocht Ghrá Na Gaeilge (Love Poems in Irish).

Teanga An Ghrá – moving up to the twentieth century, this poem (which means “the language of love”) by Liam Ó Muirthile has used a repetition pattern to get its point across. In this way, it is reminiscent of prayer while being a very secular celebration of love.

Ní gá di faic na ngrást
is í teanga iomlán an ghrá
gach anáil aici.

She needs nothing at all
The complete language of love
Is her every breath

Bhruadair mi leat a-raoir – so this poem (I Dreamt With You Last Night) by Niall O’Gallagher is Scots Gaelic rather than Irish, but it’s one of my favourites.

It’s in a collection called An Leabhar Liath (which they translate as the light blue book, even though we’d call that the grey book) which alternates from hilariously filthy to deeply moving from page to page.

This poem is from the deeply moving selection:

Is tu, a chiall, subsaig gach gníomhair
a sgríohas mi, is tusa brígh gach dàin,
mineachadh gach seantans is gach briathair

You, my love, are the subject of each verb
I write, the substance of each poem,
The meaning of each sentence and word

Táimíd Caillte Sa Cheo Chéanna: maybe you just want to add a line of poetry to your wedding speech rather than a whole reading. This line from Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s poem “Ualach an Uaignis” means “we’re lost in the same fog”.

Giorraíonn Beirt Bóthar- if you’d like to toast the couple in Irish, this little phrase means “two shorten the road”.

 

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