Frank Brandon’s Column

A country family wedding in the Covid-19 era

Our columnist Frank Brandon was very relieved when his daughter’s wedding – after all of the uncertainty around such events over recent months – got to go ahead last weekend…


It’s Friday morning, the sun is shining, and after weeks or even months of uncertainty, it finally looks as if our daughter Lisa’s wedding is actually going to go ahead.

The ceremony that was originally scheduled for April will definitely take place, even though the number attending has been slashed to 46 people. This has, however, made no difference to the mayhem that occurs in the bride’s house on the wedding morning.

From early on, the hairdresser, the make-up artist, the florist, the photographer, the videographer, and (most importantly) the breakfast supplier, are all coming and going, and with all this social distancing every square foot in the house is being used. At the last minute, my son Paul and I headed off to put up directional signs to the church around the area, and even though it’s a simple enough task it took a bit longer than it should have. By the time we got back, it was time for the pre-wedding shower and to get ourselves into our suits.

One or two of the suits had been bought a little while ago, and they had definitely got smaller during the lockdown. I was cute and didn’t buy mine ‘til a week or so ago, and I have to say that Cllr. Marty McDermott and John Corcoran turned me out like a new penny. I looked so good that one of the big fashion papers (I think it was the Farmer’s Journal) wanted me to do a bit of modelling for them, but the money wasn’t great so I turned them down.

Anyway, we did justice to the fabulous breakfast that Mikeen and Carmel O’Rourke had supplied, and all of a sudden the wedding car was outside and Lisa and I were on our way to the church for her marriage ceremony. The good news was that her now new husband, Brian, had turned up, and apart from forgetting all the flowers (we eventually got them) everything was ready to go.

Our parish priest, Fr. Donal Morris, really excelled himself with the lovely wedding Mass, the best man remembered to bring the rings, and the music and singing was just beautiful. Before we knew it, Brian and Lisa were husband and wife and all the worry and uncertainty was a thing of the past.

Then it was off to the Lakeside Hotel in Glasson (formerly the Golf and Country Club) for the reception, with the usual traditional stop in Mikeen’s for an hour or so. I have to say the hotel really ticked every box, and made it a very special day for the bride, groom, and the 46 guests. We picked Glasson as the venue because ‘the other side’ had to travel from Cork, and we told them it was about halfway. Even though it was a little bit of a white lie, they all enjoyed their stay there and didn’t complain too much about the extra mileage. In fact a number of them actually stayed the extra night, as did most of our family, and we all did our best to keep our distance.

One of the things that I never pay any attention to at most weddings is the wedding cake. However, as I’ve got older, my tooth has got sweeter, and the cake (made by Deelicious Cakes down in the neighbouring parish of Oran) was exactly what it said on the tin – delicious. It’s always good to acknowledge a local business that does things that well, so take a bow, Deelicious Cakes! (It is spelt Dee…). After all the punishment I suffered on the football field in Oran down through the years (Google Tom Mahon, Billy Reaney, the Whyte brothers and many others), it was great to be on the receiving end of such a beautiful cake. It went down an absolute treat.

Covid-19 has made such a huge difference to our world and our society, and yet even though they couldn’t actually attend the wedding, our neighbours and friends all made a huge effort…lighting bonfires, lining the roads, and even bringing wedding presents. On behalf of us all, thank you very much.

At the end of it all, the overriding feeling is one of relief, and as I write this on Monday evening – with the whole country about to go into Level 3 – my heart goes out to all those brides and grooms who have their big days on the horizon. The uncertainty they will have to deal with is just extraordinary, and the stresses they will have to face will make their futures very difficult.

In Lisa’s case it was probably even more stressful as the original invites had all gone out, so it was difficult to ‘un-invite’ so many people. Luckily however, they all understood, and in the end it was whittled down to immediate family members and really close friends.

To be honest, even if Covid is eventually defeated, that is the way to go. The hotels wouldn’t be too happy, but it would make life so much easier for the couple themselves and everyone who would actually attend would feel really special, because they would know they were only there because they mattered so much to the bride and groom. However, as with everything, if normality ever returns, I’m sure it will all go back to big weddings with big crowds.

Before I leave Glasson, as I told you it used to be the Golf and Country Club, and the Golf Club is still there. So on Saturday morning Carol and I took out the clubs and headed out onto the lovely lakeside course. Overlooking the beautiful Lough Ree, the scenery at the course was just spectacular, and remarkably the golf wasn’t too bad either!

Carol will be the first to admit that she is no Leona Maguire, but on Saturday she played very well, and to my everlasting shame she comprehensively outplayed me. Revenge will be sweet, and please God sometime soon I will take her to Castlerea and regain my position as No. 1 golfer in the Brandon household.

The other amazing thing about the two days was the weather – for two October days it was just so wonderful. I played the golf in just a short-sleeved shirt, and even at that it was still very warm. On Friday, the photographer had to wait a while for the sun to hide a bit so he could take his pictures.

All in all, an event that was so uncertain at times has finally taken place, and I don’t think it could have been any better. Thank you to everyone who contributed in any way, including the pianist, Adrian Harrington (nearly forgot him), who was on hand on our arrival at the hotel, and who serenaded us all so beautifully until it was time for the dinner.

So that’s that, the happy couple has gone away (obviously around Ireland), and hopefully the new lockdown regulations won’t do anything to ruin their plans. I, meanwhile, am going back to normal life, whatever that will now mean. Before we know it, Christmas will be here, and no matter what, Santa always finds a way to make his annual visits.


John gets his medal…55 years later!

Finally for this week, I came across a lovely story recently when 81-year-old John Deacy was presented with the Westmeath senior football championship medal that he won playing for Athlone in 1965. Because he had moved from the town when the presentation function took place, he had never actually received it.

Despite mentioning it a few times down through the years, he didn’t get it, and had given up all hope of ever receiving the medal. So, when former Mayo footballer and present Athlone GAA team manager Liam McHale called to his house on the outskirts of Castlebar to finally hand over the long overdue medal, he was – in his own words – utterly gobsmacked.

I don’t know if the long wait was worth it, but it certainly made more news than if he got it at the right time, because I have seen and heard him being interviewed on several media outlets in the last week or so. All I can say is he looks hale and hearty and nothing like his 81 years.

Congratulations John! I’m sure that even after all these years, you will treasure it, because most club footballers go through their careers without ever even playing in a senior county final, never mind actually winning one, so good on you!