"May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.
And may you be in Heaven
a half hour before the devil knows you're dead."
If the bride or groom is Irish, nothing beats a good Irish blessing as a bang-up way to start your toast. Besides the well-known blessing above, there's a wealth of toasts and wedding readings in Irish folklore, poetry, and literature.
Check the works of William Butler Yeats for tender love poetry ("A Poet to His Beloved," "Her Praise," and "The Indian to His Love"). James Joyce's story "The Dead" from The Dubliners has beautiful insight on the healing powers of marital love. For a vast collection of ancient Celtic writings, mythology, humor, and poetry, try A Celtic Miscellany (edited by Kenneth Hurlstone, published by Penguin).
These traditional blessings and toasts have come down through history mixed, muddled, and reborn -- so feel free to mix, muddle, and rewrite to fit your occasion:
- May your hearts be as warm as your hearthstone.
- May God sleep on your pillow.
- May God be with you and bless you.
- May you see your children's children.
- May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings.
- May you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.
- A generation of children on the children of your children.
For something more romantic, here are some old Celtic epigrams and poetry:
- There's my darling merry star, flower of the parish of Llangeinwen; beneath her foot the grass no more bends than does a rock beneath a bird's foot.
- Slender and exquisite like the birch tree, of shape as sweet as the fine clover, of color as fair as a summer morning, she is the type of the glory of all lands.
- Lovely is the sun's smile as it rises in its full brilliance, lovely are the moon's smiles at night, more lovely is my darling's cheek.
- The moon is pretty on the waves, the stars are pretty on a bright night, but neither stars nor moon are half so pretty as my darling.
- Though I had a share in the lands of India, the silks of Persia, the gold of Peru, I prefer the lad I love, and shall stand true to him… To the Slender Lad I will trust myself, mother, and to tell you true; I shall leave wealth to misers, and trust myself to him who is the flower of the shire, with his white face and his yellow hair, and in his cheeks are two roses -- happy is the girl who sleeps the night in his arms.
Some good news for the sentimental Irish bride, groom, or wedding guest:
If you feel a little tear in your eye, a little lump in your throat, and a little too shy or emotional to give an eloquent speech or recitation, you can fall back on the always-appropriate "Slainte!" ("To your health" in Gaelic.) If you're lucky enough to be Irish, chances are you don't need a poet to speak for you -- you've got that Blarney-blessed tongue. Use it in good health.
Irish Blessings by Pat Fairon
Big Little Book of Irish Wit & Wisdom: Six Volumes in One: Irish Blessings, Irish Toasts, Irish Proverbs, Irish Riddles, Irish Laws, Irish Wisdom by Pat Fairon and Mary Dowling Daley
Irish Blessings by Kitty Nash
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