The ceremony is held outdoors, weather permitting, at Mainistir Chiaráin which is in Mainistir, one mile to the west of Kilronan village on Inis Mór.
The ceremony has four stations:
The Well is a Celtic symbol of the feminine. In ancient Ireland, it was an entrance to the womb of the goddess. The goddess was the land of Ireland, Eriú. At this well we celebrate the woman to be married. The groom circles her, doing a round of the well just as the sun circles the earth every day. The bride places her hands in the well water. We pray for fertility, womanhood, and for the bride as wife and mother. We use stories, poetry and music.
The Standing Stone is a Celtic symbol of male fertility and power. In ancient Ireland it was used as a phallic symbol, marking a centre of creative energy. The monks carved Christian images on it and used it to mark the boundaries of their monastery. At the standing stone we celebrate the man to be married. The groom places his hands on the stone. We pray for virility, manhood, and for the groom as husband and father. We use stories, poetry and music.
The Altar represents God or the Divine. This altar was used by the monks for 1100 years, from the 5th to the 16th century, as the focus for their worship. It is likely that they built the altar above an earlier Druidic energy point. Before the altar, the two to be married stand facing each other and make their vows. They exchange rings, have their hands tied in a Celtic handfasting, and receive a blessing of the four elements from the priest.
The Sundial is a carved stone with a hole in it. It has a circular dial and a Celtic cross carved on it. It was a primitive clock, using a stick in the hole to cast a shadow from the sun across the dial. The monks needed it to divide their day into periods of prayer. The wedding group gathers in a circle around the Sundial.
A number of activities take place at this Sundial:
- The couple face each other on either side of the Sundial, and place the index finger of their right hand through the hole. By touching fingers through the hole, they confirm their marriage vows. This continues an ancient practice, where the Sundial was used as a contract stone.
- A silk scarf is used to make wishes at the Sundial. The silk scarf is passed through the hole in the Sundial three times as the wish is made. The couple do this first, and then invite others to come forward and do it also. Some people will wish privately, others will wish out loud.
- The priest blesses the couple with oil and water. The blessing is for their relationship. The oil is placed on their foreheads or hands. It is a symbol of health and wholeness. The priest prays that their relationship will remain healthy and will grow and develop wholesomely throughout their lives. He then sprinkles sacred water from the well around them three times. The water symbolises protection (driving away the devil). The priest prays that nothing will happen in their lives that will damage or destroy their relationship.
At the Sundial, the relationship is blessed with oil and water
The ceremony ends by each person joining hands with the next and walking / dancing around the sundial in a clockwise (sunwise) direction. This is an ancient Celtic ritual which imitates the sun going around the earth. It brings everybody into harmony with the cosmic rhythms.
If the weather is bad and the time of the ceremony cannot be rescheduled, the ceremony is held indoors. It is the same ceremony as above with symbols used for each of the four stations.
Location: Mainistir Chiaráin - the ancient monastic lands of St Ciaráns Monastery, Mainistir, Inis Mór. All the stations are within two minutes walking distance of each other.
Registration of Marriage: Since April 2015, it is now possible to register your marriage legally at this ceremony. You will find Dara Ó Maoildhia's name on the official list of State Solemnisers in Ireland. In order to appoint Dara as your solemniser on the day, you must make arrangements with the State registrar's office and give 3 months notice. See http://www.groireland.ie/getting_married.htm#section4
Certificate of Marriage: If you do not wish to legally register your marriage at this ceremony, I can still offer you a certificate of marriage. I must emphasise, this is not a legal document. It is simply a memento and record of the occasion.
In considering an Inis Mor ceremony, there are a lot of other elements that are like optional extras you might like to consider. I give you a list below. If you want any of these, I can help you organise them. I do not charge extra for this service.
- Assistance with hair and make-up: A local woman is usually able to provide this service.
- Music at your ceremony: Local musicians might be available (the cheapest) or you could hire professional musicians from Galway city.
- A photographer: My wife, Tess Harper, is the resident professional photographer on Inis Mór and she has a lot of experience photographing my weddings. Her photos can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/harpermolloy/ . You can also see an independently written blog with photos taken by Tess at http://www.polkadotbride.com/2011/09/elopment-on-inis-mor-ireland/
- A videographer: The cheapest way to video the proceedings would be to hand a video camera to one of my teenage children who will video it for you for some pocket money. I can also provide you with other options including professional videographers.
- A flower bouquet: I can make up a wildflower bouquet for you from the flowers of the island, or you can order flowers in from Galway city. We can also do boutonieres for the men and flowers for the altar.
- A horse and carriage to and from the wedding ceremony: If you are interested in this I can send you photos and prices.
- Accommodation: There is plenty of accommodation available on the island in a Hotel, Guest Houses, Bed & Breakfasts, and Hostels. We will be happy to assist you with arranging this for yourself and your guests.
- Celebratory Meal: Óstán Árann Hotel will be happy to host a meal for any number of guests. For a small group, the Bay View Restaurant in Kilronan has a private room. Alternatively, Tigh Nan Phaidí in Kilmurvey or Joel D'Anjou, a famous cook at Mainistir House will do something spectacular for you and up to 50 guests.
- Óstán Árann Hotel: +353-(0)99-61493.
- Bay View Restaurant: +353-(0)86-792 9925
- Tigh Nan Phaidí: +353-(0)99-20975
- Mainistir House +353-(0)99-61169.
- Transport on the island: You will not be able to bring a car to the island. However, minibuses on the island act like taxis. They are always available and it is easy to call one. If you wish, we will help to arrange a bus for you in advance of your arrival.
- Boats and Planes to Inis Mór: click here
- Priest:- normally 350 euro. Higher price on Friday and Saturday.
- Photographer for day, with option of photographs on paper and on CD:- from 250 euro.
- One musician for ceremony:- from 80 euros.
- Pony and Trap to bring bride and groom to and from the ceremony:- from 100 euro.
- Wild flowers made into a bouquet for the bride and/or to decorate the altar:- from 30 euro.
NB These prices are subject to change without notice.