Monday 14 October 2019

'Carnage' as Wicklow wedding is delayed when priest 'refuses to say mass until church decor is removed'

Wedding planner says priest 'demanded' cherry blossom trees were removed from church before wedding could go ahead

Karen Birney, THE

A Wicklow wedding very nearly didn't go ahead, when a priest allegedly refused to say mass until a wedding planner removed cherry blossom trees from the pews.

Edel Cooney of 'Vintage Affair' wedding planners said that she had decorated the church for a couple's big day, when just before the ceremony the priest 'demanded' her decorations were removed.

The service, she says was delayed by an hour as she was left in tears after being told to take down the six trees and other flowers when the priest said she had the church "like a fashion show".

The bride in question, Jenny, currently on her honeymoon was 'only very slightly aware' of the situation at the time, "as Edel handled it very well."

The first thing she knew about it, she said, was when she arrived and her trees were outside.

She said she spoke to her groom after, who knew more about what was going on before she walked up the aisle.

"He first told me it was awful, that Edel was in tears, in regard to the priest, he is actually a lovely man, and the ceremony he did was fantastic," she told Joe Duffy on Liveline.

They had met the priest before, she said, and said he was aware they would have someone to decorate the church.

"The only thing we were told was not to stick anything with thumbtacks or blue tack to the walls or pews - which we didn't do."

Joe Duffy mentioned he was aware he didn't have the priest on the line to confirm this.

The groom from the wedding was also on the line to speak about the experience on his special day.

"I was getting a few photos with family outside when my phone started ringing," said the groom. "There was a voicemail from the priest and it was just carnage. I said to my two brothers, we need to go to the church.

"The first thing I saw was Edel (the wedding planner) in tears, so I said 'don't worry about it'. The priest made a bee line for me as we walked in the gates. I said 'what's the issue?', and he said it was totally unacceptable, that this (the decoration) wasn't a big party. And said 'I'm not doing this wedding unless it's sorted'."

Edel said that the priest then asked if she was going to stand on the altar and say the mass because he wasn't going to.

"They were very tasteful," she added. "It's a total and utter power struggle. He said 'What I say goes'".

A priest from Blessington, who isn't directly involved in the issue, phoned in to say that the church is a religious venue.

"It's not a hotel, or a marquee," he said.

"In most marriages in the church, mass is celebrated in a solemn ceremony, and everything else is peripheral, and anything that can distract from that... The churches are beautiful..." he said, joking that some of them are nearly as ancient as the priests themselves.

However he added that "some of the aisles are narrow and we have insurance to consider. We have to take all of that into consideration."

Edel insisted that the cherry trees were not on the aisle, and not in the way of anyone.

The priest from Blessington made a further point about the payment for churches for ceremonies.

"The priest is not making money out of it. What's asked of couples is to pay sacristans and insurance and staff. I'm 38 years a priest, I've never stated a personal fee to anyone. If I do a wedding and they didn't give me anything I don't care."

Edel however says the average church hire is €500 in Dublin and Wicklow. "The sacristan gets €50, the priest gets €150 and they always ask us to leave arrangements for €300.

"Surely to God you can have some say in how your ceremony is decorated?" she said.

"You presumed permission which you shouldn't have done," the priest responded. Edel responded by saying she had decorated the same church before with no issues.

Joe, a wedding photographer, phoned up to say that the abuse the wedding planner got was too much.

In weddings Joe photographs, "We see the trees, the lanterns, it's pretty standard. So fair play to her," he said.

"Each church has a different set of rules it seems. They say in this church you can't stand here but in that church you can. You can't have music that isn't catholic music in some... "

Joe the photographer told about a time when he was photographing a wedding, but the priest took him aside to tell him that there should be no photography during the ceremony.

Eventually Joe was allowed to take a few photos during the mass after pleading with the priest. His advice now is that "it's better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission."

"I've come across ignorant people at ceremonies and priests having to ask people to sit down, but at the end of the day, just be nice."

John, who tied the knot in '71 in Cavan, phoned up to tell the story of how his wife was told she wasn't allowed music at their wedding over forty years ago, although she was a member of the choir at the time.

"It's annoyed us ever since and that lady has just brought it all back," he said.

"No music at all," John said, "we weren't allowed any music whatsoever."

Joe Freely, who provides a dove release ceremony, phoned up to say he thought it was all down to communication.

Joe says he always contacts the parish priest to tell them in advance that he's going to release doves so that they know exactly what's involved, and says he's never had any objection from priests for his work.

"I feel sorry for Edel, but in my opinion it's totally due to a lack of communication."

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