It may have been over 2000 years ago that Jesus' mama and papa rocked up to that little stable in Bethlehem right before she popped him out and those Three Wise Men turned up, but I still haven't managed to figure it all out. I'm talking about religion and spirituality - I always loved studying the different religions at school and particularly identified with Buddhism and Hinduism. Not entirely, I must add, and this has been my problem with religion ever since. I just find that I don't completely agree with any of them, and yet, I can't class myself as an atheist because I do believe there is something out there bigger than all of us. What exactly that is, I can't say.
I've found over the years it's helped me to pick out certain parts of different religions and almost mix-and-match to form my own belief system - to be honest, I think this is what many people do as taking the Bible literally word-for-word would be a bit silly if you ask me... (Burning Bush anyone?) This may seem a bit flighty to some, but I actually feel that it really works for me and that it keeps me open-minded. I love the parts of religion that don't centre around the gods but more around human behaviour and morals. I like the bits that focus less on trying to convince you of this higher force and more on how the universe works and the idea that we are all interlinked somehow. Because, Burning Bush aside, I've always believed the real magic is what happens between people - the way we interact and the choices we make.
This year I've been faced with a couple of moral dilemmas, challenges to my own belief system thanks to the behaviour of other people. I'm talking about situations where I have been asked to keep secrets that I didn't think were right, when I was expected to lie on behalf of someone else. I'm also talking about situations when I was called on to forgive people for horrible behaviour - we've all faced those. I've faced them all and come out with a clean conscience, but it wasn't easy. Sometimes we're faced with making a decision between a friendship and doing the right thing, but I guess we have to question whether the friendship had any real value if we were asked to push our morals to one side. I'm not saying that right and wrong are black and white, I know full well there is always a grey area, but we all have that gut instinct. And I always say, if something doesn't sit right, you know you shouldn't be doing it.
Two things I've always loved are the concepts of luck and karma. I really identify with the idea of karma, I feel that I have to because so often bad deeds seem to go unpunished and the good ones go unrewarded. But I have come to accept that perhaps they are, just much later on and by the time this happens perhaps we have moved on. I've always felt that we make our own luck in this world - that what we experience is a direct result of what we put out into the universe. Promise not to get too hippy on you all but it really does make a difference when you put good vibes out to those around you, and they really do come back to you. I wrote a post back in February about the Power of Positivity after I went through a rough patch at the start of the year, when I suddenly noticed that my awful mood really was bringing down the mood of the whole office. I hated that I could have had such a negative effect on those around me and it made me realise that I could never hope to be positive if I didn't make the first move.
Being kind, loving & generous is a perfect addition to any outfit - wear it well.
Since then, it certainly helps that I couldn't be happier at the moment, I have been dedicating myself to working hard and being the best I can be. And it really has made a difference. Not only is everyone around me happy and full of plans and excitement for the future, but that luck and happiness seems to be coming back to me. I don't know if it is just coincidence (I don't really believe in coincidences) but I seem to be on a bit of a lucky streak at the moment! Don't believe me? Well, in the last two months I have won cake tapas, tickets to see Bombay Bicycle Club and a signed picture, and a mulled winter cider kit. I have also been given the amazing opportunity to review a lovely London restaurant and have been shortlisted in the UK Blog Awards. Now I can't say that this is all down to good karma - but it definitely all seems to have come at once. My point is, work hard, be good and kind, and stick to your morals, and good things will come of it all. It seems to be working for me so far and, let's be honest, who wants to live with the guilt and unease of acting like a dickhead - especially at Christmas?
Have you been faced with a situation that has tested your moral code? Tell me about your lucky streaks!
The long weekend in Ireland got off to a fantastic start with gorgeous sunshine blazing across blue skies, giving us the perfect opportunity to explore the island and to see its beauty. After lots of hugs, chat, a few drinks and some delicious food at the Gold Club, we all made sure to have an early night so we were all refreshed and ready for the wedding the next day. Me and the boyfriend, his mum and step-dad in particular had been up for a really long time by this point after catching our flight from Stansted first thing that morning and having to set out at around 4am. We were very glad to crawl into bed and dream of lucky four-leaved clovers and all the Guinness that was to follow.
We awoke early and refreshed the next morning, me and Mark were contemplating heading out for some fresh air but the weather was playing chicken with us. Just as predicted, the skies were cloudy, dark and threatened with rain, but with patches of blue sky dotted about, we were optimistic that they day wouldn't be too bad - as long as the wind didn't play silly buggers with my hair anyway... Finally after a lot of debating, and a short shower of rain, we headed out and were glad we did as the sun came out for a short while as I took Mark on the scenic route walk from the day before - check out the previous post for pics - which he loved. We even spotted a load more deer along the way - again they were totally unbothered by us and just carried on about their day.Suddenly realising the time, we quickly headed back to the lodges where the rest of the family had been preparing breakfast and sat down for a delicious fry up, which we were glad of later. I hate how normally when attending a wedding you often are in such a rush you don't get to eat properly in the morning when it is such a long time to wait until the wedding meal. After being left starving hungry at a few weddings and then annoyingly drunker than I plan because of my empty stomach later on, I now make sure I get the chance to eat a proper meal in the mornings - not everyone had as much sense though and there were a few rumbly tummies! We all got ready and it was lovely to have the time and space to not have to rush, I was so excited to get the chance to finally wear my amazing ASOS dress that I bought a month or so ago, I've been dying to wear it ever since!
For the wedding ceremony, we went to a little church just outside Waterford where Uncle Richard (boyfriend's great uncle) conducted the service, he travelled all the way from South Africa to be part of Siobhan and Nathan's special day. With lots of readings from family and friends, a special musical interlude by Mark's uncle Joe on the fiddle, and blessings for Siobhan's late parents - particularly an emotional one for her mother Kathleen who sadly died just a few months ago. It was such a beautiful, family wedding and really epitomised why I love attending weddings in their family - they all go to so much trouble. Nathan's side of the family were all from New Zealand and many had travelled over for the occasion, which really made it even more special. Uncle Richard gave a beautiful sermon, and although I am not Roman Catholic, I really can appreciate the more philosophical side of his part in the service. He's one of these people who can turn something so simple into a really profound statement that will leave you thinking about it much later on. Just because it is not my religion does not mean I don't get involved, and the family always take me up for communion, where Uncle Richard gives me a blessing - which, I'm not gonna lie, makes me feel slightly invincible and pretty darn holy.One of the cutest parts of the ceremony had to be the gorgeous flower girl, Alana, who is Mark's little cousin, and she made a beautiful flower girl with her curls and sweet little dress. She actually took the whole thing so seriously when walking down the aisle that she forgot to smile! Following her down the aisle in the safe grip of a family member, Niall, the little terror, was making all kinds of crazy faces at the family and friends trying to snap pictures as they made their way into the church. Cue a lot of laughs and sniggers at him as we all tried to keep a straight face. Later in the service he had to be plied with sweets to stay quiet and proceeded to run around the church, even putting his hand up to interrupt the priest - it was hilarious and everyone had a good laugh. Bless him - definitely more spirited than when Mark and I went to stay with his parents and spent a week looking after and playing with him, but a good giggle.
One of my favourite parts of the ceremony had to be the beautiful wedding poem, The One, being read by a friend of the family. I love the words of this poem, and although I have no idea who it is by, it always touches my heart.
When the one whose hand you’re holding
is the one who holds your heart,
When the one whose eyes you gaze into
gives your hopes and dreams their start,
When the one you think of first and last
is the one who holds you tight,
And the things you plan together
make the world seem just right,
When the one whom you believe in
puts their faith and trust in you,
You’ve found the one and only love
you’ll share your whole life through.
After the service, we all headed back to Waterford Castle, where we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco, a roaring fire and a pair of musicians. Shortly after, when all of the guests had arrived, we were served delicious canapés and had time to chat amongst ourselves - a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and family members we hadn't seen since the last family wedding. The time flew by and before we knew it the family were having wedding photos, unfortunately by this time the heavens had opened and these had to be taken inside to avoid soaking the happy couple. Absolute chaos of trying to get the kids to all face the same way and smile, trying to get all the Broderick sisters lined up together and trying to keep everyone together long enough for a photo to be taken! Thank goodness they managed to get some lovely pics and we all headed in for dinner.
We had been put on a table adjoining the main room, and we were so glad because it was so much cooler in there - people were coming out to cool down after the food was served and the wine was poured. Several glasses of wine later, some delicious mojito sorbet, Irish beef, and a dessert platter later, the speeches were in full flow. They kicked off with some lovely words from Mark's uncle, Michael, in place of Siobhan's father who died several years ago, who spoke of Shiv's life, achievements, with a few embarrassing moments in there for good measure. It always brings a tear to my eye to hear families talking so lovingly and so proudly of each other - it's beautiful and sad at the same time that often these things are left unsaid until weddings or funerals. The best man gave a cracking speech that had us all laughing our heads off and finished with a toast to the bride and groom. After coffee and chocolates, we all headed to the reception room where the bride and groom were ready to cut the cake and share their first dance.The rest of the evening passed in a blur of more wine, wedding cake, energetic dancing, a great band, good catch-ups with family and friends, making new friends, a spectacular performance of the Haka by the best man, a lot of laughs, some sausage sandwiches and a rainy walk back to the lodges. It was an amazing wedding and I feel so lucky to have been able to attend a wedding in a real castle - a perfect day for the bride and groom, and for all those of us lucky enough to join them. The weather may not have been great, but spending the day inside meant we weren't too bothered - it just made it extra cosy by the fire.
Do you love weddings as much as I do? What makes them so special for you? Have you ever been to an Irish wedding?