Bringing a new baby into the world is the stand out achievement of my life, without fail. One thing that we did actually fail at was officially welcoming Toby into our family and circle of friends within his first few months on the earth. We had always planned to have a naming ceremony for him but life threw us a few curve balls this year. I love to plan a good party or event, anyone who knows me well knows this. I already had a plan, I already had a mood board in my mind, and I already had ideas. I knew where things would be set up, I knew the vibe and I knew it would be amazing. But when the sale of our new home fell through back in April it was gut wrenching on many levels. Aside from the fact that we now had no house, my plan to host a lovely garden party and BBQ for our family and friends in Toby’s honour was now gone out the window, shattered. It might seem silly or trivial but it was so important to us, not only to give Toby a day for him, but also to show off this spectacular corner of the world to everyone and let them see why we made the move to West Cork. So, as with every challenge this year, we faced it head on and with two weeks before our month long trip to the US, I set about designing a day that Toby could look back on and we could be proud of.
This should have been the hardest part right? How do I find a venue that will mirror the vibe of a garden party in our own home? I ruled out hotel function rooms, bars and restaurants. I thought about bringing everyone over to Garnish Island then ruled that out based on the logistics of getting everyone on boats. Waaaay too much hassle. Then I came across a great resource – www.westcorkgardentrail.com which lists amazing gardens from Clonakility to the Beara Peninsula. There I found Bamboo Park, Glengarriff listed. I pass it so often and always wanted to go in. The pictures online looked lovely and it was the perfect distance away. Claudine, who is the lucky owner of this little piece of paradise, invited me down to see the park and everything it has to offer. Wow – the pictures do not do it justice at all. My mind was already made up that we would do the ceremony here and organise a picnic style lunch. Then Claudine suggested the use of her lovely coffee shop to do the catering, much less weather dependant. SOLD! She was lovely to work with and so open to my plan and suggestions. We were four months out and I wouldn’t see her again until the week before the day, but nothing was a problem. www.bamboo-park.com
We had two main criteria for our ceremony; it should be personal to Toby and it should be short and sweet. On arrival at Bamboo Park our friends and family meandered through the park, following little arrows that we had pinned up to ensure no one got lost. This walk took about five minutes through the trees and bamboo until, surprise; they emerged right out onto the water with panoramic views of the bay. We got so lucky with the weather, it had lashed the day before and it lashed the day after but for that half an hour that we were exposed to the elements the sun stayed out for us. I loved watching everyone gathering around and taking in their surroundings and ensuring they got amazing selfies. My Uncle Toby kindly agreed to officiate for us. He was our first and perfect choice for the job, as Toby’s name sake but also for his wonderfully, kind nature. He read the words that myself and Craig had carefully written with love and care. Our ceremony included readings from the two Godparents, my brother Conor and Craig’s sister Niamh, who each told everyone gathered a little about our Grandparents Toby Mc Grath and Edward Healy. Craig’s own Godson Cian did a reading for our own parents and we stood as a family and made promises to Toby. To finish off my Dad played a piece that he had written for my Grandad Toby many years ago. It was very special.
*Happy to share the actual structure of our script with anyone who would like it, just get in touch.*
It took until about 9 days out for me to cop on that there was no way I could cater this myself. I had visions of me hand grating carrot for coleslaw, baking tarts and being an all-round badass. But 14 days out from the day we had to move house AGAIN. I didn’t even know if I had a spatula. If I did have one, I didn’t know where it was. Trigger major panic stations and then enter stage right Mary from Floury Hands in Bantry who told me not to worry, all would be fine. There would be quiche and potato salad and couscous and a variety of other yummy things. Sorted! https://www.facebook.com/FlouryHandsCafe/
My Dad’s wife Kim baked Toby a fabulous cake and his Aunty Niamh organised loads of yummy mini cakes and pastries. I did what I do best, organised the vino and beer. There was SO much food, we had almost 50 people on the day and there was more than enough for everyone and then some. We were eating pasta salad for three days! Claudine provided the tea and coffee on the day and thanks to the weather we had a kind of indoor out door picnic experience.
THE LITTLE TOUCHES
My Dad always comments after things I organise that he loves “the little touches”. There were a couple of special things that we wanted as part of the day.
We had our beautiful handmade bunting that we had from our wedding day hung as you came into the ceremony. I don’t normally attach emotional value to things, but I want to make sure this goes into his bedroom and is used for any future bubbas. Fiona from Beautiful Bunting made this for us. https://www.facebook.com/Beautifulbunting.ie/
We bought a sapling Wingnut Tree from www.futureforests.net at the Bantry Farmer’s Market on the Friday before hand. We had little tags where everyone could write a promise or piece of advice for Toby to hang on the tree. We will plant the tree at our final destination and keep those memories for him.
We had a “basket for books”. We had asked everyone to buy or pass on a book to Toby instead of toys. I can’t wait to have a lovely big library for him. People wrote a little note to him on the inside cover for him to read when he’s older.
Completely unscripted but one of my favourite moments of the afternoon was releasing the balloons we had ordered to decorate the room. Perfect end to a perfect day!
A huge thank you to everyone who travelled from near and far to be with us and especially to Catherine, for being the best photographer we could have asked for. My fabulous 50’s inspired dress is from Carousel who delivered in a couple of days, shops in Dublin and Cork.