It was only a few years ago when a fantasy destination wedding to Ireland was an expensive venture—and adventure—to embark upon. Today, thanks to a less than stellar global economy, a dream wedding in Ireland is much more affordable. “Venues in Ireland are also feeling the pinch of the recession,” states Michelle Johnstone Clark, who runs Maryland-based, Waterlily Weddings, “so they’re being a lot more flexible.” Part of the beauty of a destination wedding says Michelle is, since everyone is traveling with you, you can get married mid-week, and get better discounts.” Certain restrictions, such as booking a minimum number of rooms and entertaining a large number of guests, have been lowered. “In some ways, it’s actually become more affordable,” says Michelle, who also notes that during the boom, many individuals that bought smaller castles and transformed them into luxury dwellings, can no longer afford to keep them private. “So now there are smaller castles on the market for weddings that sleep as little as 6 people that can be rented for a weekend for $1,200 Euros.”
In fact, a big, traditional wedding with 150 guests can actually cost more than a smaller, more intimate affair with your closest friends and family members. “For many people, at least my clients, [a destination wedding] is a more comfortable solution for spending their money. If they’re going to spend $10 to $15 thousand dollars, it isn’t going to be for only one day; it’s going to be for a week. Many couples even turn the trip it into a honeymoon, visiting other parts of Ireland or neighboring Scotland.”
Planning a wedding is difficult enough if you live in the states, so planning a wedding in Ireland must be even more difficult, right? It doesn’t have to be. Not when you’re working with reputable companies such as Waterlily Weddings. Michelle takes care of everything from the paperwork to the flowers to the photographer. Everything is put into place for you. Typically, she says, couples arrive about 5 days before the event so they can meet with the photographer, see the venue, etc. “Most of the vendors they don’t meet until the day of the wedding,” says Michelle, who admits there’s a huge amount of trust involved. “I have a great resource of vendors I can rely on, most of whom have really good websites. That’s really important because that’s the only way clients are going to be able to see things—through pictures.” Hence, you won’t be able to taste the cake, but you will be able to choose the design, color, frosting, flavor, etc.
MIchele also notes that many of the “extras” that consume a lot of time and money aren’t necessary when you’re getting married in a medieval castle. “I’m always amazed at how much focus is put on creating a theme and transforming a venue—the focus is on flowers, matching tablecloths, matching candles, etc. In ireland, because couples are getting married in fabulous, old castles and country estates, there’s less of that because the actual architecture and interiors are so amazing. The castle is the backdrop, and so couples can be more flexible about tablecloth colors, etc. A lot of couples here seem to be very influenced by huge celebrity weddings and programs, which are amazing to use as reference points for ideas. But for people with average salaries, that’s too much to expect for a wedding.”
The best and most popular months to marry in Ireland include March (for St. Patrick’s Day), and May, September and October (good months for weather). “Plus,” adds Michelle, “the students have gone back to school and the tourist destinations are a little quieter, so you’ll start getting better deals, in particular with the airlines. Other great options include November, December and January, because the castles are lighted with candles and big open fireplaces. It’s beautiful and totally lends itself to a winter wedding, and it’s the best time for flights and off-season packages in the hotels, as well.” Finally, says Michelle, planning a wedding in Ireland is a lot easier than people think. “It’s really not that difficult. It can actually be a less stressful option. It’s different, customized, and very personal for all involved. After all, it’s not too often you get invited to a wedding in Ireland.”