Create your fairytale wedding: Hotels on hand to tailor your needs for the Big Day
Irish hotels offer great value, with all-inclusive prices and childminders on-site
Castlemartyr resort: The resort is a HSE registered venue for civil ceremonies and has rooms of all sizes to ensure your surroundings are tailored exactly to your needs
Ireland is blessed with wonderful hotel wedding venues and all are at their most beautiful in summer. Gardens are perfect for the wedding album, there’s the option of outdoor ceremonies and receptions can spill out onto terraces.
It’s peak wedding season too, so if you’re planning your own nuptials at some stage, rock up to your favourite hotel any summer Saturday and there will be brides. It’s a great way to see a favoured venue in action.
Though it’s always fun to be part of a wedding cavalcade honking your way from church to hotel, the option to have your wedding and reception at the one venue can make for a chilled out alternative. Everyone booked in can ditch the car keys, kick back and relax as soon as they arrive.
At Castlemartyr Resort in bucolic east Cork, the wow factor comes from having both the elegant 18th century manor house and the dramatic remains of 13th century castle as your backdrop, all wrapped in 220 acres of mature parkland. The interior is stunning too.
“Our Capel Suite is unlike any other ballroom in Ireland, with floor to ceiling windows, giant chandeliers, mood lighting and magnificent drapes,” says Sean Coney, Castlemartyr marketing executive.
The resort is a HSE registered venue for civil ceremonies and has rooms of all sizes to ensure your surroundings are tailored exactly to your needs. “More and more couples are choosing to host their ceremony outdoors, to the backdrop of our stunning 13th century castle ruins,” he said.
Though weddings are all about the happy couple, it’s nice to keep the guests happy too. The fact that Castlemarty has an 18 hole golf course and a great spa will keep everyone smiling.
This is particularly important as weddings are increasingly going from being all about the Big Day to being multiday celebrations, agrees Bronagh McKeefry, one of a team of five dedicated wedding planners at Galgorm Resort and Spa in Co Antrim.
It’s another super scenic property, with more than 160 acres of lush parkland and the spectacular River Maine flowing through the estate. The fact that it offers great golfing and fantastic spa facilities allows for great day after activity packages.
“Increasingly we are seeing wedding guests book in for not just one day but two and three, which is particularly nice where people have had to travel from the UK or US to attend,” she says.
While Galgorm is a magnificent property, for frazzled brides and grooms a major part of its appeal is the fact that it makes weddings so easy to organise.
It has an array of wedding packages to choose from, to suit almost all budgets, with the life-saving addition of having an all in-price that includes everything from the food and drink to the florist to the cake and live entertainment. The very happy couple simply have to show up and say “I do”.
There might be scope to negotiate extras such as breakfast or discounted spa treatments , so don’t be afraid to ask
What’s more, it has a panel of approved local suppliers to choose from, so pretty much all tastes are catered for and you’re never limited to just one.
Weddings are a big deal indeed for McKeefry, whose goal was to become a wedding planner at the property ever since she attended her cousin’s wedding there at the age of 12.
Having achieved her goal a couple of years ago, her experience as a wedding planner puts her in a good position to see what makes a couple choose one venue over another. “The most important thing is the style of the room, whether they want rustic chic or modern elegance. Some will work with what’s already in the venue but others will work with a wedding decor company to come in and create their fairytale wedding,” she says.
Because of the propensity to stay longer, a venue that offers top notch accommodation is increasingly important. “It means guests get a break away too,” she says. A good one will give you a discount for guests, which everyone will appreciate. There might be scope to negotiate extras such as breakfast or discounted spa or activity treatments too, so don’t be afraid to ask.
The US trend of wedding rehearsals is on the rise here too, says McKeefry. This is typically followed by a casual dinner at the property the night before the wedding. This is an intimate, informal gathering for close family and a great opportunity for both sides to get to know each other better, or at all, as is often the case.
The day after the wedding is another casual, relaxed day where the emphasis is on informality. Barbecues or pizza parties are a fun way to keep the party atmosphere going.
With so many couples already living together and an increase in second marriages, it’s unsurprising to find that bride and grooms increasingly staying on for a few days after everyone else has gone, just to wind down after the big event. Again, if that sounds good to you, it’s important to pick the right property.
Wherever you choose, McKeefry has plenty of practical tips worth bearing in mind for the big day. For a start, make sure your wedding favours are meaningful or in some way express your “personality” as a couple. “Very often couples will make a donation to a particular charity, for example. And keep your speeches short, five minutes each tops. They typically come before the meal so everybody is hungry,” she says.
As to the great debate – kids or no kids – that’s a personal decision for everyone. “I know the wedding team here have discussed it and most of us would like our nieces and nephews to be present,” she says but there is a third option that’s worth considering.
“At Galgorm we use a company called TeePee Tribe which provides a great service whereby the kids are with you in the room but off doing their colouring and being looked after. It’s a lovely option.”
Wedding Trend: Authenticity
One of the biggest consumer trends in recent years has been the move to seek out authenticity. Among the main beneficiaries of that have been artisanal food producers and the craft sector.
It’s a trend that has extended to jewellery, including engagement and wedding rings, says Mette O’Connor of Amoc, a Greystones jeweller which specialises in bespoke handmade pieces in quirky, often asymmetrical styles.
“For engagements, many people still want a solitaire diamond ring but they want it to be, and look, handmade. With mass produced rings, the whole thing is cast by a machine, the stone is set and it is thrown into a barrel and cleaned up. All of our jewellery is handmade and there is always a slightly different feel to something that is handmade. Even if it’s a design I’ve done before there will always be slight variations. I really believe too that there is a different feel to a piece if someone has put their energy into making it for you.”
Though she makes and sells all kinds of jewellery, working with couples getting married is one of her favourite parts of the job. “Most people don’t know what they want but they all know what they don’t want. Right now what people don’t want is too much bling or something that is too shiny, they prefer texture. Before the recession it was all ‘as big as possible’ now it’s much more about the meaning. The fact that they are involved in the decision-making matters more because they feel more connected to the rings.”
Another way to personalise the big day is to put some thought into the drinks menu. Off licence chain Molloys provides a wedding service designed to help you get great value.
This means choosing the right wines for your taste and your budget. To this end it organises wine tastings in advance of the big day, helps you work out costings and can even provide a wine pairing service if you send them your wedding menu.
It can also provide you with personalised craft beer labels to mark the big day, featuring the couple’s names, the date and venue, plus a little cartoon avatar of each of them. Molloys also sells miniature spirits bottles with personalised neck labels, which make popular wedding favours for guests.
“Very often it’s the bride’s favourite gin and the groom’s favourite whiskey, and again it’s all about making the event that little bit quirky and personalised,” said director Richard Molloy.
“Also, we deal directly with a lot of vineyards around the world to import a range of Molloy’s Wines, which are exclusive to us. We cut out the middle man so that we can offer superior wines at affordable prices and your guests will never see the wine from your wedding on a supermarket shelf.”