Backstage at a five-star wedding resort – the Powerscourt Hotel experience
The Powerscourt Resort in Wicklow has doubled its number of weddings over the past two years - we went backstage at the five-star hotel to meet the people driving the success
The crescent-shaped Powerscourt hotel takes full advantage of its setting, nestled deep into this Co Wicklow valley
A calming hush hangs over the avenue approach to Powerscourt Hotel Resort and Spa, recently awarded the AA Hotel of the Year. The 21st century bustle of the motorway falls away and a dramatic first glimpse of the Sugarloaf mountain signals that I’ve arrived in a place apart. It’s hard to imagine that such a beautiful wild view could exist so close to the capital and as the avenue’s beech trees close in around us and the hotel comes into view I’m excited to experience the hidden workings of this great hotel in Co Wicklow.
I’m going backstage at one of the most celebrated hotels in Ireland to hear the story of how Powerscourt Hotel has more than doubled its number of weddings in just two years and to get a glimpse of the work involved in making this place so special for brides, grooms and their guests.
Stepping into the lobby here for the first time is a treat. The plush carpet underfoot, the warm rich colours of the furnishings, the height and depth of the room and the light and shade that work together to create such grandeur. Chandeliers and dark heavy wood, roaring fires and gilded mirrors.
It’s a carefully designed welcome that fully comes to life only when you meet the staff. There’s a confidence in their approach, a pride that never feels false. The porters, the reception staff, the concierge and bar tenders – they each offer their own polite, but very warm welcome.
Later, I discuss this with marketing executive Laura Dunne, asking is this simply a result of training and in a moment the hotel’s ethos comes alive to me. There’s not a hint of rehearsal to her story of the hotel. She believes in the place and in the people who work here and she is genuinely pleased when people experience that too. Her approach is the essence of hospitality and her enthusiasm for the building, the remarkable estate it sits on and the service it provides is infectious.
This is my first introduction to the range of wedding packages and bespoke plans available at Powerscourt Hotel. There’s only ever one wedding in the hotel at a time, although the beautiful 17th century Powerscourt House is also available if the hotel is already booked. Before my backstage visit I’m taken through the wedding experience on offer, from the bride and groom’s first visit, the role of the hotel’s wedding planner, the dining choices, the banqueting hall, the chef’s tasting table, the suites and rooms and the award winning spa.
It’s overwhelming and I imagine it must be hard for a bride to sit in the Sugar Loaf lounge, with its incredible views towards the mountain and not be wooed all over again. A wedding here is an incredibly attractive proposition.
Deirdre O’Brien (above), the director of sales and marketing, was invited by general manager David Webster to join the hotel in 2013. It was an ambitious move, requiring her to lead the reinvention of what was then the Ritz Carlton and its slightly stiffer, more formal offering. Their goal was to rebrand the resort to reflect the softer, more inviting, personal touch that is now its trademark and introduce new layers of experience for guests that redefine the Powerscourt experience. It’s clear she has enjoyed every minute of the job and captures such a strong sense of brand identity as she talks that I’m convinced that her role at this five-star hotel is a true milestone in her career.
It’s a truly romantic place, she says, and through her staff she uncovers the essence of what makes a wedding here that little bit extra special - the enjoyment of staff who work in such a remarkable setting, with a wedding offering they are truly proud of.
The measure of this comes from the actions of her team themselves, such as executive chef Tony O’Donnell’s 160km roundtrip every day, the decision by wedding planner Suzy Quirke to have her own wedding here, Robbie Smyth, the Chief Concierge and Guest Relations manager's sheer delight at being one of the few people to have ever worked in the hotel continuously from the day it opened and the dedication, Aidan O’Sullivan the conference and banqueting manager communicates as he details the thrill of managing a banqueting hall as large and multi-faceted as Powerscourt’s.
There is nothing simple or understated about the building of a wedding here. It’s a truly collabarative event led by professionals dedicated to their roles – and they’re succeeding. Pay them a visit and you’ll quickly be won over to the Powerscourt way.