When we first got engaged, we found it impossible to decide where we wanted to get married. Despite both being either half-Irish or fully Irish, and despite having met in Dublin where we both went to university, we initially failed to see Ireland as the best option.So we embarked on a schizophrenic hunt of venues via Ibiza, Italy and of course London.
Before seeing the light, we did however discover some real gems of venues in each of these locations, and I thought I would share them just in case anyone else has such global nuptial aspirations.
Because we both love the island and because weather was initially one of our primary concerns for our wedding, Ibiza seemed a natural choice. In the end, the biggest con for having our wedding there was that there are no direct flights from Dublin to Ibiza, so that might have left out quite a large contingent of the wedding party! But in our fantasies, these are the places we loved....
Amante Beach Club: I love this place – a beach club run by an English former DJ which is carved into its own private bay. And they do weddings with a touch of class: a beautiful pagoda to marry under, amazing food (they sometimes do this in ‘stations’ so a paella station, a BBQ station, a dessert station – a casual approach which I love the idea of), and perfect sound systems for when the party gets started. Capacity 120.
Hacienda Na Xamena: This is the daddy of Ibiza wedding venues, a five star resort with the best views on the island. We went there recently for lunch and I can only imagine how spectacular a wedding here would be, sipping cocktails on the terrace as the blazing sun dips behind the sea. Service is second to none and the Bond villain style pool hovering precariously on the edge of the cliff is something none of your guests will forget in a hurry. Capacity for up to 200 people.
I lived in Italy as a student and love everything about it. I still speak the language so having the civil ceremony in Italian wasn’t really an issue for me (although it didn’t seem to be an issue for my non-Italian-speaking fiancé either), and what we loved most about the idea of marrying in Italy was having a whole weekend to party with our friends and family in the sunshine, enjoying lots of amazing food and wine while at it.
Castello di Modanella: A 45 minute drive from Perugia airport and close to Florence and Rome, this Tuscan castle estate is faded Italian grandeur at its most spectacular. You basically take over the whole estate, with guests staying in the little crumbly farmhouses dotted around the land, and everyone gathering in the 12th century castle courtyard for the party, and hanging out by the pool the next day for a barbecue. Heaven! The food – think tables laden with buffalo mozzarella, courgette flowers, handmade ravioli and wheels of parmesan – has been confirmed by my friend, a Food PR who attended a wedding here, as spectacular. 200 people capacity.
Castello di Rosciano: Another beautiful crumbling castle, this time set into the Umbrian hills. We had nothing but impeccable service here from the opening of our conversations with them to the end all too soon after. I loved the fact that it was an old monastery, and that the married couple got to spend the night in the old bell tower with 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside. The menus that were sent to me were unbelievable (Italians don’t dance at weddings; they spend 10 hours eating course after course), and the swimming pool looked gorgeous for a Sunday BBQ. Sigh. Room for 80 to stay on site, and capacity for 180 at the reception.
This would have been a sensible option as our lives are here, and there are so many great venues. London venues do however book up AGES in advance, as we discovered when I enquired at two of my favourite venues in London...
Wilton’s Music Hall: This 19th Century music hall is one of the only surviving ones of its kind in London. Hidden away in the City of London, it’s a beautiful, crumbling, magical place, draped with heavy red stage curtains and softly lit by a canopy of fairy lights. It books out a long time in advance so we didn’t get any further than a first inquiry.
Bush Hall: My friend had a fabulous wedding here. Another old music hall originally built in 1904, this was redone in 2001 and has all the feeling of its original purpose: oversize sparkling chandeliers, ornate plasterwork and kitsch decor. A lovely balcony for the drinks reception and a real feeling of a colourful past.
This, of course, was the obvious option. It was only when a friend of mine told me how she thought there was something fairytale-like about a wedding in Ireland that I started to realise that it was all there on my doorstep all along. It didn’t have the main factor we were chasing for our perfect nuptials, ie WEATHER, but we eliminated that problem by deciding to have a Christmas wedding and ignoring all external elements. Ireland is bursting with spectacular places for a wedding; here are some of my favourites...
Kilshane House Both my sister and one of my best friends – as well as Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese – have been married here, and it is a very special place. A grand old farmhouse set into acres of rolling Tipperary countryside, every little detail has been thought of and completed with impeccable taste. The large glass conservatory – ‘The Orangerie’ is an utterly romantic ceremony venue complete with trickling fountain in the centre, and most of your guests will be able to stay on site which makes for a relaxed and fun weekend complete with long walk and hog roast the following day.
Lyons Estate: This seventeenth century milling village has been lovingly converted into a bijoux wedding venue with beautiful on-site accommodation, a great wood-panelled dining hall overlooking tumbling waterfalls and even a dovecot inhabited by cooing white doves. Smaller sized weddings could hold the ceremony in the beautiful fairy-lit conservatory, and with a renowned cookery school on-site the food is guaranteed to be great. This has a 180 capacity.
The Winner: Slane Castle: I would have laughed if anyone had ever told me I would get married here in years to come. It’s renowned in Ireland as a rock concert venue, and everyone from the Rolling Stones to Madonna has stayed here (in the King George room, which was also the preferred bedroom of the monarch himself). But we discovered that they do weddings, and pretty good ones at that. In fact we had to scoop our jaws off the floor when we visited, the whole place is so beautifully done. We could just imagine it sparking with candles and Christmas trees, and we were totally sold. I can’t wait. Capacity for up to 240.