On Sunday, Kildare played host to Kathryn Thomas’s wedding to long-term partner Pádraig McLoughlin.
To say it was a suitably classy affair is something of an understatement. Both Kathryn and daughter Ellie were dressed by designer Helen Cody, there were no less than nine bridesmaids, and the venue of choice was Kilkea Castle.
Situated on 180 acres of land (complete with the all-important golf course), the 12th-century venue’s wedding packages start from €105 per person. However, if you wish to upgrade yourself to a ‘Swan’ or a ‘Dove’, you’re looking in the region of between €125 and €155 per head. If money’s no option, why not treat yourselves to the Royal Package, which comes in at an impressive €245 per head?
While Kilkea Castle’s prices for the ‘big day’ could seem extravagant to some, they are a mere drop in the proverbial when it comes to other lavish nuptials to take place on our shores.
Back in 1999, Victoria and David Beckham’s venue was also situated in the outskirts of Dublin (Clonsilla). Their Luttrellstown Castle wedding reportedly cost in the region of €1m.
Castles seem to be the preferred choice among celebs from both home and abroad. In 2001, Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Smith were wed in Ashford Castle, while Paul McCartney and (now ex) wife Heather Mills had their nuptials in Castle Leslie in 2002. Brian O’Driscoll and Amy Huberman tied the knot in Leitrim’s Lough Rynn Castle in 2010.
We could go on (and on), but what if you’re putting off getting married because of the potential expense? What if you, like most out there, are spending your income on rent/mortgage, house insurance, bills, food? Fear not. It is possible to have a memorable day on a budget. Take it from someone who knows.
’Twas the month of April 2015 and the now husband had asked for my hand. We had an 18-month-old, a mortgage, plus the usual trappings of a conventional life. Tapping parents for a financial dig-out wasn’t a goer, so — armed with hope and a smile — we knocked on the door of the credit union. We also sold a few things.
Cutting a long story short, we had in the region of €8,000... for everything. To be specific, that was to include the transport, meals, afters, wedding rings, dress, suit, photographer AND the actual getting married part. Here’s how...
1. KEEP SHTUM...
The first rule of DIY wedding planning: Do not talk about weddings.
To keep costs down for us and most of the guests, we decided to keep the venue local; that way guests weren’t obligated to stay in a hotel. So far, so good. However, given my in-laws are from Cork, some hotel rooms needed reserving. The first time I tried block-booking four rooms, I naively mentioned ‘wedding’. Said basic rooms came in at an extortionate price. I rang back the next day, didn’t mention ‘wedding’, and every room was magically subject to a 15pc block-booking discount.
The same goes for booking the meal in a restaurant or reserving a function room for the afters. Who says it has to be a wedding reception? I requested the prices of hiring a reception room in our hotel of choice for a ‘family occasion’, from 6.30pm to 12.30am. The only stipulation of the hotel was that a certain number of people attend, making the actual room hire €250. They soon copped it was a wedding, but at that point, they’d already agreed a price.
As for decorating the space? I asked a friend with a keen eye to dress the reception room while the speeches were taking place. Each table had flameless candles, silk rose petals, crystals and a jar of penny sweets — all purchased online for a fraction of the usual ‘wedding’ price.
2. CONSIDER THE REGISTRY OFFICE
Church weddings are steep. Firstly, you must pay for the privilege of using the church. It’s also the norm to give money to the person presiding over the ceremony. Then you also have to pay €200 for your actual marriage licence. In other words, you’re looking at about €600. If you choose the Registry Office, you’re just paying €200 for the licence.
It sounds clinical, but it’s what you make of it. You can still walk down the aisle, choose the music you want played (or indeed have someone strum along on a guitar), exchange rings and vows, the works. You’ll also have the added bonus of the lovely Grand Canal setting for your photos.
3. THINK OUTSIDE THE HOTEL
Choose a restaurant for the meal. You can either spend the guts of €3,500 on feeding your guests just one choice of meal at an ‘all in’ wedding venue (usually in the region of €40-€70 a head), or you could just choose a varied ‘early bird’ menu in your favourite restaurant for half the price. True, the downside is that you’ll have to move venues, but at least you know it’s an option.
4. LET THEM EAT...WHATEVER THEY WANT!
There doesn’t always have to be cake. We didn’t have one. However, it was easier to get away with because we had lunch in a restaurant with an array of desserts. Cakes, if you mention the word ‘wedding’, can cost in excess of €300. If you’re hell-bent on having one, you could rope in a rellie who’s handy with a Victoria sponge and a piping bag, or buy three different-sized cakes from the supermarket and pile them on top of each other (in size order, obvs). All you will need are dowls to keep the three layers from collapsing on top of each other and perhaps some ribbon to tether around each one. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to show you how.
5. FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHY
Everyone knows a ‘photographer’. Professional wedding photographers can cost in the region of €1,500. And there’s a reason for that — professional photographers are good at what they do. I was lucky enough to have a cousin who permanently has a camera tethered to his arm, so he was happy to take photos of the day.
If you don’t know anyone who has a good eye or decent kit, an alternative is to ask your guests to take candid shots of proceedings throughout the day and send them to you via your preferred digital medium. You’ll be surprised at the results. Then you can send on your favourite ones to the likes of Photobox.ie for an array of prints.
We went for a “reputable cab company” we knew had nice shiny cars. Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of the biggest gambles of the day, on account of said driver turning up late, and then proceeding to turn up the radio really loudly so we were treated to Pat Kenny discussing divorce statistics en route to the Registry Office. In hindsight, I would have definitely tracked down a friend with a half-decent motor and asked if they would drive us in.
7. FLOWER FOLLIE
There are SO many alternatives to traditional flowers. At approximately €600, wedding blooms can cost a bomb. Again, there’s a reason for that. Fresh flowers are beautiful. In saying that, I had a DIY brooch bouquet (again, tutorials available on YouTube), and feather corsages. The restaurant and the hotel already came adorned with their own flowers as standard. Saved a fortune.
8. SAY YES TO THE (ONLINE) DRESS
So many wedding dresses are only worn for one day. It just doesn’t seem right, does it? Therefore, why not look at repurposing a pre-loved wedding guna? Sellmyweddingdress.ie and Barnardos Bridal Rooms are just two places to see an array of dresses at a mere snip of the original price. Alternatively, you could hire your dress for the day via the likes of Covet.ie.
Or, you could buy an off-the-rack dress and get is altered. Ideally, I would’ve loved a Jenny Packham dress, but that would’ve been almost the entire budget blown. Instead, I did a bit of googling and saw something very similar in House of Fraser. If you want to make it look a bit different, bring it to a reputable alterations place. If you live in the Dun Laoghaire area, Stitch Express were pretty amazing and altered the dress for €30.
OTHER USEFUL LINKS...
If you’re looking for a thriftier alternative to the printed invite, paperlesspost.com let you design your own and email a certain amount to guests for free. Also, seating arrangements don’t always have to involve pins, paper and all-out war. Weddingwire.com provide a free seating chart for you to tinker with. Additionally, if you have younger children attending, look no further than funnfrills.ie. They market themselves as “supervised portable activity areas for children at weddings”, and their inspired use of a picket fence is to be lauded.