Although all of Ireland is most spectacular, there are a few places that are more special still. The Cliffs of Moher, located on the western coast of Ireland is one such place. These imposing towers of shale and limestone soar about 400 feet above sea level, buttressing an impossibly verdant landscape on one side and a collection of blue and green hues from the wild Atlantic on the other that could rival the best gem. Situated on the cliffs’ edge is O’Briens Tower, where visitors are awarded a view of the Aran Islands, the Twelve Pins mountain range, and the lighthouse on Loop Head after climbing all the way to the top. It is without a doubt why the Cliffs are the most visited place in Ireland by tourists, but also a stunning place to get married.
Madelyn and Mike thought the same.
They met in college and both participated in a co-op program at NASA, an educational internship program that focused on a mutual investment opportunity between NASA and college students (i.e. “future employer and employee”). Being two years older than Madelyn, Mike was often down in Houston at different points in the academic year until finally they both started in Houston at the same time. They began dating soon thereafter that summer, then both returned to Ohio State to finish their degrees, and juggled a long-distance relationship between Ohio and Houston for the next two years. Talks of marriage began, and last summer Mike flew Madelyn’s mother, grandmother, sister, best friend, and his parents down to Austin (Texas) where he proposed. They all celebrated together that weekend, and soon a wedding was being planned!
Mike and Madelyn are lovers of travel. They love learning about different cultures and seeing how others live, love learning new things, and the excitement of discovering a new place they’ve never been to before. It was obvious their wedding would be a destination wedding; the only question was where?
They took out one of their globes and spun the sphere, agreed that wherever their finger landed, they would plan a wedding there. As the sphere spun and spun, with their eyes closed they lowered their finger down and the globe abruptly stopped on…the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With the advent of internet and Pinterest, even a middle-of-giant-ocean wedding would prove most difficult to pull off, so they spun again. This time they landed in Ireland, and they were most pleased. Having never been, Ireland ranked highly on their bucket list of dream travel destinations and a quick Google search led them to us, Waterlily Weddings.
Soon details and preparations began and the wedding was underway. They chose the Cliffs of Moher for their stunning beauty and unparalleled backdrop for their outdoor ceremony, and Plan B’d Newtown Castle. The more they researched Newtown, the more they fell in love with it, and Plan B became Plan A. Mike and Madelyn’s wedding is the first ever wedding to be held outdoors in the garden courtyard of Newtown Castle on the banks of the Cliffs of Moher, and Waterlily Weddings is so happy to share with you their gorgeously sunny, beautiful dream Irish wedding day.
This, is their story….
Madelyn and Mike chose to rent out a house for the themselves and the majority of the guests so they could all be together and celebrate. They decided on Ballyvara House, a luxury self-catering home in the heart of Doolin. The home was originally a century-old thatched cottage, that has been recently converted into a 4-star luxury holiday home for rent owned and operated by The Flanagan family. Madelyn wanted something picturesque and centrally located, and Mike wanted proximity to golf, so Ballyvara was the perfect solution for them: Doolin village is a mere 1/2 mile walk down the road and world-famous Lahinch Golf Course just a mile more.
They woke on the morning of their wedding to an uncharacteristically bright and sunny day. Even more so special that this was only the end of May, still solid grey-sky territory as far as Irish weather goes. To add to this stroke of luck, it was a warm day — nearly 80 degrees — making the Cliffs’ normally frigid breeze a bit of a welcomed reprieve from the strong sun!
Everyone was in an excited bustle this sunny morning. Breakfast was being prepared, everyone chipping in for the self-catered state of the art kitchen. Madelyn and Mike broke with tradition and went downstairs to mingle with the guests. Eventually the group naturally separated into male and female packs, and everyone went up to their rooms to get ready. Madelyn’s friends did her hair and makeup, and she slipped into her ethereal bright white gown, just perfect for the coastline’s breeze. They laughed and sipped on champagne as the morning unfolded. Meanwhile, Mike got dressed in his tailored Michael Kors suit and enjoyed the company of the men, dressed in dapper festive green suspenders and crisp white shirts. The mood was relaxed about the house, fun and festive with everyone taking the moment to truly enjoy the space and revel in the wedding day’s excitement.
The charter bus arrived and everyone boarded for the Cliffs. The bridesmaids clutched posy bouquets of wildflowers in shades of soft pink, dreamy cream white, and pops of bright mossy green. In their other hand, each clutched a trusty pair of hunter green wellies — together with an umbrella, a thoughtful gift from the Bride for this unpredictable Irish terrain and weather.
The guests made their way to the courtyard and took their seats in the shadow of Newtown Castle. Built in 1550, the pyramid-based round tower is unique in Ireland. Perched atop the village it served as romantic backdrop in this verdant countryside of the west for their interfaith ceremony. Rev Geraldine Bown presided over the traditional Irish ceremony, which included readings from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (read by Mike’s mother) and a passage by David Sedaris (read by Madelyn’s mother), both passages selected by each mother that held a special meaning for them, and a passage from “Oh The Places You’ll Go.” Madelyn’s sister, one of her brothers, and Mike’s brother each tied a knot on the handfasting chord. And even the fathers got in on the ceremony! In lieu of dong a unity candle, Madelyn and Mike — both avid lovers of beer and skilled home-brewers themselves– instead chose to do a Unity Half n Half Ceremony. Which is so brilliant. Madelyn’s dad poured the lager (Harp) to represent her family, Mike’s father poured the stout (Guinness) to represent his, each in separate glasses that were designed by Madelyn’s mother. Then Mike and Madelyn each poured the lager and stout together in the central glass, representing the merging of two families, then drank from the cup.
It was important to them that family be involved in the ceremony. They wanted everything to be unique and really reflective of their personalities. Many elements throughout the day were DIY via Madelyn’s mother’s talents, including her bouquet! A selection of silk flowers mixed in with broaches given to her from friends and family who could not make the trip to Ireland with her; this way she could carry them with her on her special day.
Breaking again with tradition, Madelyn and Mike decided to serve their wedding cake right after the wedding ceremony at Newtown Castle. A delicious multiple layer, chocolate fudge naked cake with Bailey’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream was served alongside champagne immediately following the ceremony in the garden. It gave the guests a delicious snack and energy to make the trek up to the Cliffs of Moher, where they spent the next hour exploring together and taking pictures.
Working up a good appetite with all the sight-seeing and pictures, everyone gathered in the seaside village of Doolin at Gus O’Connor’s Pub for dinner and drinks to celebrate the couple. Guests were invited to choose off the menu a variety of authentic locally sourced Irish traditional foods, including Beef and Guinness Stew and Fisn n Chips. To wash it down, of course some whiskey and pints of good Irish beer.
Uillean pipe player Tommy Keane and his daughters played for the ceremony, then joined the guests at the pub for more music. Everyone enjoyed the locals’ hospitality and well wishes, toasting and dancing well into the night. Touching toasts and more DIY crafting from Madelyn’s mom helped set the scene for an intimate celebration.
Everyone enjoyed themselves at this authentically Irish, countryside wedding. Doolin and the Cliffs come through again, this time with the help of the weather to create the most memorable, beautifully bright sunny day for Mike and Madelyn on their wedding.
Most couples come to Ireland hoping a rainbow will make an appearance. For our NASA couple…..well, maybe this is a bit more appropriate.
Madelyn and Mike, we congratulate you both, and wish you a lifetime of absolute happiness, the best beer, and continued blessings from the Universe.
Please enjoy the video of Madelyn and Mike’s beautiful sunny Cliffs of Moher wedding.
Venue: Newtown Tower • Reception: Gus O’Connor’s Pub, Doolin • Accomodations: Ballyvara House • Celebrant: Rev Geraldine Bown • Photographer: David McCelland • Video: Best Day Productions • Flowers: Mulqueens of Ennis, Limmerick • Cake: Carol’s Cakes • Music: Tommy Keane • Hair & Make-Up: DIY • Wedding Decor & Accents: Dress Your Wedding • Transportation: Pete McNamara – Lahinch Buses • Planning & Coordination: Waterlily Weddings • Dress: Catan Fashions, Cleveland, OH (USA) • Wellies: Hunter • Jewelry: Robbins Brothers • Groom’s Suit: Michael Kors • Tie: Tie Bar • Suspenders: The Suspender Store • DIY: welcome signs, beer glasses, bride’s brooch bouquet, pub decor, hand-fasting chord, hand-written vows (framed)
Something Old & Blue: mother’s garter • Something New: emerald earrings from Mike • Something Borrowed: brooches from loved ones back home
Favorite Moments: Seeing the Cliffs of Moher for the first time on our wedding day — we’d seen pictures for so long and envisioned being there so to actually be there and experience it in person was incredible; taking photos together after the ceremony and exploring around the cliffs
Bride’s Advice: “Have a destination wedding! We got to spend so much time with loved ones and share the excitement of exploring a new country together. Hiring a planner and having Michelle and Sile there to help was so wonderful; it took a lot of the stress out of planning a big wedding and we could focus instead on enjoying the quiet moment during the day.”
In The End: “Ireland is one of the most stunning countries we’ve been to, and we couldn’t have been happier with our choice to host our wedding here.”