Jody & Matt: A Road Less Traveled at Gregans Castle

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One of our favorite venues to work with in Ireland is Gregans Castle in the west. It is everything you picture in your head when you think of the Irish countryside: a quaint stone country estate home straight out of a Jane Austen novel, sweet garden with flowers and vegetables, a cozy fireplace to warm with a dram after exploring the wild Burren and Cliffs of Moher during the day. It is no wonder J.R.R. Tolkien himself took inspiration from this area when writing The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings (the Burren and western Ireland in general served as his inspiration for The Shire).  A mixture of unparalleled sweeping natural beauty, gourmet food, adventure and Irish tradition, Gregans sits in the heart of Ireland’s countryside in the west. Balancing elegance and comfort, Irish hospitality and refinement, fun and excitement, it’s a perfect place to explore Ireland and connect with her spiritually and with her land and history. And it was an easy choice for Jody and Matt when considering wedding venues for their dream destination wedding in Ireland.

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It all started back in 2015. Seasoned travelers around the world, Matt and Jody were in the middle of a European tour with Matt’s brother and now-wife that summer including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia when they found themselves in the heart of Vienna, the jewel capital of Austria. On a Friday they made their way to visit Schonbrunn Palace, an incredible living museum of Baroque architecture and manicured gardens that served as royal summer home for over 300 years. Walking about the beautiful palace and taking in the incredible scenery, Jody and Matt entered the gardens and walked through towards the Gloriette monument, the top of which overlooks all of bustling and colorful Vienna below. At the top of the overlook Jody went off to the side to take in the views. She turned around for Matt who was not there; he had dropped down to one knee called her name. Jody was shocked, and Matt proposed. With an enthusiastic and heartfelt “yes!” they returned to the bottom of the Gloriette and celebrated with champagne at the restaurant.

They returned from their trip and began planning their wedding. They knew they wanted something wonderful and exciting, something that spoke to their mutual love for travel, and something memorable for themselves and their guests. A destination wedding was a natural fit, but where to host it? A quick look down the list and Ireland popped up almost immediately. They’d never been, but in the course of their travels and preparations had heard much about Ireland’s natural beauty, sense of adventure, and the warm and welcoming Irish people. Three standards that were a must for their wedding day were instantly a match, and soon after an internet search brought them to Waterlily Weddings.

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Jody wanted something outdoors, taking advantage of the spectacular natural landscape, in particular the Irish countryside with its verdant hills and wildflowers, but also wanted to balance with ease of transportation for her guests — close to airport, easy to navigate. Something in or around Dublin was initially discussed, but nothing quite suited the sense of expanse and outdoor adventure Matt and Jody were looking for. Just south outside of Dublin sits Waterford Castle, the fact it had a golf course also was appealing to Matt in particular. A well enough choice, but still something was missing for their perfect day.

When couples look for adventure we always look west. The land of poets and song, western Ireland is the story of fairy tales. From castles to cliffs, sheep grazing lazily in the afternoon sun to late night jam sessions with local musicians, the west is the soul of Ireland herself. From sweeping views, hearty hearths, and elegance befitting any wedding day, Gregans Castle in the heart of The Burren was a most perfect choice, the local world-renowned golf course the cherry on top.

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We absolutely love the balance of semi-formal chic with a vintage undertone. Jody’s Jenny Packham dress is exquisite — a beautiful choice for an outdoor ceremony that glistened in the candlelight and was comfortable to dance in. Matt hand-picked the walking sticks for his groomsmen, each hand-painted with their names. Their wedding took inspiration from the landscape — we love the use of green and textile in the hand-fasting chord, and the pops of blue in the floral arrangements matched the spectacular blue sky perfectly. Timeless, elegant, and with a heavy dose of fun, we love their dream Irish wedding day at Gregans Castle in The Burren.

From the fields of limestone to the carpet of wildflowers, Jody and Matt’s wedding was a real treat. The rainy weather managed to cooperate last minute, giving way to a spectacularly (albeit blistery) sunny day in The Burren. Wild and free, among the ancient stones, they took to their path and joined hands in a traditional Irish ceremony with their nearest and dearest. This, is their story….

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same…”

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It was early May and Ireland was in full spring glory. Brightly colored toad-flax and field-speedwell joined the creamy white campions and daisies in addition to the yellow carpet of gorse and purple heather. The hills were a bright lime green, the recent rains awakening the chlorophyll in every blade of grass and leaf throughout the countryside. The skies were capricious per the usual this time of year– slate grey but solid as steal one minute, then robin’s egg blue with beaming sun the next, white puffy clouds turned dark as graves before giving way to buckets of pouring rain and then a second later, a most brilliant rainbow to apologize for the trouble.

This early May morning was no exception. Gregans awoke among the gentle showers of an Irish spring day. The flowers in the garden yawned and stretched as the water droplets fell gently, the pitter patter on window sills slowly drawing Matt and Jody and their guests out of their slumber. The night before was spent in brilliant revelry: a rehearsal dinner at local pub Gus O’Connors in the seaside fishing village called Doolin where guests dined on traditional Irish fare like shephard’s pie and fresh fish n chips, washing it down with a good pint of Guinness, mixing in with the locals. An evening in Doolin is usually spent with a considerably amount of efforts dedicated to song and dance, and this evening was no exception. Whether you’re of Irish ancestry or not, after a night in Doolin anyone can add “Mc” to their last names, for you are now well versed in both Molly Malone and Wild Rover and the nuances of a good Irish whiskey. Jody and Matt spent the day exploring the nearby Cliffs of Moher with their guests before relaxing at the pub, a successful rehearsal dinner embodying the full Irish experience.

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As the morning rolled on the ladies entered Jody’s suite and began preparations for the day. A peek out the window showed Gregans and the vendors hard at work: white chairs were laid out in perfect order, flowers according to exact specifications were being delicately fixed, and a gentle hum of wedding day bustle was well underway throughout the Georgian estate house. The mood was light and celebratory, Jody able to enjoy and relax with her friends and family while Sile was busily overseeing the wedding preparations outside.

Meanwhile, Matt worked off any nervous energy with a hike to Aillwee Caves with some of the men before returning to get ready.

Jody slid into her sparkling Jenny Packham dress and SJP shoes. A pair of emerald and pearl earrings from her travels in India were the perfect accessory, and her bridesmaid Taylor’s veil (her something borrowed). She picked up her gorgeous bouquet of white peonies, spray cars, menthe, cashmere and Juliet roses, vine, and orchids all tied with her grandmother’s handkerchief and her nana’s necklace, and set out for the wedding.

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The Ceremony

Outside in the garden, white chairs chairs were adorned with hanging mason jars of peonies and sweet pea, spray roses, and astilbe.  Jody and Matt opted for a traditional, spiritual Irish ceremony, including Celtic blessings, ring-warming, unit candle, and hand-fasting. Dara, the celebrant, guided them through the planning process and they worked together to create a unique ceremony reflective of their journey as a couple. Jody’s sister and Matt’s brother introduced them at the beginning of the ceremony, and a friend read a poem. A bridesmaid read The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, and Jody’s brother-in-law performed an Irish blessing for the couple. A lovely detail was asking each guest to bless their rings; one by one they took the rings in their hands and bestowed upon them a secret, silent blessing for the couple, intending well wishes and wisdom to help guide Jody and Matt on their journey together. To help set the mood and bring in another traditional Celtic element, a harp played a mixture of Celtic and classical music throughout the ceremony. It was touching to see how many people made the trek to Ireland for them, who love and support them, and who could share this special day in this beautiful place with them.

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3Although spectacularly sunny, the wind was its usual factor. Jody bravely donned a veil which clearly had its own ideas about partaking in the ceremony. After fighting with it for a few moments while walking down the aisle, Jody ripped it off with a laugh and tossed it to the wind (wise choice!) and made her way down the soft grass pathway to Matt as the harp softly played Pachabel’s Canon in D.

After the blessings and exchanging of vows and rings, Jody and Matt made their way back to the house to Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” and resounding cheers of their guests.

The Reception

After the ceremony Jody and Matt explored the countryside with their photographer Shane  while their guests enjoyed canapes of spiced confit of duck, Galway Bay crab with curried creme fraiche and apple, brie with truffle honey and hazelnuts. After their return, a five-course meal was served including a starter course of cured Claire Island Salmon with cucumber, dill, creme fraiche and lemon, salt-baked beetroot, St. Tola goat cheese hazelnut and orange salad, a middle course of chilled gazpacho with salted cucumber and black olive oil, a main course of dray aged Hereford beef fillet with mustard mashed potatoes, roasted shallot or a glazed halibut with boulanger potatoes, blackened carrot, and smoked aubergine. A dessert course of dark chocolate truffle cake with mandarin and lime as well as an apple tart with caramel ice cream and pecan ended the exquisite meal. A last minute choice cake was also served; a three-tier chocolate and vanilla multi-layered cake with whipped icing and embellished with figurines of their dog Charlie and Matt’s late dog Tank.

Arundo played traditional Irish music including “Whiskey In The Jar” and “Galway Girl” among many others, and even taught the guests dances, polkas, and the like well into the evening! There was much dancing and revelry, and a bit of fun with Jody’s fur shawl.

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“…And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

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Jody and Matt — we wish you a most beautiful life together. May the road you travel on together be smooth and full of picturesque vistas, the brightest of flowers, and a glorious sun to lead your way. Congratulations!

The Shorthand

Venue: Gregans Castle, The Burren   •  Celebrant: Dara Malloy  •  Photography: Shane O’Neill, Aspect Photography  •  Flowers: The Flower Den, Ennis  •  Cake: Cakes by Elma  •  Harp: Jean Wallace  •  Music: Arundo  •  Hair: Marina Clancy, The Hair Boutique   •  Makeup: Maria Milton, Serena Beauty  •  Planning & Coordination: Waterlily Weddings  •  Dress: Jenny Packham  •  Shoes: SJP  •  Groom’s Suit:  Walker Slater •  Tie/Accessories:  Atkinsons  •  Special Details: walking sticks by Olde Shillelagh
Favorite Moments: taking pictures, taking in the stunning scenery, struggling to get the unity candle lit in the wind
Bride’s Advice: “For a destination wedding, remember that you will also be a travel agent, tour guide, and just get a lot of questions in general. It’s best to send out detailed itineraries as soon as possible to help put people at ease and get them ready and excited for Ireland.”
In The End: “The people of Ireland are so wonderful. We just want to hug and send our well wishes to everyone who made our journey and wedding so special, from everyone at Waterlily Weddings to Gregans Castle hotel — thank you!”

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