Destination weddings in Ireland and DC/MD USA. Your Irish wedding planner – styling and coordination to die for weddings since 2006. Based in Dublin and Maryland.

How To Choose The Right Location For Your Dream Destination Wedding In Ireland


Photo by Peter Gordon

Castle hotel or romantic ruins? Gorgeous expansive countryside or cozy countryside estate house?  Cliffs or the coastline?  An intimate wedding or a fun traditional Irish bash at a local pub?!  There are so many incredible options to choose from in Ireland to host your dream destination wedding, that sometimes it can end up making an easy decision a more difficult one. Then add to that some common pitfalls and your dream wedding day can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Although we admire the entrepreneurial couple who feel confident in their own research skills to find their dream location and venue, we’ve seen it so many times over where they pick a location or a venue and their vision ends up not being a logistical reality. Maybe the venue you directly contacted oversold you on what they could actually deliver?  Maybe the ceremony location isn’t publicly available despite what your photographer said! The venue coordinator failed to mention there will be some major renovations happening during your wedding, and now you’re stuck with construction noise and unsightly trucks. Those incredible Instagram photos that are your dream ceremony location may not be legally available for your wedding — you could end up with hefty fines and a heap of headache.  These are some of the common “omg” moments we unfortunately hear about and why honestly it’s imperative to hire a wedding planner like Waterlily Weddings.  We are in constant communication with venues and locations throughout the country (some planners only specialize in an area), are constantly scouting location and our trans-Atlantic team is available to check out your dream locations in person to make sure everything will be proper and ready for your wedding day.

From picking the right location and venue, Waterlily Weddings is here to support you throughout your entire planning process. We will bring your vision to life, but more importantly, give you the peace of mind in knowing that your decisions are sound and well researched and able to be executed on the day of your wedding. 

But first we need to figure out location! Here are five tips to help get the thought process going.

Outdoors or Indoors

Your first order of business is figuring out if you want an outdoor or indoor ceremony. Were you thinking of something in the expansive natural beauty found throughout Ireland? Everything from a coastline ceremony, one right on the beach (yes, Ireland has sandy beaches too!), maybe atop one of the cliffs for a sweeping view, or a beautiful countryside shot in The Burren. Maybe your rustic side would love a forest with a canopy of trees, or a botanical garden in full bloom.

Or maybe something cozier indoors is your speed. Still want that big sweeping feel? Consider a cathedral with a traditional Catholic ceremony. Dublin has many incredible buildings with big open spaces, merging history with industrial chic that’s very on trend right now. And of course there is a plethora of castles, country estates, lodges, manors, and quaint adorable cottages that can suit your ceremony as well.

Most of our clients end up combing the best of both worlds: a ceremony outdoors followed by an exquisite reception indoors. Everything from super elegant castle receptions dripping with gold and flowers in candlelight to warm casual fun at a local Irish pub, we can help you craft your dream reception to match (or contrast!) your ceremony throughout Ireland.

Some factors to consider:

  1. An outdoor ceremony and reception will always be 100% weather dependent in Ireland. No matter what time of year, there is always a chance of rain or it being too muddy outside to host your event. As your trusted planners, we insist on crafting a Plan B to hold in our pocket in case we need to pull that card last minute. That said, 90% of our clients who planned an outdoor ceremony end up being able to go through with it. Ireland has a way of pulling through in the end, even with the weather.
  2. If you choose an outdoor ceremony 99% be ready to wear flats or even boots or wellies for your ceremony. Even if it’s not raining on the day of your wedding, it probably did for a week leading up to it, leaving a muddy path. The more into natural beauty to get, the more spectacular the ceremony environment will be and the pictures, and the more rugged the path as well. Plan to have a sturdy pair of flats to walk in and a pair of heels to change into if you need them at the ceremony site waiting for you! Budget in a pair of rain boots into your day. A lot of our brides end up color coordinating a pair of boots into their outfit, based on the wedding color scheme and even match a pair for the bridesmaids as well.
  3. Although we do love a traditional wedding in a beautiful church, there is truly nothing like the excitement and adventure of an outdoor ceremony in Ireland. The landscape is truly so spectacular and ends up casting a spell over the couple and the guests, not to mention yielding some really unique and incredible photographs. We’ve never had a client say they regret having the ceremony outside.  We will work with you to find the exact, breathtaking spot for your own ceremony!
  4. Ireland has some absolutely beautiful churches and buildings to host ceremonies indoors as well. Be it your preference or your Plan B option, when choosing your destination make sure you seriously look at what your ceremony might look like indoors in case outdoors doesn’t work out. Some couples come wanting an outdoor ceremony and end up preferring an indoor one and being extremely happy with the results.
  5. Think outside the box. We’ve had a handful of couples that have gotten married in a lighthouse. The pictures are so sweet and unique and they really love the cozy feel, not to mention the symbolism. Medieval watch towers are incredible for ceremonies and pictures. Thatched cottages are so cute and whimsical for the right couple. Old theaters, industrial factories, and even museums offer some really interesting architecture that can be worked into the wedding design and aesthetic. Especially if industrial appeals to you, there are some really incredible options  that would make for spectacular spaces for a wedding event that’s still very Irish but more modern and different.  We are so happy to recommend a variety of spaces to suit!

The Question To Ask Yourself: Do we want a ceremony and reception outdoors or indoors? Or a combination of both?

How We Can Help:  Waterlily Weddings will work with you to find the perfect location, venue, and space to hold your dream wedding day. We can take it a step further and also recommend First Look locations, help you work in your own style and vibe, and put together the right team to bring your vision to life all without the hassle and nerves of wondering if it will all work out if you do it on your own.

Exclusivity and Privacy

One of the incredible opportunities in Ireland for couples hosting their weddings here is the option for affordable exclusivity. There are so many private estate homes, manors, and castles that are available for private rental to host your event and even a longer celebration weekend. This is appealing for many couples as it offers a very relaxed feel where everyone can stay together, bond, get ready and celebrate together. It’s a great option if you have a lot of children coming for your event. And mostly, it gives you that sense of privacy if that is something important for you.

Some factors to consider:

  1. Some public places, especially tourist destinations like the Cliffs of Moher or downtown Dublin will have a lot of people there. Although people are generally respectful during your ceremony to give you space and privacy, there is a good chance you’ll have onlookers there peeking in and even taking pictures.
  2. Most couples aren’t bothered with it, and as your on-day coordinators we are making sure people are keeping a good distance for you. The more popular the location, the more likely there will be non-guests attending as well.
  3. As seasoned planners, we know the peek and down seasons for these popular spots. If a crowd is concerning you, we can help guide you to the time of year that would best suit you.

The Question to Ask Yourself: Is privacy important to us?

How We Can Help:  Waterlily Weddings can help advise you on the best time of year to take advantage of public locations and arrange exclusive use of venues, spaces, and outdoor locations (when available).

Transportation & Accommodation Logistics

If you are hosting a larger party for your wedding or not opting for an exclusive rental of a castle/hotel/estate, then you’ll need to consider transportation for your guests and accommodation options to suit budgets. Everyone coming will have a variety of budgets, from willing to spend anything to really needing to be mindful. Consider your guest list and who you’re inviting and pick a location that has a variety of options to suit all budgets, that’s centrally located for your event, so your guests aren’t stressing out.

Consider the following:

  1. For larger parties of 25 or more consider an area where people can choose from a fancier more expensive hotel, a more affordable but comfortable B&B, and an economical option.
  2. Take into consideration if your guests will need to rent cars. If your wedding is in the middle of a city or town, they can probably get away without having to rent something. If your event is 20 miles outside of the town they’re staying in, either consider renting a bus to take them or give them the heads up about renting a car.
  3. Guests are usually up for anything as long as they have enough time to properly prepare financially and logistically to suit.
  4. Pick an area that has enough accommodations for your party. Don’t pick an estate in the middle of nowhere that houses 10 guests, the nearest hotel or B&B being 30 minutes away for a wedding party of 50+ people! Consider the area is large enough to support your event!
  5. Similarly, if you know the majority of your guests will not be renting cars, consider hosting in an area located near one of the major airports.

The Question To Ask Yourself: Am I making the location easy for my guests to find accommodations and transportation?

How We Can Help:  Not only do we specialize in the logistics of the wedding day itself, our team is expert at helping you plan the logistics behind the day. We can advise you on picking an appropriate location that all of your guests can access. We can arrange for transportation for you and your guests as needed, and even work in more fun details like horse-drawn carriages to your ceremony space!

The Right Style and Aesthetic

Ireland has a variety of architecture and aesthetic to work with to suit most any palette. From mansions to grand hotels, country lodges to hidden cottages, there is no shortage of venues to host your wedding day. What makes Ireland really unique to other countries is its ability to span over a considerable time period. From the time of the ancient Celtic people with their standing stones, burial mounds, and ancient forests to the modern sleek designs in Dublin and Belfast, Ireland has any conceivable option to host your dream wedding day. The details are just up to you.

Think about what kind of style aesthetic you like. What kind of time period maybe appeals to you, or are you inspired by a favorite TV show or movie? Do you prefer something classically romantic or more royal? Are you Jane Austen or JRR Martin?  Adventurous or cozy and comfort?

To keep in mind:

  1. Castles offer the ability to host a span of classically romantic weddings, from fairy tale affairs to vintage-inspired details. Castles in Ireland span almost 1000 years. Modern structures have been built around medieval keeps. Lots of texture and details to serve as backdrop for your ceremony and pictures, but be aware that not all castles are available for weddings! Some are, some are for pictures only! Some not at all!
  2. The 19th century saw a resurgence in the classical form, and the Gothic era was born. Sweeping castles with gothic motifs are imposing and dramatic, the perfect backdrop for a fairy tale wedding.
  3. Country homes and estates are every bit as elegant, but with a warmer feel to them. If you fancy something slightly less formal, consider one of these. And in spring and summer when gardens are in full bloom, a spectacular ceremony and reception can take place throughout the grounds.
  4. If history appeals to you there are so  many locations throughout Ireland that would suit, from the ancient Celts, Romans, Vikings, through to Bonny Prince Charlie and more. We are happy to discuss historical Ireland to find the perfect location for your wedding!
  5. We often have clients who want the “quintessential Ireland” experience. This involves food, music, and fun, offering that warmth of the Irish people, the history, the pride, and the elements that make for a truly Irish affair. Want a bit of that but in a more formal setting? We can bring in those elements throughout Ireland to custom create the right balance for your dream wedding.

The Question To Ask Yourself:  What influences my style?

How We Can Help:  We really love merging details together to create the perfect bespoke wedding for you. We can help you define your own design and aesthetic style, then work with you to find the perfect location to visually represent it.

Destination Wedding or Destination Adventure

The majority of our clients build their wedding around an overall trip. Either the wedding is at the beginning, middle, or end of an epic adventure exploring Ireland. We’ve had some clients with guests who’ve come thinking they will stay in just that area where the wedding is taking place, and every single time clients end up making arrangements to sight see and travel outside of the area. We really recommend taking this into consideration right at the beginning, even if it’s just the two of you eloping. We promise you once you get here you will be inspired and will want to hop in a car and start exploring rather than staying still; just plan for it off the bat.

When dealing with a wedding party situation, it’s important to take this into consideration for your guests. Ultimately everyone will travel to wherever you are hosting the event, but having a little foresight into the location and ease of travel there is a great idea. Ireland can be basically broken up into 5 spots: the north (Northern Ireland, Donegal in the Republic), the east (Dublin, Wicklow), the south (Cork, Kinsale, Waterford), the west (Kerry, The Cliffs, Galway), and the center countryside. And the island is very easily navigable by car; going form east to west can be done in under 4 hours with no traffic, every major town is about 1 1/2 hours drive.

Things to consider when planning:

  1. Will you be touring Ireland together as a large group or splitting up? If touring as a larger group together then consider placement of your wedding to be the start, middle, or apex of the adventure!
  2. Think about building in the sight seeing and explorations into your wedding celebration. We can design the rehearsal dinner, bonding experiences, and more together with your guests to get into the spirit of celebrating leading up to your wedding.

Question To Ask Yourself: Is sightseeing or touring Ireland going to be part of our overall adventure?

How  We Can Help:  Waterlily Weddings is more than just a wedding planning company. We truly want you to enjoy your stay in Ireland and can help you chose the right location, advise on activities and travel, and much much more. We want you and your guests to have an unforgettable, incredible time in Ireland and are happy to help you create just that!

These tips can help you get started on picking the right location. And of course, Waterlily Weddings is happy to talk through any of these elements with you, narrowing down your preferences and alleviating concerns to create the absolutely perfect location to host your dream destination wedding in Ireland! CONTACT US today to get started on your own dream wedding day!


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