With the internet and various travel and wedding planning sites, the couple planning a wedding can easily be overwhelmed with information and stray easily off track. The way to tackle this event is to fight a two-front war: one on the wedding front, and one on the trip front. The good news is Waterlily Weddings is here to help you on both fronts. Our expertise both in the wedding planning business together with our vast knowledge of Ireland, it’s traditions, cultural scene, and more will alleviate any concerns you or your guests may be harboring as your big day approaches.
We get a lot of questions from couples, from themselves or passed on from guests, about Ireland in general, how it works, advice on getting around, planning the trip portion, and prepping for the adventure. This post aims to answer quickly these questions, serving as a quick reference for you and your guests to reference as the preparations continue, or even while you’re in Ireland! Mark it, email it, include it on your wedding website or blog for you and your guests to have easy access. And of course, if you have more questions, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’d be happy to help!
Q: Ireland and Northern Ireland — what’s the difference?
A: The short answer is Ireland is the Republic of Ireland and its own separate country, while Northern Ireland is its own but also part of Great Britain.
The long answer is Ireland as a whole was an island originally inhabited by Celts. Fast forward many hundreds of years when the British Empire was at its height, and ye old religion was split between Catholics (Ireland) and Anglican (England). The majority of the island remained Catholic, while the northern part remained Protestant/Anglican due to its heavier British influence. This ended up putting pressure to the point where the island became split: the majority of the island is known officially as The Republic of Ireland (an independent sovereign state, part of the EU) while a smaller, northern most section is Northern Ireland (also it’s own sovereign state, party of the EU, but also part of Great Britain).
If you visit both you will see some major differences. Northern Ireland uses British currency while Ireland uses the Euro; castles in Ireland are decidedly built in the Irish fashion whereas those in “the north” have a heavy English influence and a totally different architecture; you will see more British products in Northern Ireland available and sold at stores; when driving you’ll see in Ireland it will say kilometers, but in Northern Ireland it will switch to miles; you will see considerably more royal family/British references in Northern Ireland.
Q: Do we need a visa to visit Ireland?
A: No. You just need a valid passport. Longer stays may require visas but for a longer multi-week vacation you will be ok with a passport. If you need more information or help on this, contact us!
Q: What language do they speak?
A: English is the predominate language in Ireland (and Northern Ireland). The traditional language is Gaelic, however, and you will see signs posted in both Gaelic and English. Tiny traditional villages in smaller pockets will have signs in Gaelic exclusively! You will have no trouble navigating about if you are fluent in English. If you’re up for it, consider learning a bit of the Gaelic in preparation for your trip, or while you’re there!
Q: What is the weather like?
A: The good news is the weather tends to not be variable, so no matter what time of year you are traveling, chances are you can adequately prepare for it and be comfortable. The bad news is there’s a reason why they call it the “Emerald Isle” and a hint here — it’s not because of emerald mines.
It rains. Sometimes it’s a drizzle, sometimes a sprinkle, sometimes a downpour. Sometimes it’s a two minute shower and sometimes it’s for days. The fact Ireland is an island means it’s at the mercy of the Atlantic Ocean; storms, currents, winds often influence Ireland’s weather but in a good way actually; those winds often end up blowing storm clouds and rain shockingly quickly through. The average temperate is around 50 degrees F. The summer can get into the 80s during the day, usually dipping down into the 50s at night. Winter months can see some snow. Spring and fall have the most variable months, fluctuating from sunnier and warmer days to colder ones. Ireland is an island, so the coastlines tend to be windier than you may think, even some parts inland.
This is why for your wedding day we insist on planning a Plan B. Just in case we need to move your ceremony and reception indoors, it’s enough of a possibility that we like to be prepared. How many times have we actually had to execute Plan B, however? Less than 10% every year. Often clients will wake up to rain, but by the time there ceremony begins a glorious sun is in the sky and puffy white clouds move to expose a glorious blue. And when you’re sitting down for dinner, it may start to drizzle again. You need to be flexible if planning an outdoor ceremony. We may need to move up or delay the start 15, 20 minutes to time it to a break in the weather for example. We’ve done it a hundred times and it always works out. But you as a couple and your guests should keep that in mind when planning outfits and shoes in particular!
Along the coast (or some higher elevation points inland and valleys) will see some good breezes. If a complicated up-do for your hair is in order, consider maybe an indoor ceremony or one of the estates or castles that have less wind factor; a Cliffs of Moher wedding will always have wind; this is why many of our brides end up ditching the veil right before the ceremony! Maybe worth reminding guests as well so men can bring a hat or women can prepare with a scarf.
Q: What side of the road do they drive on?
A: The left. While we’re on the topic, cars are switched as well: driver’s side is on the right and passenger is on the left. And most of the cars are manual. Automatic is available, however (but usually a little more expensive). Check with your car rental company.
Q: What kind of food does Ireland have?
A: Ireland has grown immensely in the last few years within the food scene. Heavily influence from Europe, some Asia, American, and to a smaller extend Latin cuisines have helped create a pretty cosmopolitan food scene throughout Ireland. You may be surprised to find buffalo wings, pizza, and burgers & fries as pub food staples now. Chinese restaurants, sushi, and Indian food can be readily found in major cities now, even in some smaller towns. Cappucinos, lattes and other coffee drinks are a staple at cafes now. What may surprise you is the surprisingly decent coffee machines within gas stations! As a Seattle native with a very picky coffee palate, I can attest the cup of joe at the local corner gas station is actually a legit option while in Ireland!
But we really recommend trying some of the authentic, traditional fare. Hearty stews of beef or lamb are a slam dunk choice. If you’re visiting the Guinness Factory in Dublin, please treat yourself to a pint and a bowl of their Guinness Beef Stew. Fish n chips is still an Irish tradition and a must if visiting. The best is along the coastline, and in Kerry. Wharton’s Fish n Chips in Kenmare is the best on the island. Freshly caught, breaded in a beer batter and then fried to golden perfection and served with thick cut potatoes and homemade tartar sauce is perfection. Make your way throughout food centers in Temple Bar for the perfect combination of traditional Irish cuisine and Irish fusion restaurants, or order up a platter of fresh local oysters with a cold pint. Irish Smoked Salmon is a must try. Delicately smoked, sweet and finely textured, many places do their own in-house smoked or cured versions throughout Ireland. And a tasting of Irish Cheeses should be on your list as much as Beer and Whiskey tastings are.
Throughout the island you’ll enjoy Bangers n Mash (sausages and mashed potatoes), boxties (potato pancakes kind of like a tortillas), colecannon (mashed potatoes mixed with scallion or cabbage), fresh oysters, fish stew with clams and mussels in a beer broth, soda bread (a dense brown bread) with freshly churned Irish butter (the best in the world), still warm buttermilk scones with fresh jams, and top it off with a slice of Kerry apple cake with whiskey vanilla creme for dessert. All need to be on your Must Eat List. But, the true test is putting away every single morning the breakfast of champions — the Full Irish Breakfast. First you begin with a bowl of corn flakes. Then, a plate of 2 eggs over easy, rashers (bacon that resembles Canadian bacon), sausage, black pudding and white pudding (note: this is not “American pudding”; this is blood sausages), roasted tomato, mushrooms, and sometimes beans with slices of buttered toast, your choice of Irish butter, fresh jams, orange juice and coffee or tea. Every. Morning.
But what I really love to tell people visiting is go for those local bakeries, butchers, delis, and farmers markets. Grab some sliced ham or a roasted chicken, grab some fresh bread, locally made jams, fresh apples or seasonal fruits, homemade scones and chocolates and put together your own picnic as you sight-see.
For your wedding day, your vendor will be prepared to accommodate any food restrictions and preferences. If you’re vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free, or have specific allergies, do make sure to discuss that with your venue and they are more than able to make the appropriate changes. If having an authentic Irish meal is something you’re interested in for your wedding day (or weekend), we’re happy to give some great suggestions on how you can incorporate that in so it makes sense in your overall wedding theme and aesthetic.
Q: How to plan the trip portion to Ireland?
A: The wedding portion is in good hands. Waterlily Weddings is ready and well versed in planning and executing the details of your wedding day. Now the trip portion lays on the other hand. Some things to consider:
- What time of year are you thinking of going to Ireland? Some attractions close seasonally due to weather, and remember hours will change depending on the season (ex. summer months will be open longer than winter months). The season will also help guide you on what to pack. And if crowds are concerning you, consider traveling in the off season months; not only will it be less crowded, but you’ll get better prices!
- How long of a trip? Ireland is a very navigable country to see. The ambitious traveler can see the entire island in 5 days (not counting 2 travel days at the airport). A suggested time frame to see a lot is around 10 days; 13-14 days even better. If you can only do a few days then consider focusing on a particular area of your choosing and exploring within.
- What do you want to see? Are you more of a museum person? Do you crave adventure? Do you need to be outside? Are you more about experiences than looking at things? Or maybe a combination of these? Think about how you like to travel in terms of exploring a place, then build a trip around that.
- How are you going to get around Ireland? Is a car rental part of your budget? If not, then consider parking yourself in Dublin to explore.
- Consider building your trip around activities. Clay pigeon shooting, horse riding, fishing, angling, food tours, tastings, festivals…think about what kind of experiences or activities may interest you. Maybe you’re looking for the “quintessential Irish experience?” Maybe you want to visit the secret places not on the tourist lists. Maybe you want a relaxing trip, enjoying quiet cozy nights where you can catch up with a good book.
For more ideas and inspiration, check out our BLOG.
Q: How do I get around Ireland? What’s the transportation scene like there?
A: Dublin is great with public transportation. You can hop on one of the big red or green tour buses or purchase a day pass to make your Dublin days of sight-seeing easy. You can hop on and off throughout Dublin and the price is reasonable, considering you also get history lessons, singing, and jokes along the way. You can also use taxis or shuttles, or even hire private car rentals. Most people rent a car if you’re planning to venture outside of Dublin proper. And group sight-seeing tours and buses can be coordinate for your party if you wish to explore Ireland as a group.
For your wedding day consider hiring a shuttle bus for your guests, depending on the location and size of your party. Not only does this get everyone to the central location, it forces everyone to be ready on time!
We work with vendors throughout Ireland to suite any budget and style, and are happy to recommend transportation services for both your wedding day as well as your trip to Ireland.
Q: Can I use my cellphone in Ireland?
A: Yes. BUT (big but here) you’ll need to check with your carrier about either an international plan or picking up a local phone. Most phone companies offer decent international plans with access to voicemail and data for a reasonable price. You will need to contact your provider prior to your departure. I recommend contacting them about a month in advance, but I’ve accomplished it a week before.
Q: How can I pay? What’s the currency?
A: In Ireland (the Republic) they are on the Euro currency. In Northern Ireland they are on the British currency (sterling/pound). Credit cards will work throughout both. Visa is accepted for sure, Master Card usually, but Americans will be surprised to find that American Express will not be accepted. If you prefer to go the cash route you can certainly exchange money prior to arriving in Ireland, or you can do it at the airports (usually not the greatest exchange rate) or pop into a bank to do it.
We will be discussing with you payment and tipping for your vendors and their preferred method of payment prior to your event.
Q: Can I charge my phone/devices?
A: Yes. HOWEVER (big however), the outlets will be UK plug which is a 3 prong socket that is absolutely nothing like we have in the United States or Canada. Also the voltage is different: in Ireland it runs 220-240; in US/Canada around 110-120 volts. This means in Ireland your appliance will run hotter and faster, and your American appliances will burn out after a few minutes.
The answer? An adapter. Also called “converter,” this little device that runs less than $20 on Amazon will receive your American/Canadian plug (i.e. your two-prong or three-prong American appliance) and then will plug into the European socket. As I stated in a previous blog, “It’s a bridge between America and Ireland, poetic and useful and full of analogies and irony.” Take it a step further and invest in a power strip to charge multiple appliances at once. This is a great idea if you have two sets of phones, ipads, cameras, laptops, etc.
Q: Do hotels have heat and air conditioning?
A: Maybe. It depends on the hotel. Newer or recently remodeled hotels will have a form of air conditioning. It probably will not be central air, but the window unit will do it’s job. Older establishments like B&Bs or inns very well may not. But the good news is you don’t need air conditioning as much as you need heat, which all places have. Ireland’s temperate climate will dip at night so just crack open a window if you need to.
Q: What should I pack?
A: A couple of good pairs of sturdy shoes you can walk in. Seriously walk in. Ireland has cobbled stones, pebbled paths, sloping hills, castle stairs, and a lot of pavement to navigate throughout your trip. Some comfortable flats, walking shoes, etc. are a must no matter age or gender. Wellies (rain boots) are a good idea; they will take you from the city to the countryside easily. Riding boots may work as well, but beware the country may find them muddied. Certainly bring fancier shoes/heels for your wedding event; just keep in mind the terrain and location of the wedding and plan for a backup pair if needed.
A good coat that’s water resistant. The time of year will determine thickness; summer months you can get away with a thinner water-repellent coat and winter months you may want a fuller cold weather cold. Wool is great too. Dress in layers; a few long-sleeved tops or sweaters, pants/jeans, skirts are great; just balance out your comfort and style with realistic weather during your trip and tailor it to your planned activities.
Fore more information and advice, check out THIS BLOG POST to help you!
Q: Can I bring my personal firearm into Ireland?
A: Yes and no. The Republic of Ireland has one of the toughest gun laws in the world. You must apply for a visitor pass to bring in your firearm through An Garda (see here for more information). Make sure you allow yourself enough time to apply and be approved before your visit.
Q: Do they tip in Ireland? If so, what’s the standard rate?
A: Generally no, but in restaurants yes (usually 10-15%). Note many places include a “service charge” already within your bill, especially with larger parties (6 or more people). Smaller businesses will often have “tip jars” for loose change and smaller bills if using cash. Hotels, staff, taxi drivers, general merchants don’t expect tips but they are of course always welcomed.
Q: Are pubs kid-friendly?
A: Yes, throughout the day pubs are kid-friendly. At night they tend to attract an older crowd, however.
Q: How are the people?
A: The most friendly, warm, inviting people you will meet. They are quick to offer a helping hand, regale you of stories and history, proud of their country, and eager to share it with you. Approach your stay more like a visitor, rather than a tourist. Make an effort to engage people, be personable, don’t be afraid to say a few stories of your own or strike up a conversation.
Other helpful notes to consider:
- Sometimes you have to ask for ice. If you enjoy your soda or whisky on the rocks, you may need to ask for some.
- There’s a difference between tap water, bottled water, and sparkling water. When you’re ordering if you have a preference, make sure you ask. Sometimes you say “water” and sparkling will automatically be brought to you.
- Pubs vs Restaurants. Restaurants will usually involve a host or hostess who will seat you. At pubs, however, you may be inclined to take your own seat, then go up to the bar to order drinks and food (which will be brought out to you).
- Not all hotel rooms, B&Bs, etc. are stocked with minibar items or water; if you need that stuff make sure you secure it before you settle in for the night! There are plenty convenience stores and most inns and hotels have vending machines or hospitality areas where you can grab some water or snacks for the night.
- In general Ireland is a very kid-friendly destination. They are often invited to touch things, smell, get into things which really enriches their experiences. In America we’re teaching our kids “don’t touch that!” or “look with your eyes, not your hands” but in Ireland they really embrace kids and allow them to try and taste and explore.
- The Irish people are extremely hard-working and have an unparalleled friendliness. That said, there is such a thing as “it is grand” attitude. Americans in particular are used to schedules, on-time, right away type of doing things and wanting to control everything; the Irish are more laid back and confident that all will be well in the end. This may drive you nuts with your wedding and even while touring. So best advice is remember this is a vacation, not work. Relax the schedule mentality, open yourself up to receiving what Ireland has to offer, and focus on enjoying the here and now rather than what’s coming up next on the agenda!
- When booking your flights, take into consideration airport layouts, connecting flights, and custom changes. If traveling from US or Canada, I highly recommend doing any connecting flights within the country and then taking a last direct flight to land in Ireland; if you change flights in another country you will be subject to customs in that country and security checkpoints again. If you don’t account for this and allow enough time, you may miss your connecting flight. When we flew to Ireland once we went from Seattle to London (Heathrow Airport) on one airline, then once in London was subject to biometrics, involved security checks, and had to travel almost the length of the airport to catch our connecting flight (with a different airline). The only reason we didn’t miss it was fog, which delayed our flight the two hours we needed to make it through the extra security and airport walking!
Have fun planning and any more questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!