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.

10 Wedding DO’s and DON’Ts for your Destination Wedding in Ireland

Elopment of Katie and Mike in Doolin, West coast of Ireland, Captured by Poppiesandme Photography.

Elopement of Katie and Mike in Doolin;  Photo by Poppies And Me Photography

At Waterlily Weddings we talk a lot about what you can do and the variety of options available while planning your dream day. But equally important, we  need to have a chat about some pitfalls to avoid to ensure you and your guests have the best experience possible. As you’ll come to find, when planning a destination wedding you’ll have to tweak your planning approach slightly to deal with the “destination” part of your destination wedding. Some of these maybe you’ve thought of already, some may surprise you. Let’s get started!

1. DO The Research 

Ireland is unique in that it has a variety of options available to host your dream destination wedding. Indoors, outdoors, religious, spiritual, modern, antique, historical, and romantic are but a few words that can describe Ireland. Really think about what kind of ceremony and reception you want. Think about if you want to take advantage of the incredible natural scenery for your ceremony or maybe just for pictures. How formal or casual do you envision your reception? What kind of vibe do you want for your wedding day? Is music and dancing important? Do you have any special  details or traditions you want to incorporate that day?

Your biggest job is dreaming about what you want. Take the time to look through pictures and other clients’ weddings and elopements in Ireland. See if you love the space but envision something different there. Look through our PORTFOLIO and our BLOG for incredible inspiration both from prior weddings we’ve had the pleasure to produce, but also read about our advice on planning the details, trends, and more. Then CONTACT US to get started on planning your perfect day!

Your Mantra: I will take the time to research and explore Ireland when making my decision for the perfect location.


2. DO Consider Incorporating Irish Traditions

“When in Rome, do as the Romans!” the saying goes. Well, in this case it’s Ireland and Irish!

Part of getting married in Ireland is embracing the incredible culture. The rich history together with romantic atmosphere is just the perfect combination to host your dream wedding day. With so many incredible venues and ceremony locations to choose from, you will easily add your “something Irish” to your blue, old, new, and borrowed. But also think about delving a little deeper into Ireland’s history and culture to inspire your wedding day.

There are so many incredible traditions that will work perfectly for your wedding day. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that many of today’s wedding traditions are rooted in Ireland’s pagan past! For more information on wedding traditions with Pagan roots, check the BLOG POST here. The hand-fasting ceremony, for one example, is both traditionally Irish and deeply meaningful, and always photographs incredibly. For more on the Hand-fasting Ceremony, check out this BLOG POST.  And the Celtic Knot is an iconic image of Irish heritage and perfectly situated to express your Irish wedding day.  Check out more about the Celtic Knot in this BLOG POST. Irish lace, perfect toasts, blessings, readings, music and much, much more can enhance your wedding day and make it memorable for you and your guests.

Check our BLOG often for more ideas and posts on the history of this incredible culture to inspire your dream wedding day!

Your Mantra:  I will consider incorporating some Irish traditions and details into my wedding day.


3.  DO Have A Plan B

We cannot say this enough. Ireland is gorgeous and the greenery that abounds is produced by one way: rain. Although we rarely end up needing to use Plan B, we still encourage our clients to have backup plan in case the weather does decide not to cooperate. We always encourage our clients to pick a backup indoor option they would be equally happy with, and then usually run out during a break in the weather for the perfect pictures outdoors.

We love the example of Katie and Mike (pictured above). Their original plans to marry at the Cliffs of Moher quickly ran through Plan B and into Plan C when weather decided to intervene. But their amazing attitudes, adventurous spirit, and trust in what was meant to be for them lead to an absolutely stunning wedding in Ballyvaughn which is now one of our favorite places for ceremonies. The skies broke in the most beautiful way to create some truly stunning pictures. For more on their beautiful and adventurous wedding day, check out the BLOG POST here.

Your Mantra: I will research and choose a Plan B option where I will be equally happy.


4.  DO Personalize Your Wedding 

Not talking about monogramming here, or having your names and wedding date projected onto the wall or floor during your reception. We’re talking about drawing out the parts of your personalities, your likes and loves, favorite memories, quirks that make you both you, and the story of how you two met and where you’re going, and incorporating them throughout your wedding day in subtle ways.

What sets your wedding day apart from everyone else is the fact that you both are not like everyone else. We love the Pinterest pictures and magazines and inspiration, but we cannot encourage you enough to incorporate details into your wedding that are uniquely you. This can mean wearing your cowboy boots under your dress, or using embossed ostrich images on your menus because you love ostriches, or wearing a colored dress instead of the traditional white one, or maybe the groom  (a fan of Star Wars) has a little Yoda-inspired boutonniere.

Don’t be afraid to express yourselves into your wedding day! You’ll find it’s those small details that are uniquely you that you and your guests will remember the most!

Your Mantra: Think about including a couple of details that truly reflect our personalities and journey together in the wedding.


5.  DO Include A Wedding Website or Blog

For a destination wedding this is really going to help you and your guests stay on track during the planning process. Things like destination information, suggestions for accommodations, a map, sight-seeing suggestions, food and drink options, car rentals, suggested clothing and packing information all are great to include in one centralized location you and your guests can refer to quickly and easily during the months leading up to your wedding as well as while in Ireland. Have a separate section for your wedding day information that includes addresses, a time guideline, attire suggestions, and anything else you think your guests would need to know.

This can be a private page on Facebook (bonus: guests can upload pictures directly there so you and others can share/tag each other), a blog or wedding website. The point is to give all the relevant information where your guests can access quickly and efficiently. It will take the stress off of you and decrease the nagging questions especially as the date gets closer!

Your Mantra: I will create a centralized web page with relevant information for me and my guests in order to stay informed and help with the planning process.

Now for the Don’ts….

1.  DON’T Pick A Tough Location for Guests

We’ve told you to indulge your adventurous side, and we’ve preached that some of the most incredible locations to exchange vows in Ireland may require a bit of faith and sturdy shoes to get there (but we remain confident that yes, it’s worth the hassle!) However — and this is a big qualified however — we are in no way suggesting you drag your 90 year old grandmother up the stairs of Skellig Michael for your ceremony.

The bottom line is you need to consider your guests when choosing your location and balance that against your dream locale. Consider the amount of guests coming, their ages, and any limitations they make have. Do you need bathrooms easily accessible at all times? Can your guests handle a rougher terrain walk or is it better to choose someplace easily accessible by car with a shorter distance to walk? If you’re inviting kids, is your choice kid-friendly? The people who are coming to support you love you and are sacrificing to be there (financially, taking time off work, dealing with kids on time zone adjustments to name a few) so you owe it to them to make them comfortable too.

That said, there are plenty of places in Ireland that would fit the bill for what you want and what your guests can handle. If your heart is absolutely set on a specific area or place that others can’t make it to, then consider taking private pictures there instead while your guests enjoy a longer reception as they wait. And if it means coordinating a little creative transportation, we’re here to help! Part of what we do is help you organize logistics for your day. It’s not just about getting you to your ceremony location, but also grandma!

Your Mantra: I will NOT pick a ceremony location that is too difficult to access for my guests, and instead I will take into full consideration their limitations and make appropriate arrangements ahead of time to accommodate.


2.  DON’T Be Last Minute

We’ve done the “wedding in a month” thing. It can happen. BUT, if you’re planning a larger event, time is of the essence. We need to coordinate venues and details to host the amount of people that are coming, but more so than that, your guests need time to ask for vacation, coordinate child care, and save up money for your trip. A fabulous wedding can be put together last minute no problem, but you don’t want your family and friends stressing about putting their affairs in order to accommodate your wedding.

Instead, give them a good lead time to get their ducks in a row. We recommend a year in advance for larger partied weddings. Send out a save-the-date (it doesn’t even need to have as specific location yet…just say Ireland) to give them the heads up for airfare, time off work, etc. This gives you plenty of time to gauge interest which will in turn help you narrow down venues and the smaller details of your wedding day. Six to four months before is a great time to send the official invitation, then consider a wedding blog or website for the finer points, travel information and more in the final three months.

Your Mantra: I will give myself and my guests a good lead time to make the planning process less stressful.


3.  DON’T Micromanage Your Friends & Family

A destination wedding will involve some additional details, apart from your actual wedding day. You’ll need to host a welcoming gathering of some kind, a rehearsal, and usually guests will host an after-wedding brunch the next day. In addition to these events, some couples seize the opportunity to plan out the entire trip for themselves and their guests, right down to the food choices and sight-seeing tours. This is great  if you’re the type of person up for the task and your friends and family are ok with you taking the lead. BUT, know that there will be a point where your guests will want to explore on their own, have their space, and a chance to experience Ireland on their own terms.

Our advice is to build in suggestions, not requirements. Phrase your overall trip with an outlined itinerary, giving a variety of experiences, activities, sight-seeing, and entertainment as suggested things to do and see while they are in Ireland; don’t impose on them to stick to your schedule every single day. And this includes the days leading up to and your actual wedding day. We suggest having a unifying event the day before — something very casual and easy that everyone can float in and out of that’s centered on fun to put everyone in the right mindset. For the rest of your trip, get a sense of who wants to go where and do what and see if people naturally want to go together as a big caravan, or maybe say “let’s take the day to explore and we’ll meet you for dinner at X.”

Your guests will really appreciate your flexibility and generosity in allowing them the space and opportunity to experience Ireland on their own terms.

Your Mantra: I will NOT micromanage my guests’ trip and instead respect their space to experience Ireland on their own.


4. DON’T Give Out Cumbersome Wedding Favors

We know wedding planning etiquette calls for wedding favors to be distributed to your guests as a small token of “thank you” for attending your wedding. In fact this practice dates back to European aristocracy where small trinkets containing candies and sugar cubes (very much prized at the time) were given out to guests by their hosts as both a sign of thanks for their attendance as well as a demonstration of their wealth. Some cultures have a tradition to give out specific wedding favors to guests; Italian and Greek cultures for example give out a cluster of five sugar coated almonds (almonds representing the bitterness of marriage, sugar representing the sweetness of it, the number five representing health, wealth, happiness, luck, and blessing). Modern weddings see everything from these classic cultural traditions to more elaborate gifts like personalized frames and votive holders to potted plants, emblazoned shot glasses, and skeleton key bottle openers (just to name a few).

However, when planning a destination wedding, wedding favors can be a little tricky.

The last thing your guest wants is a cumbersome item that will break in their luggage, be hard to pack, make a mess, or even not pass inspection in the security line! If your heart is set on giving out something fragile that would be cumbersome while packing or break during travel, consider instead surprising your guests with the item shipped directly to their home. If you want them to have some token in hand on the day of your wedding, consider providing them something they can enjoy at your wedding or on their trip. Some ideas to get your started that will incorporate Ireland and your wedding and enhance your guests’ experience rather than burden them:

  • a nightcap: mini bottles of Irish whiskey, champagne, or your favorite alcohol with a personalized note
  • sweet necklace or bracelet with a shamrock, claddagh, or Celtic knot theme they can wear or easily pack
  • snacks (sweet, savory, both) personalized with a note they can enjoy later that night or on the rest of their trip
  • plaid scarf in bright colors they can use on the rest of their trip and easily pack
  • gloves in bright colors or colors of your wedding scheme to keep warm if you’ve got a fall/winter wedding
  • Irish tweed hats for the men (they can wear on the trip and easily pack)
  • hand painted art or map of your destination wedding they can frame when they get home to remember you and their trip
  • whimsical cookies or confections they can enjoy in the next day or two with a nice note

What to avoid: anything that can break (glass, porcelain, ceramic, etc.); anything that’s heavy; anything that’s an odd shape or would be hard to pack in luggage; anything that could be messy (no dirt, potted plants, etc.); if it’s something small that could get lost (like jewelry or a bottle opener), give them a pouch to put it in so they can keep track of it.

Mantra: I will NOT give out difficult or awkward items for my favors to burden my guests while they travel.


5.  DON’T Forget The Wedding Planner!

Give yourself the gift of a stress-free wedding planning process and hire a wedding planner to help!  We can help you with anything from styling and conceptualizing your wedding day, to matching you with the right vendors to execute your vision, to on-site coordination the day of your wedding to make sure everyone stays on task (and take the heat off of you so you can actually enjoy your wedding day!)

Please check our SERVICES page for more information on how we can help you have the destination wedding you’ve always dreamed of!

Your Mantra: I will hire a wedding planner to help demystify the wedding planning process and so I can actually enjoy my wedding day.

Happy planning!

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