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.

Kelly & Jeff: Classically Beautiful in Dublin

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We strongly believe here at Waterlily Weddings, that an important part of your wedding day is to express yourselves. Every element, every detail should be a reflection of you both — as individuals and as a couple — and tell the story of where you’ve come from and the direction you are setting to go in. We love when a couple comes to us really embracing that idea and runs with it. And such is the case with Kelly & Jeff. They met in the States, chose to have their dream destination wedding in Ireland with their closest family and friends, and ended up having the perfect Dublin-inspired wedding day we’re so excited to showcase in this week’s blog! From the sea to the bustling streets of the heart of Dublin, Jeff and Kelly took their very classic aesthetic and merged it with details that the couple are known for: love of history, food, and a fantastic sense of adventure and humor. We love their wedding day and their story, and are excited to share both with you today!

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In many ways, Kelly and Jeff are the quintessential modern American couple. Kelly’s sister suggested Kelly try the dating scene online, and one day found herself on  She quickly connect with Jeff online, and they began emailing each other back and forth. Soon a date was in the works, then another, and another, and a budding romance began. Fast forward, Kelly and Jeff were living in Washington D.C., settling into life together nicely. Jeff wanted to propose to Kelly at the US Capital Building in the National Mall, the epicenter of our nation’s government and historic landmarks of Washington. His plans were all ready when weather decided to intervene: a torrential downpour completely doused the city and Jeff’s plans of proposing to Kelly at the Capital Building. Plan B went immediately into effect, as Jeff ran to every market, grocery, and florist in the city in a mad dash to collect as many flowers as a man could possibly handle to create an incredible space at home to pop the question.

Meanwhile, the weather seemed to have rained on Kelly’s parade as well. She was having an awful day at work, so much so that the entire ride home in the car the rain outside was matched only by the tears running down her cheek. She just wanted to get home, relax, and let today end.

While she drove home, Jeff was at home, busy about the apartment, frantically cleaning up and decorating every square inch of the place with the flowers he collected about the city. With a handful of flowers in his hand, he heard Kelly making her way into the apartment. He threw the last few blooms into place and ran around the corner to meet her at the entrance, preserving the surprise.

Kelly turned the key into the door, work bag in one hand and dirty tupperware from lunch in the other, exhausted and ready to collapse. She opened the door and was greeted by….piles of dirty laundry in the foyer. She let out a sigh and out of the corner of her eye, Jeff burst around the corner and into the foyer to meet her. “What are you doing?” she asked, skeptical. “Why are you acting so weird?” Ever so smoothly, Jeff asked her to drop the work bag and the tupperware and took her hand into his. He led her around the corner, out of foyer, and into the living room where she was greet by…the most spectacular scene of flowers and candles she’d ever seen.

It took a few minutes for the image to sink in, as she transitioned from stressful day mode to this beautiful scene set so lovingly by Jeff. Then her heart stopped, as Jeff dropped slowly to one knee. With sweet words and eyes full of love, he asked Kelly to marry him. She yelled back “YES!” and threw herself into his arms. Some moments later he asked if she’d like to see the ring — she’d totally forgotten about it in the moment and never opened it! He put the box in her hand, the initial “B” engraved on the box, and she opened to a stunning ring she instantly fell in love with. Kelly looked at the “B” and became perplexed; her named started with a “K” after all. Jeff kindly reminded her her new last name — Barger — would start with a “B.”

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Talks of a wedding took place long before this epic proposal. Kelly and Jeff are avid travelers, and they knew they wanted a wedding somewhere special, an international wedding to reflect their love for travel. After getting engaged, they actively sought destinations and and trying to figure out logistics on how this would work, and pieces didn’t seem to fall into place; there was always something off or not working out. At her wits end and ready to throw in the towel for a traditional wedding in the states, Kelly stumbled upon Waterlily Weddings. A look through the website, the BLOG, pictures and details of dream destination weddings in Ireland made them fall in love with the idea of hosting their own dream destination wedding, and they contact Michelle Johnstone Clark right away. The first conversation was a hit: an instant match again but this time with our lead planner, who instantly understood Kelly and Jeff’s vision for their day. An added bonus: Jeff’s heritage hails out of Wicklow, as does Michelle’s. The match seemed serendipitous, the last piece now falling firmly into place. They’d never been to Ireland before, and this was the perfect opportunity to create an incredibly memorable experience together.

Ultimately Kelly and Jeff decided to host their dream destination wedding ceremony at the Martello Tower Sutton, followed by a champagne reception at Smock Alley Theater in Dublin, dinner at famed Dublin restaurant Restaurant Patrick Gilbaud, and finally after hour shenanigans at Irish pub Doheny & Nesbitt. It would be a tour of the best of Dublin’s Ireland: sea, country, urban, history, food, tradition, and fun. It hit all the notes Kelly and Jeff wanted for their dream Irish wedding, reflecting perfectly their loves and tastes as a unique couple. With plan firmly into place, adventurous hearts beating, and details squared away, spring arrived for the soon-to-be Bargers and their dream wedding day had arrived.

This, is their story….

“May you never take each other for granted, but always experience the wonders of your union.

May your love consist of not only in gazing into each other’s eyes, but also in looking outward in the same direction…”

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It was the heart of spring when Kelly and Jeff landed in Ireland. The weather was unusually fair, and as the wedding day neared, Kelly and Jeff together with their closest family and friends, remained optimistic. They made their way over to the Martello TowerSutton, just a few minutes east of Dublin located on the Howth Head peninsula. The tower was built in 1804, the first of many such round towers built in Ireland and England in the early 1800s in response to the rising success of the Napoleon invasions in Europe. The towers were constructed in a way to contain and be able to fire onto naval ships attempting to invade the harbor, and were strategically placed throughout Ireland’s and England’s coastlines. Martello Tower in Sutton — also known colloquially as “#1” — was constructed with a perfect position on one of Ireland’s main peninsulas. Today it has been renovated into a 5-star self-catering accommodation with commanding views of Dublin Bay and proximity to downtown Dublin, making it a really unique choice for a destination wedding in Ireland.

The morning of the wedding broke with grey skies and dark waters in the Bay. The sunshine had gone and rain had been heavily forecast for the day. Plan B was discussed as Kelly began the morning’s preparations, but Michelle encouraged the couple to keep faith and try for their dream location anyway; worst case scenario: they move the ceremony indoors into the tower.

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Kelly arrived at the tower first, and excitedly texted Jeff. The months of preparation, imagining, pouring over pictures online all came to a head as she laid her eyes on the tower for the first time. It was perfect, even more commanding in person, and she could not wait until Jeff saw it with his own eyes. The scenery was absolutely spectacular: gentle cliffs carpeted in soft green grass and wild yellow flowers characteristic of Howth Head this time of year flowed effortlessly into the sea below, while the tower itself stood strong and noble on the water’s edge, embraced by the soft waves and breeze off the coast.

She made her way into the tower with her best friends and family, and readily began preparations for the day. Hair and make-up were expertly applied by Martina King and Fiona Harrison. Kelly’s blond hair was pulled back in gentle curls, then fixed with a soft cluster of flowers and greenery to offset her long veil. Sipping on champagne and thoroughly enjoying the moment with her loved ones, they laughed and hugged, and she slipped into her Hayley Paige wedding gown. A pair of crystal embellished Bagdley Mischka sandals added the perfect touch of elegance to the Kelly’s classic look. Fiona fixed the veil onto Kelly’s head, and with a final look and breath, she was ready to meet…

….Jeff. Who this morning woke comfortable and excited, and ready to meet his bride. Jeff got ready separately, then met his friends at the Palace Hotel in Temple Bar for quick toast. Nerves were missing, as Kelly and Jeff were actually married in the states six months before coming to Ireland.  They were both relaxed on their wedding day, and were so excited to explore a country they’d never been to. And to share that with their closest family and friends was just icing on the cake.

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Since they were already married legally, Kelly & Jeff chose to have a spiritual symbolic ceremony for their wedding day. They focused the ceremony around the Celtic marriage tradition of the hand-fast: where both couples’ hands are joined together by a chord, then tied into a knot to symbolize their coming together as one (or, “tying the knot”).  Kelly and Jeff wanted to include their guests as much as possible in the ceremony, so they gave out a ribbon to each of their guests in the colors of green, blue, gold, and white. Each guest was then invited to stand up and approach the couple, and after a promise was read, the person added the ribbon to the couple’s clasped hands. One by one each guest bestowed upon the couple their well wishes, good intentions, and blessings, each personified with the ribbon as a stunning visual representation. Then the celebrant gathered all of the ribbons together and tied the Celtic knot of marriage. The Bargers also had their guests recite readings the couple specially picked out for their ceremony. Traditional Celtic music permeated through the meaningful ceremony, and tears began to flow as the couple joined hands and exchanged rings together.

Everything was going rather perfectly. About halfway through the ceremony, Jeff remarked “Babe! I think we beat the rain!” Then as if on cue, the skies opened up and it began to rain. Drop by drop the Irish heavens felt compelled to also bless the couple on their special day, to the point where guests opened umbrellas and waited the rain out best they could. Drops turned into a steadier rain, so everyone decided to take shelter into the tower and finish the ceremony there. Some couples may have balked or been irritated at this turn of events, but for Kelly and Jeff it was most appropriate. Just as the day they got engaged, the rain seems to be a lucky omen for these two kindred spirits, and a sign of love and spiritual blessing.

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As they were pronounced “husband and wife,” the rain ceased and the sun made its long-awaited appearance. With a quick warm up of coffee, everyone left the tower and enjoyed the fresh air a douse of rain gifts, explored the surroundings and took pictures. Then everyone made their way back into Dublin and to Smock Alley Theater for a light after-ceremony reception. The oldest running theater in Ireland (dating back to 1662) sits in the heart of Dublin. The building is one of rich history, at one point serving as a church before being converted back into a performance theater. The years have stamped their unique details on the place, from exposed brick walls to gothic stained-glass windows, and an irresistible ethereal light streaming through even on the darkest days. The space was decorated beautiful and simply with fresh garland and warm, white candles. Everyone was invited to drink and nibble on light bites that included beetroot tarts with goat cheese and orange, vegetable tartar cone with root vegetable crisps, potted dingle crab with yellow tomatoes on sable biscuit, prawn salad, and a smoked chicken with curry mayo washed down with wine, Irish beer, and prosecco. Everyone was invited to sit and honor the couple with their own special toast. This intimate space and time together ended up being one of the most memorable moments of the day, as each guest took their turn talking about what Kelly and Jeff meant to them.

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Next, everyone made their way to Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud for an epic dinner. Kelly is a huge foodie and having the right balance of elegant and tasty food was a premium requirement for her dream wedding day in Ireland. Guests filed in and took their seats at the table. Everyone toasted with more good drink, indulged on a multi-course meal including pan-roasted duck foie gras, castletownbere king scallops, red king crab and cucumber maki, lamb fillet, black sole, pototo gnocchi, and finished with a dessert course of dark chocolate tart, guanaja chocolate and peanut parfait, and green apple parfait in leiu of a traditional wedding cake. They even got to meet the chef himself!

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To end the evening on a fun note, no dream wedding day in Dublin is complete without a walk through the streets of Temple Bar and a kiss at the River Liffey. And of course, a stop in a pub. Doheny & Nesbitt would be the place, that welcomed the couple with the warm  hospitality the Irish are well known for. The couple were invited back behind the bar to pour their own proper pints, and even got to keep the glasses!

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Kelly and Jeff wanted a modern, relaxed wedding with classical notes that really embrace Ireland and what it stood for. They wanted to experience the natural beauty, history, and Irish hospitality that consistently creates a relaxed and fun environment where couples can really focus on themselves and enjoy their day with their loved ones. Kelly and Jeff’s day was a tour of the Best of Dublin: from spectacular views of the Bay to the colorful bustling streets of Temple Bar and downtown Dublin, from Irish ales to contemporary composed plates, Celtic harps to pints of Guinness, they really embraced this part of Ireland and made it their own.

“May your love be as beautiful each day you share as it is on this day of your wedding.

And, may all your dreams come true.

May green be the grass you walk on, may blue be the skies above you.

May pure be the joys that surround you, may true be the hearts that love you.”

Kelly and Jeff — we love how you were fearless and classic, embracing everything about Ireland (including the rain!) and did it all with a smiles, laughter, and tears. It was an honor to plan and coordinate your day, seeing the love between you both but also the love between you and your loved ones and a shared love for life.


Ceremony: Martello Sutton Tower ·  Venue: Smock Alley  ·  Dinner: Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud  ·  After Party: Doheny & Nesbitt  ·  Celebrant: A Beautiful Ceremony  ·  Photographer: The Lous  ·  Flowers: The Garden  ·  Hair: Martina King  ·  Make-Up: Fiona Harrison, Lipstick and Blush  ·  Dress: “Blush” by Hayley Paige  ·  Shoes: Badgley Mischka  ·  Bracelet: Giani Bernini  ·  Earrings: Helzberg Diamonds  ·  Groom’s Suit: Magee 1866  ·  Bridesmaids: “Fleur Dress,” BHLDN  ·  Groomsmen: Magee 1866  ·  Music: Dearbhail Finnegan  ·  Event Rentals: Caterhire   ·  Transportation: Lawler Chauffeur Service  ·  DIY: welcome bags from Wedding Chicks Shop stuffed with “his and hers” scarves, Irish folk & fairy tales book, Butlers chocolates, Cadbury chocolates, mini Jameson bottles, Ballygowan water, soap from Avoca, smaller versions of the ribbons the Bargers used to tie the knot!

Something Old, Borrowed, & Blue: broche attached to bridal bouquet

Something New: bride’s bracelet

Favorite Moments: “The toasts at Smock Alley, the food at Patrick’s, and pouring our own beers at the pub after dinner — the owner even let us keep the pints!”

Bride’s Piece of Advice: “Enjoy every aspect of this, even the hard parts. In the end it will be an amazing day! And invest in a wedding planner! Having Michelle to help us along the way was critical; we couldn’t have done it without her!”

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