“What makes a perfect destination wedding in Ireland?” you may be wondering. Well, for everyone it can mean something different. But in general it’s a day where both couples are excited to be in Ireland, create a ceremony and reception that’s truly unique to them and what they want, and most of all — really embrace Ireland and its adventurous spirit. We had the pleasure to help plan the dream destination wedding of Toni and Chris last year in one of the most spectacular parts of Ireland: the Aran Islands. Their wedding had it all: perfect location, an authentic and meaningful spiritual ceremony, a load of true Irish traditions, a gorgeous gown (actually three!), unique flowers and accessories, and a willingness to embrace and enjoy it all. It is no wonder theirs was chosen to be featured on none other than Martha Stewart Weddings! And we were so happy to be a part of it.
Toni and Chris are very thoughtful. Each wedding element wasn’t overly done or styled, but rather had a very organic feel and felt effortless. That underlying theme perfectly matched the sense of freedom found in the western part of Ireland, where the Aran Islands are located. Everyone was impeccably dressed, and guests kept to a neutral palette to help create beautiful pictures. We love that they made use of the entire space for their ceremony, taking their guests around and through the landscape and using the scenery and ruins to their advantage to create a stunning wedding ceremony. They weren’t afraid to explore everything around them. We love the little thoughtful details throughout the day like the locket Toni gave to Chris to honor his parents who sadly could not be there. We love Toni’s confidence in her dresses and the impeccable accessories. Chris was perfect in a blue tweed suit and smartly accessorized to perfectly match his bride. But again, most of all we love how they really embraced real Ireland and her traditions, culture, and spirituality and really created a unique and gorgeous wedding day we know will inspire many to come.
Without further adieu, Waterlily Weddings is incredibly honored to finally be able to share with you the dream destination Irish wedding of Toni and Chris. This, is their story….
Chris and Toni met about 17 years ago — Chris and Toni’s brother have been best friends for years, so Chris was always sort of part of the family long before talks of marriage ever came about. They started dating after finishing college and in January of 2016, Chris proposed. At 298 feet above sea level — the highest peak in Florida — they walked down a small secluded trail of red and white blossoming Camilla trees at the sanctuary gardens of the Bok Tower. Among the trees, Chris dropped to one knee and asked Toni to marry him and she said yes. To commemorate the event, they bought their own Camilla tree so they can celebrate that moment every day.
Talks of a wedding soon followed. Toni always had a vision, since being a little girl, that she’d get married on the cliffs of somewhere epic, just her and her groom. Chris developed a passion for his family history and found his roots went back to Inishmore on the Aran Islands in Ireland. Some preliminary research online showed Inishmore’s cliffs and incredible scenery and they instantly knew that was the place!
Toni and Chris really wanted to keep their wedding day as intimate as possible and originally planned to elope just the two of them. But as word began to spread of their plans to go to Ireland, close family and friends asked if they could come along. The intimate elopement-style wedding would be the first international trip the couple would enjoy together, and just the perfect way to start their lives together!
The morning of their wedding started off cloudy, which this Florida couple actually didn’t mind. Ironically they narrowly escaped Hurricane Hermine which hit Florida right before their wedding, and by the time they reached Ireland the hurricane seemed to follow, the aftermath reaching the shores of Ireland. The forecast wasn’t ideal: rainy, windy, cloudy. But in typical Irish fashion, everything worked out. The dawn broke on a calm Irish morning, perfectly overcast and a light, gentle Irish breeze. And to top it off, a full rainbow. Toni’s mom grabbed her early in the morning to take her outside to see the good luck sign. Indeed, they’d have the perfect weather they’d hope for on their wedding day!
The morning was filled with a delightful nervous energy. You see, Toni wouldn’t see or even try on her dress until just hours before her wedding! As the story goes…. Toni found a particular dress she loved on a blog one day. After trying on many dresses and researching tons more, she kept going back to this one image. She finally decided to email and ask who the designer was of the dress in the image, mentioned she was looking and it would be perfect for her upcoming wedding in Ireland. She got a response about a week later from the photographer herself, saying she was inspired by their story and asking to be considered to photograph their wedding. So happens things weren’t clicking for the couple to get the right photographer for the dates they wanted, so she talked to D’Arcy about her rates. Unfortunately they were far outside her budget if she wanted to get the dress also (which she loved). And in an act of supreme kindness, D’Arcy wrote back that if they take her as photographer, she’d arrange the dress. Months go by, and Toni selects her three favorite dresses and accessories. The week of her wedding the dresses were on their way to Ireland to meet Toni. She opened the package and realized non of the items were what she’d chosen. But she tried everything on and everything was so beautiful and fit so perfectly! So with gown perfectly fit to her petite 5’2 frame, gorgeous accessories to match and a megawatt smile, Toni was ready for her dream wedding day!
As preparations continued the soon-to-be-married couple found a moment to sneak and see each other. Chris had slipped Toni a beautiful hand-written note under her door, and she sneaked to his room where they quickly embraced and gave each other a kiss before getting ready. Everyone made ready and the guests boarded the shuttle bus with Chris while Toni with her parents were driven to the ceremony site in a traditional Irish horse and buggy.
The ceremony is so special, and really the perfect example of a traditional spiritual Irish ceremony we’ve seen. It made use of so many ancient Irish traditions, deeply rooted in Celtic belief and so meaningful. Toni and Chris really embraced that part of Ireland and worked very closely with Dara their celebrant to merge their beliefs with the ancient Celtic traditions. The result is stunning and perfectly captured by photographer D’Arcy. Dara helped them craft an unbelievably traditional and meaningful Irish ceremony.
The ceremony took place at Teampall Chiarain on the Aran Islands. No one — not even the couple — had visited the ceremony site prior to the actual wedding, so the surprise really added to feeling that day. The green countryside contrasting the ocean and cliffs was just jaw-dropping. There was a sense of freedom and truth to the area that has stayed preserved in its Irish identity that was nothing less than inspiring for the couple and their guests. The ceremony began at the Holy Well of St. Ciaran where Toni was blessed. Everyone then proceeded to the standing stone where Chris was then blessed. The couple together with their guests then made their way into the church ruins center to exchange vows and be hand-fasted. They walked to the sundial to solidify their commitment to one another by connecting their fingers through the hole of the sundial (an oathing stone, and one of the oldest traditions in Ireland and Scotland marriage ceremonies). And with a silk ribbon, they placed it through the sundial three times, but before pulling it fully through on the third time, stopped and together made a secret wish, all in front of their two best friends Renee and Matt to serve as witnesses. To pronounce them husband and wife, Dara simply rang a bell, another one of Ireland’s lesser known but extremely old marriage traditions.
Happy and in love, everyone moved on to Joe Watty’s bar in town for a quintessential Irish celebration. Toni and Chris wanted their guests to really experience Ireland in the truest form, so they didn’t create a special menu or drinks. They reserved the back room for an intimate and cozy space and let everyone order right off the menu. Everything from fresh seafood brought in that morning to hearty Irish steak to fill their bellies, washing it down with a pint or two of “the black stuff.” Live music from the local band played in the background and everyone sang and danced and toasted the entire evening. To finish off the celebration, not one but two naked cakes of all chocolate and the other buttercream and raspberry filling.
As the couple celebrated of course the locals had to join in, as this is the Irish way! At one point they were all holding hands together and dancing around Chris and Toni, a whirlwind ending to an absolutely perfect Irish wedding day!
Toni and Chris — we cannot applaud you enough for going with your gut, allowing yourselves the space to become inspired, and truly embracing Ireland and its history and culture in every way. We wish you both a lifetime of absolute happiness, blessings, and more rainbows!
Please check out some more pictures of Toni & Chris’s perfect day in the slideshow below:
Planning: Waterlily Weddings · Ceremony: Teampall Chiarain, Aran Islands · Celebrant: Dara Molloy · Reception: Joe Watty’s Bar · Flowers: Mulqueen’s · Cake: Goya’s · Videography: Luke Lindgren Cinematography · Calligraphy: Corsivo Fine Art Calligraphy · Dress and Cape: Maria Luisa Rabell · Bride’s Accessories: Mignonne Handmade · Shoes: Klub Nico · Groom’s Suit: Asos · Transportation: Thomas Faherty Tours · Photography: D’Arcy Benicosa
Something Old: brooch that decorated the bouquet
Something New: white handkerchief
Something Borrowed: mother of the bride’s bracelet
Something Blue: garter belt
Something Special: Chris’s brother Bobby gave him a bracelet that belonged to their father to borrow on the day; Toni gifted to Chris a locket which contained a small picture of his parents on their wedding day who have sadly passed on so he can have them with him on that day
Bride’s Piece of Advice: “Looking back on our wedding day/festivities, I would suggest to any bride and groom to think small and intimate for everything. Being able to recount actual moments and conversations with your loved ones on such a special day is truly a priceless gift.”