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.

Breaking Down Your Wedding Day: 8 Elements Worth Investing In

One of the challenges when planning your wedding is figuring out how to allocate the money within your budget. A wedding can have many elements:  the major ones (venue, ceremony, what you’re wearing for starters) are the first to tackle, but as you delve deeper into conceptualizing your wedding day you’ll find it can get subdivided into smaller details quite quickly. It’s at this point most couples start to get overwhelmed, and things can get out of control quickly.

This post will look at the major elements of a typical destination wedding in Ireland.  Of course, yours will be different and unique and take parts or omit some in this list, but we wanted to give a comprehensive look from a planning and design perspective of what you should be thinking about as a couple planning your wedding, how you can start to envision details forming for your day, and how to fit those pieces into your budget.


First and foremost you need to pick a place to host your dream destination wedding! We’ve written tons of blog posts on how Ireland is the perfect place with so many options (check the BLOG for more inspiration!), so in the planning stage you need to sit down together and figure out what your wedding looks like in terms of location.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • outdoors or indoors? do we want a ceremony outdoors and a reception indoors? both indoors?
  • do we want a place that has some kind of historical or ancestral significance?
  • do we want a religious wedding? (some religions are strict about having the ceremony in an actual church for example)
  • do we want to build in sight-seeing, touring, and travel in the days leading up to or after our wedding day?
  • is there anything in particular we wanted for our wedding day: garden, castle setting, 5-star accommodations, on-site spa services, activities available (golf, horse riding, etc.), michellin star quality food, on-site bar, etc.?
  • will our guests be able to access the location easily? (ex. Grandma in the wheelchair probably can’t get to a 2 mile vista point overlooking the valley — we can take pictures there with out photographer the day before and hold the ceremony somewhere else nearby on our wedding day)
  • are we ok walking a bit or taking boats/carriages to get to a remote destination for our ceremony if we love the space?
  • if you’re inviting a larger number of guests: is the location close enough to major airports and easy transportation?

Why It’s Important:  Hands down the most important part of your destination wedding will be the actual destination you pick! The entire wedding’s theme can be built around the location, or vice versa, if you have a particular theme in mind, the perfect venue can be suggested. For example, if you are set on having a Great Gatsby style wedding then we have so many incredible venues in Dublin that would be the perfect choice! The venue and location will be the draw for your guests for your wedding day. This is what will get them excited to invest the money for the trip. And for you as a couple, you want a location that reflects you both and that speaks to you. Waterlily Weddings specializes in pairing the right venue with the right couple. 

What Not To Do: Just pick a place that’s generic or easy. Really think about what speaks to your heart and have the confidence to go for it!

Budget Mantra:  “The venue will be the crux of my wedding. It’s important I pick a place we are happy and comfortable with that is within our budget as well. I will think about balancing out our wants and needs and those of our guests and decide on a choice that ticks all the boxes.”


Wedding planning, design, and execution is moving into a new direction. Many couples are opting now for a designer and stylist to help with the overall theme and concept of your wedding day. Just like with an outfit, a designer and stylist will help make sure your overall wedding look makes sense aesthetically, colors are coordinated, fine details are attended to, and the day of your wedding looks polished. Many couples feel they can hand off their vision to vendors and they will execute it; they will, but it’s not their responsibility to make sure what you picked out matches with everything else, and what the other vendors are working on is in harmony with what they’re doing.

Enter the Wedding Stylist…

Why It’s Important:  A wedding stylist will work with you from the planning stage through the days leading up to your wedding to make sure every element makes sense aesthetically. They will work with your florist, rental company, venue, cake atelier, planner, and more to ensure all of the elements are making sense and being executed properly, from colors to themes to details to candle colors, vessels that hold the flowers, napkin shapes, and more. You’re spending so much time and energy conceptualizing your wedding day, you want to make sure everything will present well and and make sense in the space. As they say, “the devil’s in the details.” If the atmosphere, overall look, vibe of your wedding day is important to you, we highly recommend thinking about hiring our styling services for your wedding. 

What Not To Do: Don’t assume all of your vendors will be communicating with each other and making sure those flowers match the stationary that matches the table linens. Their job is to deliver what you ask of them; it’s your job to choose the colors, styles, and designs and make sure it all matches with everything else!

Budget Mantra: “I want to create a memorable day where everything flows and makes sense. I’ll hire a wedding stylist to help me conceptualize my wedding day and use as a second-opinion for what I’m choosing for my wedding day. It will be worth it to see my vision come together and present perfectly on my wedding day.”


Yes, stationary. Believe it or not, it is an important part of your wedding day and we’re ranking it pretty highly here on this list. Many couples feel like this is an area they can pull back on and even skip outright, but we really feel strongly that incorporating good quality stationary throughout your wedding day can be that make-or-break detail to easily elevate your wedding to the next level. 

  • Wedding Invitation Suite:  there are so many options for an invitation suite now from the minimum invite+envelope+rsvp to more detailed suites with matching maps, info card inserts, and more.  A good wedding invitation is imperative especially for a destination wedding because it immediately sets the tone for your wedding and gives your guests a clue into what to expect. If you’re spending thousands of dollars on an incredible castle wedding but only provide a website or Facebook page, the consistency isn’t there…it seems disconnected. Adding a beautiful invitation suite for your castle wedding helps set the proper tone and gives your guests an idea of what they can expect.
  • Wedding Maps:  destination weddings require travel, which require information so we love when our clients include a map with their invitation suite for their guests. There are so many gorgeous maps you can have custom-designed from modern sketches to watercolor to hand-drawn character style that can perfectly match your wedding’s tone. Bonus: guests can keep it as a keepsake from their trip!
  • Menus / Place Cards / Bar : There are so many areas you can enhance your wedding day reception, and one easy way is creating a gorgeous table setting. Many venues will offer complimentary printed menus, but keep in mind these will be very plain, unadorned, generic menus. Creating your own menus and place cards enables you to add a special touch: design or logo motif, personalization, color, style — all things that are another way you can add a bit of yourselves to make your wedding day unique as well as tying in the overall color and theme of your wedding.

Why It’s Important:  We keep talking about that “polished look” and this is one area where it’s really easy to add a few details to your wedding day that will instantly make it elegant and unique. There are many creative ways couples can work stationary into their wedding day as well, which can enhance the table setting and reception experience as well as the invitations themselves. A spectacular invitation suite can serve as the anchor theme for the entire wedding even. And it’s a perfect detail to photograph on your wedding day.

What Not To Do:  Don’t completely ignore this element and cast it away as a “money not well spent.” Rather, think of it as a way to personalize your wedding day and add an easy polished detail.

Budget Mantra: “I will seriously consider stationary for my wedding day and look at the different styles, colors, themes as a means of inspiration for my wedding day. And I will be open to ideas of how to affordably and easily incorporate this element into my own wedding day.”


Another huge element for your wedding day is what you’ll wear. Many brides look forward to the dress shopping event more than the actual wedding day. Many cringe at the thought and the process stresses them out. Many grooms go one way or the other as well, often settling on just renting a tuxedo or suit for the day. But this is an area you both can actually get invested in and excited about.

The good news is today there is a breadth of options to suite every single couple’s vision, budget, and style. Some brides want to have their dream dress designed and custom made from scratch. Others enjoy the ease of trying on dresses and tailoring it to their bodies. Others want something they can wear again later, while others want to make the dress completely from scratch themselves! The important thing here is to listen to yourself and your inner voice and what you ultimately feel comfortable doing. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Designing dresses from scratch can take up to a year. If that’s something you want to do, make sure you give yourself enough time!
  • More important that trying on dresses is finding an excellent tailor. Many tailors at the bridal stores won’t do the best job — they are overworked and have pressure to turn around gowns quickly. Many times brides will end up two or three days before their wedding day with a gown that doesn’t fit properly or isn’t fully finished! Better to get into your neighborhood and find a good quality, reputable local tailor who will take your project on out of love and business, rather than being treated as a number!
  • If budget is really a concern and you don’t care about keeping your dress, consider renting your wedding day dress! Rent The Runway has spectacular options including very high-end designers like Marchesa and Badgley Mischka! If you’re wanting to change into an after-party dress but can’t fit purchasing one into your budget, renting one is a great option! We’ve had many brides do this with great effect! And this goes for bridesmaids as well!
  • Don’t forget the groom! Grooms — take this chance to get a custom tailored suit! Splurge on amazing fabric, an exquisite shirt, a perfect tie. You will wear this suit for years and years, so take the chance to invest in something truly wonderful and give yourself the gift of experiencing a custom tailoring session!
  • Something Irish — Ireland is known for many things including tweed! We love when grooms incorporate that into their dream destination wedding in Ireland. It looks absolutely perfect for your wedding day, is comfortable, and you will love the pictures for the rest of your lives.
  • COLOR:  white is classic but if your spirit is red or blue or elegant black, have the confidence and go for it! The good news is every single color will photograph beautifully in Ireland! And we’ll help you find a spot to perfectly showcase your gorgeous colored dress!
  • Accessories:  Take the time to use accessories — shoes, veil, jewelry, shirts, ties, socks, cufflinks — to express yourself. Be creative!

Why It’s Important:  You need to be loving and feeling comfortable in whatever you decide to wear. It needs to be consistent with your ceremony and reception space — huge ballgown not a great choice for an outdoor wedding ceremony where you need to take a boat to get there! Consider your venues and locations and either pick a dress that will work there or change your venue to accommodate the dress. Or, wear two! There are no rules anymore on what you can and cannot do for your wedding day. Gentlemen — this goes for you too! There are many ways you can tweek your look from formal to casual to be consistent with your location.

And remember: you may wear the dress once, but the photographs will be for a lifetime. Go for the one you love with all your heart or every time you look at your pictures you’ll be reminded of the one you didn’t choose.

What Not To Do: Don’t be bullied into wearing something you hate. Don’t visit one dress shop and pick the first dress. Don’t let yourself be upsold at the store for alterations, shoes, and jewelry. Don’t go for generic accessories — use those as a chance to personalize your look and bring in your personality!

Budget Mantra:  “I will take my time conceptualizing what I want to wear, and really think about how I can accessorize my look and add a bit of my personality there. I will balance out budget with comfort, look, and feel and ultimately decide on something I truly love.”


“Chicken or fish?” UGH. If you’re a foodie you already know a good deal of your budget is going to go to food and drink. If you’re not, it may be tempting to skip out on the food and drink and go for the Generic Wedding Menu. Don’t do it!  Food and drink is a really important part of your wedding day and your way as a couple to say “thank you for coming” to your guests. If budget is a concern, there are ways we can work around it:

  • The Multi-Course Chef Prepared Dinner:  many venues throughout Ireland boast chefs who are quite good and can create delicious multi-course meals for your day, taking in preferences and accommodating allergies, offering seasonal dishes, and gorgeous presentation. If you want to take it a step further, there are a few venues we can coordinate to give you Michellin-star food for a culinary experiences on your wedding day. If you’re eloping to Ireland consider this as an option!
  • Irish Traditions:  for many couples the appeal of coming to Ireland is having that Irish good time, and expressing that in food and drink is always a slam dunk. If you want something more casual and authentically Irish, consider hosting your dinner at the local pub with live music. This is a great option for more intimate casual weddings.
  • A Middle Ground:  if you want to incorporate some of those Irish traditions in food and drink but want it served on in upscale setting, talk to us about creating a custom menu with your venue!
  • Presentation:  anything goes, from a gorgeous formal setting at the castle to a self-serve banquet table picnic in the countryside. Whatever you envision we’re happy to help match your food and drinks to your wedding’s vibe!
  • Don’t Forget The Drinks: beer, whiskey, mulled wine, Irish coffee are all traditional Irish details you can easily incorporate into your wedding day. Being in Europe, that French bordeaux is actually more affordable than your favorite merlot in Napa — you can save money there and not sacrifice quality.  But we especially love when couples conceptualize a signature cocktail. Be it a classic or a creation, that special featured drink will give an air of uniqueness to your reception.

Why It’s ImportantFood and drink will help set the mood for the celebratory phase of your wedding day. Serving something whimsical or elegant will help “wow” your guests and make them feel special. Serving more casual food will  help them feel comfortable and enjoy themselves. You really can’t go wrong with any direction, as long as it’s good quality and consistent with your overall wedding theme and vibe. If you’re eloping, really think about treating yourselves to an amazing experience here — be it a romantic candle-lit dinner by the fire prepared by private chef or reservations at a Michellin star restaurant, or maybe just sneaking away to the local pub for a fun night together.

What Not To Do: Don’t mail it in on the food and drinks side and limit your options. This is your chance to say “thank you” to your loved ones for making the trip out, so embrace the process and instead of looking at it as “spending money,” think of it as a way to enjoy yourselves.  Have fun with planning this part of the wedding: embrace the tastings, research the foods and traditions, think outside the box. You love tacos? how about mini tacos passed around at cocktail hour! Don’t limit yourself and stick with what’s easiest or obvious; push yourself to have present what you love and want!

Budget Mantra: “I will give serious thought to what we love to eat and drink and think of it as a chance to plan something fun for the wedding day. I’ll be mindful of spending and think of what best suits our style and vibe for the wedding day.”


You need stuff to do for your wedding celebration. The entertainment portion can go from zero to 1000 in nanoseconds, depending on your budget, location, and the atmosphere you want to create for your wedding day. The great thing about Ireland is you literally have so many options that we guarantee we can find you what you’re looking for. Some ideas to consider:

  • Live Bands & DJ’s:  Ireland has many super talented live bands that will get the celebration going. There’s something special about having live performers that elevates your wedding and makes it feel more exciting.
  • Unique Musicians / Instruments:  consider incorporating some unique instruments into your wedding day for something special, like the Irish harp which is a gorgeous sound that can instantly transform your ceremony space or cocktail hour, Uillean pipes — the Irish version of the bagpies, lute — soft, haunting sounds of this romantic medieval instrument.
  • A Traditional Irish Evening:  consider incorporating a bit of Irish dancing into your reception celebrations! We have many bands who come prepared to teach you and your guests a bit of some Irish dancing for an unforgettable night!
  • Live Performers:  fire breathers, professional Irish folk dancing performances, magicians, live action painters — all of these can add an element of spectacle for your wedding reception your loved ones will never forget!
  • Local Artists and Musicians:  Ireland has a rich collection of incredibly talented local artists and musicians that would be a real unique addition to your wedding day.

Why It’s ImportantYou want to keep a good tempo going for your wedding celebration, starting off easy and gradually working towards a night of fun and celebrating. It’s good to have activities or something going on that can easily focus the evening and keep that momentum going. It doesn’t even matter what the entertainment is, as long as it works within the reception space.  Working this element into your wedding day will help create a unique celebration you and your guests will remember.  This can be as specialized or as casual and organic as you like! We’ve produced receptions ranging from fire-breathing performers to professional dancing performances at castles to casual evenings at the local pub having fun with the locals, local musicians, and enjoying food and drinks.

What Not To Do: Don’t think “stuffy” or try to pack too much in. You want a balance between allowing yourself and guests opportunity to talk and spend time together, but you don’t want to make it boring. Conversely, don’t pack in so much that your wedding feels more like a Las Vegas show.

Budget Mantra: “I will think about what kind of entertainment would suit our wedding celebrations — ask myself what kind of music we like, if we want to dance, how much we want to incorporate the local Irish culture. I will make sure to balance it so we can enjoy our time with our guests.”


So many who are budgeting their wedding cut the cake (pun intended). It’s the second to go after the stationary. And it doesn’t need to happen. The Wedding Cake can serve a few purposes on your wedding day:

  • focal point as decoration in the room
  • clear presentation of your wedding theme and colors
  • delicious ending to evening meal
  • photographs beautifully
  • symbolic and meaningful
  • traditional

Why It’s Important:  Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, consider having at least a small cake. It’s synonymous with weddings and to be frank, is the first thing guests notice if you don’t have one. It’s something many guests look forward to enjoying. But aside from that, it can serve many important functions on your wedding day.  In terms of aesthetics, the cake is an outline or clear declaration of your wedding day’s overall color scheme, theme, and vibe.  This makes it an instant focal point in any room that quickly draws together all of the other elements in the room and gives that polished look we’ve talked about. There’s a tradition about it — cutting the cake, serving it to each other, etc. — and something about that being a rite of passage as much as the ceremony for some people. It’s a chance to again express yourselves and make it unique to your wedding:  go for a cool design, interesting colors or flavors.

The cake doesn’t have to be huge! Of course we love those, but the cake can be quite simple.  A super structured, multi-tiered tower with perfectly laid fondant and sculpted flowers, hand-painted tiers, and edible gold of course is stunning. But we also love a homemade naked cake with sugar-dusted berries and fragrant freshly whipped vanilla cream. One tier to seven, the cake size and shape can be completely tailored to suit your taste, style and budget. Even if you’re eloping, consider a miniature cake to share. It’s a sweet gesture you will remember!

What Not To Do: Don’t assume everyone won’t mind not having cake! For some people it’s the best part of the wedding!

Budget Mantra: “I will consider having a wedding cake and tailoring the size, shape, flavors, decor to suit my wedding budget.”


Hands down, the number one “oops! I totally forgot to plan this!!!” element of a wedding when couples take on the planning process themselves is the transportation. It’s easy to forget that once everyone gets to Ireland, you need to figure out how to get them to-from your wedding space. 

Why It’s Important:  Many of your guests will not rent cars. Most of them won’t tell you this information until the day before or morning of your wedding. Your guests will want to enjoy themselves at your reception, not drive late at night on unfamiliar country roads to get back to their hotels. Some guests won’t feel comfortable driving on the other side of the road, manual cars, or want to deal with parking. To help alleviate this headache, it’s often easier to coordinate transportation for you and your guests on your wedding day. Waterlily Weddings is happy to help you figure out the right option for your wedding day!

What Not To Do:  Assume your guests will rent cars, know where to go, know how to call for taxis, etc.

Budget Mantra:  “I will look at my guest lists and figure out a transportation plan.”


CONTACT US today to get started on planning your dream destination wedding in Ireland!

comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Ireland's top destination wedding planner

Advice and insight into how to pick your perfect wedding venue in Ireland or your home state.


Castle, Cliff, or Country Manor?

Your guide complete with food suggestions, things to do, and other info to help you plan an epic 5-day adventure in Ireland.


5-Day Adventure

Emma and Alex’s breathtaking wedding has been featured in print in Weddings & Honeymoons!


Weddings & Honeymoons

We are so happy to share Christina and Martin's stunning black tie wedding at Luttrellstown Castle has been featured on Style Me Pretty!

Style Me Pretty

Featured In


Talk about your list here and embed your newsletter opt in below! Crucifix kale chips vinyl tbh cloud bread gochujang jean shorts stumptown.

get this exclusive thing