The rise of the midweek bride: Why couples are choosing to wed outside traditional dates
Rose Fletcher always had happy memories of holidaying in Donegal.
Her childhood summers had been spent full of beaches, bird watching and boating in Killybegs and, when she introduced her boyfriend to the 'Beg on one of their first trips together, he fell in love with it too.
So when it came to organising their wedding, the couple were in no doubt as to where they wanted to have their big day, the only question was when.
"We had a venue very specific to us but all the Saturdays in the summer were booked," explains Rose (34). "Also we're both teachers and there were a limited number of dates that we could get married on and then have a two-week honeymoon. So we ended up picking a Monday.
"It was the end of a weekend and, since the wedding was in the Donegal countryside, we thought people might make a trip of it."
The idea of a Monday wedding might sound unconventional, but new data shows that thousands of Irish couples are now opting for a midweek wedding rather than the traditional Saturday do. New research by the wedding site Hitched.ie shows that in 2015, 5,495 couples married on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, with an additional 1,089 tying the knot on a Sunday.
The figures show a steady increase in midweek weddings of about 2pc year on year since 2012.
Interestingly, in the UK, the wedding website found that Thursday weddings had seen the biggest leap whereas in Ireland it's Fridays that are experiencing a surge, with bookings up 14pc.
The findings are backed by another Irish wedding website, Mrs2Be, which reckons 28pc of couples now get hitched midweek, with Friday now the nation's favourite wedding day, accounting for 37pc of bookings compared to 34pc tying the knot on a Saturday.
At the popular Tankardstown County House Hotel near Slane in Co Meath, they've seen a midweek weddings increase by 22pc since 2014.
"We've seen a steady increase in the number of weddings for midweek and indeed some on a Sunday, not just in the summer season but right throughout the year," reveals Helen Byrne, sales and marketing manager at Tankardstown.
"Not only venues but wedding suppliers alike are always seeking to improve business midweek and so usually put deals in place to attract couples towards the less popular days, like a Tuesday for instance," she explains.
"This can create savings of up to 40pc for the entire day out, which could be the difference in having the day of their dreams - with all the elements they desire - without the compromise, particularly if there is a budget in place."
Typically many venues tend to offer a 10pc discount for midweek events or around €10 less per head - putting the savings into the €1,000s for some wedding receptions - but there's an additional financial incentive with photographers, bands, cars and extras all likely to agree better rates outside high-demand Saturdays.
So far this year one third of the 93 weddings booked at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa in Co Down are midweek, Sunday to Thursday, dates.
"People seem to be willing to take time off during the week rather than viewing a weekend as their only option and certainly we've found that the day of the week makes absolutely no difference to the atmosphere," says Laura Hanna, head of events.
Caroline Hendry, editor of Hitched.ie, has seen more discussion online about non-Saturday dos and, when she gets married in six weeks, it'll be on a Friday.
"Saturday weddings not only come with a premium price tag, they are also the first dates to be booked up," she explains. "I experienced this first hand when my fiancé and I found the perfect venue 18 months before our desired wedding month and all the Saturdays in that month (May 2016) were fully booked.
"After a lot of deliberation we chose to book our wedding on a Friday," she says. "If you've your heart set on a certain venue or month then sometimes you need to make that compromise to get the special day you've envisioned."
Several large venues have a minimum capacity for weekend receptions - so those opting for a smaller celebration have no choice but to plump for a weekday date. Then there's the current trend for celebrations that last several days, with couples picking a venue as a 'destination wedding' with the intention that guests will enjoy a holiday around the ceremony.
Caroline adds: "I actually don't know what the price difference was having it on a Monday as we never asked - price really wasn't the reason for doing it."
Plenty of people now work more erratic hours, meaning weekends aren't necessarily the guaranteed day off they were in years gone by. And the changing nature of wedding ceremonies has also had an impact on what day couples book.
"Midweek weddings are on the rise naturally due to the increase in civil ceremonies which can only take place midweek," says Sophie Pigott, marketing director at weddingsonline. Research conducted by the website recently found that civil ceremonies accounted for 18pc of weddings last year, up 6pc on the previous year.
But couples still have concerns about opting for a non-Saturday celebration. "The biggest fear is that guests won't make it to the wedding if it is a midweek date," says Helen at Tankardstown. "We like to reassure our couples that with adequate notice their nearest and dearest friends and family will of course want to share their special day with them, so won't think anything of booking a day off work."
Read more: The List: Ireland's Top 30 bridal boutiques
That's the hope, but it's not always the case. It's not an issue a lot of people want to talk about - perhaps for fear of offending friends or looking miserly - but the outpouring of ire online would suggest that not everyone is okay with taking time off to attend a weekday wedding.
"If I was invited to a wedding on a Monday I would assume that the couple were trying to keep numbers down and wanted people to decline so I wouldn't go unless it was a very close friend or family member," writes one person on a popular wedding discussion forum.
"I would kind of resent having to take the two days off and would also worry that a Monday wedding wouldn't be good craic."
"Personally, I think it's pretty selfish when people have a big wedding midweek," adds another. "I hate the phrase 'people who want to be there will turn up', I think it's extremely self-centred and selfish to say things like that. You must feel you're very important that you expect people to use their annual leave on your wedding."
Among the top concerns among midweek wedding guests are having to use up precious holiday time, people whose employers would only let them book leave in week-long segments, concerns about the dance floor emptying earlier, and battling a hangover in the office the following day.
Rose says she was fully prepared for the fact that some people might not have been prepared to attend their Monday nuptials. "Obviously if people couldn't make it we didn't mind at all," she says. "But that would have been the same if it had been a Saturday, sometimes the date just doesn't suit.
"As it turned out though pretty much everyone we invited was there and we had a brilliant day and danced into the night. It was our perfect wedding with the people we loved in the venue we wanted - it really didn't matter what day it was on."
Pennywise: What savings can be made if you marry midweek?
We checked out some of the top wedding venues around the country to see how prices compare for their entry-level wedding packages* between weekend weddings and midweek weddings.
Tankardstown House and Orangery
Wedded bliss package
Weekend (Friday and Saturday): €125 per person
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (January, February, March and November only): €89 per person
Fota Island Hotel and Spa (fotaisland.ie)
Weekend: starting at €79pp
Midweek: Potentially a 10pc discount or the resort is due to launch a specific all inclusive mid-week package (including flowers, photos, cake and band) for around €75pp
The Slieve Donard Resort and Spa
The Bronze wedding package
Weekend (Friday and Saturday): £74 per person
Midweek (Sunday to Thursday): £63 per person
Winter (valid Monday to Sunday October to March): £63
Clayton Hotel (claytonhotelgalway.ie)
Everything You Need Package
Weekend: from €43.50pp
midweek: 10pc discount
*Includes venue hire, pre-dinner reception and a three or four-course meal. Some venues also include additional extras see the venue websites for more details)