Sunday 26 January 2020

Til debt do us part - Sinead Ryan on unique places to get married

Sinead Ryan advises on unique places to get married and how to keep the costs down

Don't take me to church: 35.2pc of modern couples don't get married in a church
Don't take me to church: 35.2pc of modern couples don't get married in a church

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's nuptials next month have caused a flurry of wedding excitement but they're not alone. Heading down the aisle has made a post-recession comeback and weddings are more popular than ever.

Last year, 21,570 opposite sex and 1,056 same sex couples got hitched, 88pc of them for the first time. Bookings in popular venues are made over a year in advance and even the HSE, which provides registrars for civil ceremonies, is swamped with business.

This week I'm checking out the where, when and how of getting married. The panel shows some of the more interesting venues, and there are tips on keeping costs down, particularly as the average wedding costs €24,427, according to a survey.


Civil ceremony marriages account for 35.2pc of couples who don't get married in a church. There are hundreds of places to choose from but it must be a licensed wedding venue in a public place. It can't be outdoors, on a cliff top or in your back garden. Most couples immediately think of hotels, but in fact there are some really interesting places to get wed if you are adventurous (see panel for options). Having the wedding breakfast there means no transporting guests from one place to another either.


"When you decide to get married, one of the first things we always do is ask couples to look at the legalities of weddings in Ireland or another destination they're considering," says Celina Murphy of "It's easy to get quite far into the planning process without realising, for example, that civil ceremonies can only be performed in Ireland Monday to Friday, so the Saturday morning ceremony in the forest that they've been dreaming of may not be possible, and they will have to officially marry in a registry office a few days beforehand."

The only people licensed to conduct weddings are clergy, HSE registrars and the Humanist Association. Some people opt to have the actual legal ceremony in a registry office but a celebration led by a friend later or on another day.

Saving money

"The simplest way to save money on your wedding is to slash the guest list, but if this isn't an option, there are lots of less drastic ways to do it," says Celina. "We recently compiled a list of non-essentials that could save couples up to €7,500 and which most guests won't even notice missing, including favours, bathroom baskets, bridal robes and lots of other bits and bobs that have recently been labelled 'wedding must-haves' (they're not!)."

There are also a few basic changes that you can make to bring down costs, such as choosing an off-peak date or day for your wedding or postponing your honeymoon until the year after the wedding.


Your wedding spend is a huge cost and things can, and will, go wrong. So it's surprising that only 10pc of couples buy wedding insurance before the big day, perhaps considering it unromantic. The recent closure of the Wedding World dress shop in Dublin saw brides out of pocket by thousands of euro, for instance. Ciaran Mulligan of wedding says policies start from €33.99 and cover a range of financial mishaps, including theft or loss of wedding gifts and rings, failure of suppliers including flowers, transport, cake, photography and video, legal expenses and personal liability.

Extras recommends a 10pc 'contingency' budget set aside for things you may have overlooked. "Corkage, wedding dress alterations, lingerie and hair and make-up trials are the most common."

Alternative wedding venues

Venues for wedding ceremonies include everything from a grand castle to a jail cell! You must ensure they are licensed for the ceremony and pay the expenses of the registrar to attend. Some interesting places on the list for 2018 include:

- Glin, Markree, Wilton and Kilkea Castles are new venues, but there are many more also.

- Segrave House in Co Louth has an American-style barn and lovely wooded area which has hosted sport or other themed events.

- It would be hard to beat the newly-licensed GPO for historical impact. It can cater for up to 50 guests for dinner and 120 for drinks in the Commemoration Gallery and Courtyard.

- Animal lovers can wed in Haughton House at Dublin Zoo while the National Gallery attracts arty types, and the Maritime Museum has a unique nautical vibe.

- Dublin’s Natural History Museum, aka ‘The Dead Zoo’, held its first wedding ceremony last year.

- Wicklow Gaol can seat up to 100 in the Jailer’s Cavern, while Croke Park caters for more than 750 in the Hogan Suite for GAA-mad lovers.

Irish Independent

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