Other than finding the right person to marry, time after time I see brides and grooms struggling to find the right place to marry. Do you opt for the boutique hotel? Do you elope? Do you celebrate in the country or have a city wedding? There are so many options out there when it comes to venues that it can be really hard to pick the perfect place.
It seemed like 2017 was the year of weddings for me, attending three during the spring and summer and while each of them were held in very different venues, each felt perfect for the couple. The first of the season was in the beautiful surroundings of a Larchfield Estate in County Down. It offered flexible options for the ceremony, which was held in the gardens allowing everyone to make the most of the incredible weather (we got sun burnt in May - unheard of), with a Prosecco and canapé reception in the courtyard before dinner and dancing in the rustic stone barn. It can be a pricey option to have your wedding at a country estate, but with a great selection of them across Ireland of various scales of grandeur, there can be some bargains to be found, especially with lesser know venues. The real beauty of these locations is that they provide you with a very photogenic canvas on which to add your own personality, you can have as much or as little pomp as you wish and make it a really personal and special day.
Wedding number two was held at the Galgorm Resort and Spa in County Antrim, a prestigious luxury hotel which unlike a country estate offer you a range of packages to help you plan your big day, in case you don't want the sometimes daunting task of pulling an entire wedding together yourself. The setting at the Galgorm is beautiful, it was a wet day for this wedding and the raging river was a dramatic backdrop for the reception in the Renaissance Suite. Package weddings, however convenient, can sometimes feel cold and impersonal, but this wedding was different because of photographs of previous family weddings on display as well as fabulous musicians during the ceremony, drinks reception and after dinner. Little touches like that put your own stamp on a wedding that otherwise could be just like any other, proving that you don't have to break the bank or spend sleepless nights planning a luxury wedding that has bespoke elements.
The final wedding of the year was held in Ballygally Castle Hotel, on the beautiful Causeway Coastal Route. Part of a national hotel chain, Ballygally offers wedding packages for a range of budgets in the way that most hotels do. Again that means you could fall into the trap of having an off menu wedding which lacks personality if you don't add elements which make your wedding day stand out but this wedding was anything but that. The Bride's Uncle conducted the ceremony regaling us with stories about the couple which was a lovely touch. We were then treated to live music from a band that most of us knew from playing gigs at the local pub, which instantly made it feel comfortable while the newlyweds were doing the photographs. They had even organised for us to play casino games in the lobby, with Roulette and Blackjack tables, something which I'd never seen before at a wedding but which got people mingling and laughing until we were seated for dinner. The Bride and Groom made a real effort to incorporate heritage into their wedding also, which was a great way to make it feel very personalised, with the Groomsmen all wearing tartan and tweed and with a traditional passing round of a very good bottle of port to toast the union.
Really, while location is important, it doesn't make a wedding. All three of the weddings I attended last year were in very different locations, had very different styles and probably had differing budgets to pull them together, but what made them special was that the couples felt comfortable where they were married. They were relaxed, they were laughing and they were enjoying themselves as much as the guests were and that is the really important thing. City hotel, country manor, luxury resort, or even your own garden, as long as your location fits your style that's all that matters.