First on every bride-to-be's to do list is The Venue. It sets the tone, and logistical parameters, for the whole event. How many guests can it seat? Does it have on-site catering? What are the travel and accommodation options for out-of-towners? Is it available on your preferred dates or is a very long engagement worth the wait? Is it within your budget? There's a lot to consider but have some fun with it - putting flesh to the bones of a dream should never feel like an onerous task. Just take time to learn what matters most to you and inform that learning with plenty of research online and in person.
Once you've got it nailed, you're pretty much on to the details.
We love these stunning stately homes (and have been to weddings in all of them). Yes, they're grand, but charming, too and their restricted availability means even the most seasoned guests may never have been to them. Architectural detail and rich history lend them an air of exclusivity, whilst providing all the framework for a truly wow-worthy wedding, regardless of how bad the DJ might end up being.
Beaulieu House and Gardens, Westmeath
Image via Beaulieu House website
Beau in french means handsome, and there’s no denying that Beaulieu House is the definition of handsome. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful wedding venues in the country, Beaulieu House is located just outside Drogheda and was built by Sir Henry Tichbourne in the 1600s. Located just 45 minutes from Dublin, accommodation in the house is available to the wedding party and there is a range of four-star hotels in nearby Drogheda for guests.
The 11th generation of the Tichbourne family currently lives in the stately home so they only host a small number of weddings during the year (specifically in the summer months, when the gardens are bursting with colour and looking their best). This means that there could be a hefty waiting list, but all things considered, Beaulieu House and Gardens is an option for any bride and groom who want a celebration marked by elegance and finery.
Image via Ballynatray website
Ballynatray is a stunning Georgian house located on an 850 acres estate in Youghal, in Cork. Along with self-catering cottages, this venue can accommodate up to 65 guests and caters for up to 110 wedding guests (alternatively a marquee on the lawn overlooking the Blackwater River will cater for more).
What sets this venue apart from the rest, amongst other things, is the consecrated Molana Abbey. This is situated on the estate and provides couples with an intimate, enchanting setting for the wedding vows.
Such is the charm and elegance of the venue, it won’t be long before you find yourself feeling like a Jane Austen character getting ready to meet your Mr Darcy. The house is also fully staffed, and the in-house chef provides bespoke menus using organic ingredients sourced from the estate. What’s more, residents and guests can enjoy a barbeque or buffet lunch the day after the wedding and take advantage of all the facilities on offer, which includes shooting, tennis, croquet, a swimming pool, sauna, gym and snooker.
Clonwilliam House, Wicklow
Image via Clonwilliam website
If it’s a wedding marked by luxury that you’re after, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more romantic, more lavish location than Clonwilliam House.
It’s easy to see why Clonwilliam doubles as a film location – the stately home contains huge rooms with beautiful period detailing and boasts stunning views of Wicklow’s wandering countryside. Intimate parties of up to 25 can dine in the Georgian dining room, whilst larger numbers can be accommodated in the Clonwilliam House Stables. There are six bedrooms to accommodate the bridal party, and each luxurious room is furnished with family antiques, crisp linens and a cast-iron bath in all the ensuite bathrooms. And that’s just the beginning... they even provide a personal butler service to tend to your every need – Downton Abbey eat your heart out!
There’s also the swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi and gym, not to mention archery, woodland walks and clay-pigeon shooting for the Day Two activities.
Gloster House, Offaly
Image via onefabday.com
For a setting that your friends are unlikely to have ever experienced, consider the 300-year-old family home that is Gloster House. This new and exclusive wedding venue is located in the mountainous, magical midlands of Ireland, and has only recently re-opened its doors to couples in search of something really special for their big day.
There are ensuite bedrooms for the wedding party to stay in Gloster House, whilst a wide range of accommodation is available for your guests in the neighbouring towns of Birr and Roscrea. Transport to and from Gloster House can also be arranged throughout the day.
Having been lovingly restored over the last 14 years by its owners, Tom and Mary Alexander, the impressive front façade of Gloster House overlooks a series of terraces containing fountains and formal gardens. Next is the banqueting hall, a large light-filled garden room that seats up to 150 guests. Complemented by a fabulous conservatory that looks out onto a walled garden, it’s utterly beautiful.
Keep your eyes peeled for IMAGE Brides in the Jan/Feb issue of IMAGE magazine, on newsstands December 29