Niamh and Mark married at Glengarriff Lodge in County Cork, Ireland.
Niamh tells a wonderful story so I’m going to take up as little of your time as possible this morning before handing over to her.
All I will say is that these perfect images were taken by Amy Murrell of Especially Amy fame.
Go Tell It On The Mountain
18 months ago I spent a good hour huffing and puffing up a mountain. Little did I know the surprise that was waiting for me at the top. Mark, who much to my annoyance had sprinted on ahead, was waiting at the top with that little box that all of us girls secretly hope we will one day see in our boyfriends hands. The annoyance soon left me and was replaced by a huge smile and a tearful eye. All that huffing and puffing was more than worth it! We were engaged!
Mark chose the perfect place to propose. It was up a mountain we had climbed several times before, in a place we both loved. That place was Glengarriff in West Cork. We knew before we reached to the bottom of the mountain that this was the place where we wanted to get married. Fortunately for all of our guests it wasn’t to be at the top of the mountain but in Glengarriff Lodge, a beautiful Hansel and Gretel Cottage nestled in the woods at the foot of the mountain.
We always wanted a marquee wedding so that we could put our own stamp on the big day. The Lodge and the marquee were the perfect setting for our English Country Garden themed wedding. We didn’t want to go overboard with a theme but we knew that we wanted a relaxed summer wedding in Ireland and us living and Mark being from England meant that we wanted to bring some of that with us. We did this in a subtle way by having things like a Pimms reception and a British inspired dinner cooked by the fantastic Chris Hedges.
The Perfect Spot
The other decision we came to before we reached the bottom of the mountain was that we wanted Amy Murrell to be our photographer. I have always admired her work and it is no exaggeration when I say that I have spent several hours looking through her photographs. She has a talent for capturing a moment that I have not seen before and there is something that draws you into her photos.
Luckily for us, Amy was available on our chosen date and was willing to travel over to Ireland to photograph our wedding. Amy could not have been more supportive throughout. From the beginning she was able to give us helpful tips about running orders, getting people together at the right times and generally just being a very calming influence. On the day we were lucky not only to have Amy shooting but her fantastic sidekick Paul! We had great fun having our photos taken with Amy before all of our guests arrived up to the Lodge. Amy is such a perfectionist that she took a trip up to the lodge the night before the wedding so she could check out the perfect spots for photos.
We now have a box full of treasures that we will have forever.
Other than admiring the wedding dress in the Guns ‘n’ Roses video November Rain when I was about 10, I’d really never given much thought to what kind of wedding dress I’d like. Luckily for Mark and all of our guests I didn’t find such a dress on my wedding dress hunt.
I have to say, choosing my dress was one of the nicest parts of the wedding planning process and meant a lot to me as I had my Mum and sister there for moral support and honest opinions. For any bride to be I’d recommend making a day of wedding dress shopping. I made a decision to find shops within a half hour radius of where we lived. This was not only to make it easier on the day we went shopping but it was also to ensure that I didn’t have to go too far for dress fittings. I may have been lucky in this regard but if you have the option I’d definitely try and make life as easy for you as possible.
I probably should have thought of headwear earlier than I did. Actually I probably should have thought of it at the same time I was choosing my dress but I didn’t. I assumed I would have a veil but once I started trying them on with my dress I quickly realised that if I went for a veil I would look like one big piece of netting on the day of my wedding. Not quite the look I was going for!
I hunted high and low for the right head piece. They were all too big, too small or too expensive! Finally my Mum suggested trying a hat designer near my home in Ireland. The weekend of my hen in Ireland I visited Wendy Louise Designs in Bornacoola (five weeks before the big day!!). After ten minutes with Wendy I felt relieved that my Mum had suggested going to see her.
We talked through my dress and the look that I was going for. Wendy showed me different shapes and fabrics that she could work with. The headpiece that I ended up with is completely bespoke and was made up of lace, feathers and brooches that we picked from her stock on the day. Wendy was a pleasure to deal with and I was absolutely delighted with the result. So much so I did not take the headpiece off until I went to bed at 3am!
I bought my shoes from Dune. Another tip ladies… Don’t get diamante shoes for under a tuille skirt! I brought my shoes along to my first dress fitting. They appeared comfy, they weren’t catching and they looked fab! Fast forward 4 weeks and my next fitting… Panic stations… With every step I could hear another pull. Eeek!! The ladies in the shop had to get on bended knees and prise my dress away from the lovely diamante bow on my shoes. This really wasn’t what I needed 3 weeks before the wedding and one week after the return date on the shoes. There was no choice but to cover the bow! A trip to a fabric shop on Brick Lane and a great seamstress later I had wearable shoes. They didn’t look how they were meant to but I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it. I was determined not to let this wedding turn me into a total bridezilla. It’s was a constant battle with my inner zilla but I think I just about pulled it off!
As Relaxed As Possible
As part of my plan to stay cool, calm and collected throughout all of the wedding prep I also had to think about how I maintained that on the day itself. I decided early on that I wanted the morning of the wedding to be as relaxed as possible. Having our hair and make up done in the same place and out of the house was a definite from the beginning.
Jessie’s Hair and Beauty in Bantry was the perfect spot. There were 8 of us in total including myself, my 3 Bridesmaids, our two Mums and two sister in-laws and it was never stressful. Jessie and her staff were very organised and professional. The prosecco also helped! A lot of brides don’t like seeing people before the wedding but many of my friends also booked in to get their hair done and I have to say it was really nice seeing people before. The excitement started early.
Whimsical Country garden
I seem to have used the word lucky a lot throughout this post but we really were! My aunt Ann is a keen floral arranger (if that is the correct terminology) and had already done a great job on two of my cousins weddings, so I was hoping that she would have some input in our wedding flowers. I was delighted when she offered to do the bouquets and bridal party flowers. She had her work cut out trying to get me to make a decision on what flowers to have but was patient and supportive throughout. Who knew there were so many beautiful flowers to choose from! Ann knew we were going for a whimsical English country garden themed wedding so suggested using bright Hydrangeas along with antique roses and sprigs of a purple flower which name escapes me. They were perfect!
To compliment Ann’s bouquets and button holes a local lady did our church flowers. She does a lot of flower arranging for the church so had a good relationship with the flower supplier and priest. She was able to give us hints and tips on deliveries etc and our lovely priest allowed us to take all of the arrangements from the church up to the reception venue for the night. A lot of churches do not allow this so we were very grateful to him.
We decided to buy suits rather than hire them. Apart from the logistical problems of finding somewhere in Ireland and England where everyone could try on their suits we figured we would spend almost as much hiring suits as we would buying them. Mark chose his and the groomsmens, suits from Zara. It worked out really well because all the men could try them on in advance and they also have a suit which they can hopefully wear again.
There was a bit of banter about the suits beforehand from the Dad’s. My Dad in particular was worried about wearing ‘skinny’ trousers but once they tried on the suits they were very happy with them and they looked great.
Mark and I were pretty relaxed about colour schemes throughout. Because we were going for a country garden theme I didn’t have any particular colour in mind that I wanted my bridesmaids to wear. I just wanted them to wear something that suited them all and that they felt comfortable in on the day. We spent a day looking in bridal shops and department stores for something that suited everyone. Monsoon saved the day! As soon as we walked in the door we all headed for the same dress. The 3 girls looked gorgeous so we all went home happy.
Third Time Lucky
I’m going to use the word again……lucky! I am very lucky to have a talented cake maker in the family who offered to make my cake. My cousin Jennifer had recently completed a sugar craft course and I think you can tell by the pictures of the flowers on the cake that she has a natural talent for it. You could nearly smell the flowers! Each one was individually made down to the little specks of pollen in the middle of the flowers. Not only did the cake look amazing but it tasted delicious. There were three different layers. The bottom tier was fruit cake, the middle tier chocolate biscuit cake and the top tier was lemon sponge. Yum!!
I also have a friend called Aoife who is a very talented singer. Goosebumps talented! She very kindly agreed to do our church music for us, along with her Mum Angela, Dad Tommy and husband Mick. Without her I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with church music. She gave us a list of songs with hints and tips on what songs were appropriate and at what point in the mass. I cannot tell you how amazing the music was in the church. Some of our guests thought they were listening to a CD before they realised Aoife was singing up in the Gallery.
The wedding ceremony often gets forgotten about with all of the organisation that goes into other parts of the day, but it turned out as it should do, and was really the most special part of our day. It was where we saw all our friends and family together for the first time and it was also, where, most importantly we were married. Parts of our day were a blur to me afterwards but for some reason I was able to take in every part of the church ceremony. A lot of brides worry about walking up the aisle but I can honestly say that to walk up the aisle with all your loved ones around you and your husband to be waiting at the top is one of the best feelings I’ve had. There was of course a tear trying to escape but it wasn’t one of worry or nerves, it was just one of happiness. Somehow a calm comes over you that you don’t expect and you just enjoy the moment. Cheesy but true.
Take It All In
For the evening entertainment we hired a band called Final Touch, who played from about 9.30pm through to 12.30pm. Aoife, who sang during the mass had booked them for her wedding a year previous and trusting her musical tastes and judgement we followed suit. It paid off, they were great! Although I have to say…..and its hard to admit this but I have one regret on our wedding day and that is that I didn’t dance enough. Ladies….you can talk to people on the dance floor. Enjoy the music and soak up the atmosphere because it really is only one day and you cant do it over! I’m told I did spend a lot of time on the dancefloor but the evening is a blur and not because I had too much to drink but because that old cliché that it all flys by is true. I know you will be sick of married women telling you to take it all in but please listen to them. As much as we don’t want to admit that they might be right……they are!
Once the band finished we played the iPod which Mark had set up in advance with a suitable playlist. This worked really well but make sure you hide this so guests cannot change songs if they don’t like them. This didn’t happen to us but we had been warned in advance.
I Don’t Know Much
We chose a very cheesy but very us first dance song. It was ‘I don’t know much’ by Aaron Neville. We tried to change it 2 days before the wedding but fate would have it that we couldn’t get in contact with our band (that was a worry!) so Aaron it was. I wouldn’t change it for the world now as it takes me straight back every time I hear it.
Shabby Chic Favours
As we were going for a shabby chic English country garden theme, I started looking up wooden hearts on ebay as I thought I could use them as place names on the tables. I came across dottybluebells who actually sell pre printed hearts in different patterns. They were just what I was looking for and even better, they cut out a lot of the hard work for me. I asked the makers to punch holes in them so I could tie string through them, then I bought small magnets to stick on the back and got our friend Katy to write all the names in her beautiful handwriting. Voila… The favours were made, they served a purpose, were cute keepsakes and they didn’t break the bank!
Local Wild Flowers
As I mentioned previously we were going for a country garden theme so I started collecting bits and bobs quite early on. I had a picture in my head of what I wanted so knew what I was looking out for. One of the first decisions I made was to have glass bottles on the tables with local wild flowers. The bottles were bought from ebay and my Mum, along with my aunt and uncle picked wild flowers from the hedgerows around Glengarriff the day before the wedding. The flowers were a mixture of purple heather and montbretia which grows in abundance around West Cork. All of our flowers were in keeping with what was growing around us at that time. Unfortunately I couldn’t keep the flowers but I kept several of the bottles to have as decoration in our house and also to have as a memory of our day.
Family and friends had also been collecting jars for us so that we could put candles and flowers around the ground.
Support And Enthusiasm
Our wedding was made special by all of the people involved. From the beginning we were lucky that all of the big things more of less fell in to place. Everyone involved whether they were before or not became a good friend or an even closer aunt or cousin. With the support and enthusiasm of everyone around me the endless to do lists and work involved around planning the wedding never got me down too much.
I really enjoyed the creative side of things. I spent quite a lot of time choosing the stationary for the invites, mass booklets, signage etc. I wanted to make sure that it all sat together nicely and I think it did in the end. One tip ladies… Start this process early. Putting all of this together and then having to print, cut and staple takes a lot of time. My sister and I were clipping the edges off menus the day before the wedding. I should have had it sorted early.
Written In The Stars
My biggest tip of all to anyone planning a marquee wedding is to have a wedding co-ordinator. We had the fantastic Laura McCarthy from Written in the Stars Weddings. Laura helped us out for 5 days over the wedding period and we honestly could not have pulled it all together without her. There were plenty of dramas and things to get sorted the week of the wedding. Before anything became a problem Laura had it sorted. It meant that we got time before the big day to spend time with our guests and enjoy the atmosphere without having to help set up the marquee or liaise with all of the suppliers. Before the wedding, we went through how we wanted everything to look with Laura. When we turned up on the day of the wedding the whole place was just as we had imagined and better. Laura also recommended the fantastic Pizza Base for our afterparty in the Blue Loo the following day. We didn’t want to make a big deal out of the next day but when we heard about Pizza Base our plans changed. The pizza’s were amazing. If you see a Pizza Base van in your area… Try it! Laura was a godsend.
Good luck to all the brides to be this summer. At times, the endless lists of to do’s and the endless list of decisions to be made can get too much but it is all worth it in the end. In a funny way, you will want to do it all again. You may not believe it now, but you might…
Venue – Glengarriff Lodge
Photographer – Especially Amy
Dress – Lusan Mandongus
headpiece -Wendy Louise Designs
Boutique – Ivory Boutique
Maids – Monsoon
Planner – Written in the Stars Weddings
Entertainment – Final Touch
Well… That is quite a headpiece!
Niamh was indeed lucky to have so many talented friends and family who could all contribute to make her marriage to Mark a day that they will remember forever.
Don’t be afraid to enlist your nearest and dearest – particularly if you feel you are struggling with your timekeeping during the planning process. You’ll find that they are only too happy to help out in any way that they can. And as Niamh found out – these sorts of events where everyone pulls together can bring your close ones even closer still.