Based in Killaloe, County Clare, Ciara Jørgensen is the founder of A Bride Abroad, an online destination set up to help expat couples arrange and plan their dream wedding back home in Ireland. Here, we talk about the challenges facing couples who are living away from home, the benefits of getting married in Ireland and what you need to know if planning an autumn/winter wedding.
How do you approach styling a wedding and where do you look to for inspiration?
I always consult with the couple on what their vision for the day is. Each couple has their own ‘thing’. There is always something that they are drawn too and I always try to encourage a couple to add their personality into the day. It’s important to not just go with the latest celebrity craze! After all, a wedding is a very personal day. Failing that, Pinterest is a great resource. For couples planning from abroad or indeed destination couples, I think Pinterest is ‘a must’ to help explain your vision to your chosen suppliers. As they say, a picture paints a thousand words!
What are some of the challenges facing couples when organising a wedding from abroad?
One of the major obstacles facing couples is the time difference, be it Australia or Dubai, New Zealand or Canada, they are all in different time zones and making contact with suppliers at home can be tricky. In addition, there is a lot of what I like to call wed-ministration, so lots of paper work and legalities to arrange that can be time-consuming and a bit complicated.
What are the benefits of getting married in Ireland?
For couples living abroad, I think they really want to get back home and have a bit of a family gathering. I think couples that emigrate miss out on so much and as such, they really like the idea of getting together for that special occasion. In addition, Ireland, as a destination, offers tremendous value for money and the service and food quality is second to none. Plus, couples are keen to bring their new friends over to our fantastic country. Who doesn’t want to show off our culture and tradition for a great wedding and a bit of craic!
What is your role on the day of the wedding?
My services vary for each and every couple. Some couples might just want help with the venue selection and site visits, whilst others might like help with venue negotiations (getting that great value package!). Some like me to be with them throughout the whole journey from the engagement right through to the wedding day and I have structured my services to be able to offer as little or as much help as a couple require. I think many young couples have been forced to leave Ireland because of the recession and I don’t want them to feel that a ‘Wedding Planner’ isn’t an option for them. My services start at €350, so I feel that I can offer that helping hand to all couples.
When is the best time to book the venue?
This really depends on when a couple is hoping to have their wedding. Some couples want a short engagement and as such, they might get engaged and married within 9-12 months. Others might have a longer engagement, up to 4-5 years … so it really depends. For an off-peak winter wedding, I would say all couples would want to be booking their wedding 6-9 months in advance and no less than 12-18 months for a high-peek summer date, especially weekends (depending on numbers and venue choice of course). I have had couples get engaged and married within 6 months though and that is totally doable too! I have plenty of contacts to make wedding dreams a reality!
How far in advance should a couple contact you when planning for the celebration?
Generally, couples contact me after they have gotten engaged and so there is huge excitement about planning the day.
Where is your favourite venue in Ireland?
Oh gosh, that is very difficult to say, the country is full of amazing places. I guess seeing as I had my own wedding in Waterford Castle, that place is very special to me. I also love Castlemartyr Resort, Clontarf Castle and The G! However, I would advise every couple to book a site visit at their chosen venue before paying the deposit. If they cannot do this themselves, ask a family or friend and, of course, I can do it too. What you see on a website and brochure may not be the reality. A strong smell of a swimming pool adjacent to the function room won’t be mentioned in the glossy brochure! A site visit is a must for all couples.
What mistakes do couples often make when it comes to choosing the wedding reception?
I think sometimes people get bogged down with the details, like if a champagne toast is included in the package or if the hotel will supply the chair covers, when actually, it’s more about how you feel about the venue itself. It has to feel special to you, like you don’t want to leave after your visit. Instead, you want to book there and then. When you feel like that, book that venue!
What do you think is important when it comes to curating a winter wedding?
Winter is all about cosy, warm and cuddly vibes and I think for a bride, it’s important to choose a dress that reflects that. There’s no point wearing the most amazing backless dress in the freezing cold and feeling uncomfortable. Dress for the season!
And finally, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give to couples before their special day?
I know everyone says it, but it really is true; take time away from everyone at some point during the wedding day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes and enjoy a quiet drink and chat together. The day flies by and you really want to have that special moment with one another. Also, I think couples should consider a ‘first glance’ photo – it’s a very special picture to capture. Finally, don’t fret the small stuff, leave that to me!
For more information, visit A Bride Abroad.