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A Royal Affair – Casa Loma Wedding Open House

by: Gia Raffanti

I’m WPIC’s new intern – Gia.   Last night I was lucky enough to be taken to Casa Loma‘s bridal open house with Kim.   This was my very first time in Canada’s castle, so I was excited for the tour :)

Inside the Grand Hall and the outside of the castle


When we got there, the grand entrance and stone walls made an imposing visual impact as you walked in.   I couldn’t help but think how unusual it would be to have a wedding in this type of setting.   When thinking of a venue, one doesn’t typically think of the option of having your own special day in a castle.   If ever there is a bride-to-be wanting her very own “princess wedding” – this is the venue to have it at!

Table set ups by 5th Element Events

After walking around a bit and having a peek at remnants of history, we talked to Casa Loma‘s Director of Sales and Marketing, Katie Inverarity.   She was able to give us the low down of how things are done at the castle.   The space can fit between 150 -180 people, and in the summer months you’re able to make use of the beautiful terrace overlooking the gorgeous skyline of Toronto. She also told us that the castle never had air conditioning for 60 years (!!!!), but thankfully they’ve tastefully installed air conditioning into the rooms recently so that no bride will have embarrassing mascara lines running down her face while she smiles and pretends she’s not sweating to death in her dress. :)

A dress from Whyte Couture and the Conservatory set up with half a ceremony and a sweet table

There were some of Casa Loma’s preferred vendors on display, this included, Bluefrog Entertainment Inc., Casa Loma’s onsite caterer Pegasus Hospitality Group, 5th Element EventsHeartline Pictures, Whyte Couture, Evgeny Cosmetics.

WPIC 2010 Year in Review

A Message from the founders of The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada, Danielle Andrews Sunkel and Tracey Manailescu:

Danielle and tracey speaking wpic

To borrow a line from Master Wordsmith, Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." 

What a busy year we have had!  We've had disappointments, surprises, accomplishments and many proud moments.  We've been imitated, (but never duplicated) time and again.

2010 solidified our International reputation and focus of The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada. Students travelled from Germany, Belgium, Mexico, Hong Kong, St. Lucia, Barbados, Jamaica and many other places to join our classes and association.  There are now over 2900 WPIC certified Wedding Coordinators worldwide.

In February, we were invited to visit the County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland where we stayed in a different castle every night! We also attended a Wedding Show in Dublin. Read about our Irish Wedding Adventures here, where we profile the various castles (such as Crom Castle, Belle Isle, Lough Erne Golf Resort, the National Trust Properties, etc) and what they offer to couples who wish to wed or honeymoon in Fermanagh.

Tracey and noel at crom castle

In March, we travelled to Bahamas to train and certify 46 people from the Bahamas Bridal Association, which included members from the outer islands, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, the Wedding Coordinators at the Atlantis, Sheraton Nassau, Wyndham Cable Beach and British Colonial Hilton Resorts to name but a few.

Bahamas wpic certificationPhoto courtesy of: Dominic Duncombe Photography

In June, we were invited to train and certify all of the on-site Wedding Coordinators from Palace Resorts in Mexico.  We brought 10 WPIC Alumni with us to tour the resorts in the Mayan Riviera to see what they offer our clients.Palace wpic certification

All thoughout the year, our alumni were offered opportunities to visit Jamaica, Bahamas, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Mexico on various FAM trips arranged through our travel partners; Sandals Resorts, SuperClubs Breezes, Palace Resorts and Air Canada Vacations.

WPIC was sought out by the Media on numerous occasions to share our expertise and opinion for newspapers, bridal magazines and television shows.  We were also able to extend several Media opportunities to our members at WPICAlumni.

All throughout the year we ran full-page, national ads in Today's Bride and Weddingbells magazine, encouraging couples to seek WPIC certified Wedding Professionals.  To further publicize the accomplishments of our Alumni, we instituted The Wedding Planner of the Month, which publicly showcases and profiles a successful WPIC Wedding Coordinator at the beginning of each month.

During the summer we aquired and renovated new offices with more space to accommodate our growing number of support staff and to better & more efficiently support the members of WPICAlumni.  When we were finished the renovations in September, we of course had a party to warm the offices. 

During the year we spoke about Wedding and Destination Wedding Planning at the Wedding MBA Convention in Las Vegas, and several Wedding Shows.

Wpic at weddingmba

We practised what we preach about Continued Learning and we attended wedding and event seminars and conferences in Grand Cayman, Ireland, Mexico, Bahamas, Canada and all over the USA (Las Vegas, New York, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach).

WPIC conference at atlantis

November 1-5, 2010 we held our 6th annual Wedding Professionals Conference in The Bahamas to much Media Acclaim.  Our keynote speaker was none other then Colin Cowie.

WPIC with Colin Cowie and Jayne Hallock

The other fine speakers included: Mary Dann-McNamee, duo Jung Lee & Josh Brooks, Tom Haibeck, Peter Merry, Andy Ebon, Richard Emanuelle and Megan Cole-Karagory. 

Wpic gala at sandals

Esteemed sponsors included Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazine, WedLock Magazine and The Bahamas Tourism Board to name a few.

WPIC logoIn order to get ready for 2011, we refreshed and rebranded the look of WPIC with our new logo, added a Facebook fan page and dedicated time each day to uphold our Twitter presence.  We will continue to update this Blog at least every Monday and Thursday, and more often if we have interesting news that just can't wait ;)  Just as we are rebranding and energizing the look of WPIC, we will be putting our energies into refreshing the inner workings of WPIC and helping our Alumni be the best they can be.

2011 is going to be an amazing year for WPIC!

Thanks for reading!

Danielle and Tracey


Lara & Bassam “Take the Plunge” at Canada’s Wonderland

N841730581_5721008_6217A Wedding by Danielle Andrews Sunkel

All photos courtesy of Red Umbrella Photography

Lara and Bassam found me through an Internet Search for "Weddings at Wonderland". You see, my own wedding was the first-ever Wedding at Wonderland almost 11 years ago. 

They were looking for a fun wedding venue that was central to all their guests, since their friends and family would be coming from all over Canada. The bride is originally from Sudbury and the groom from Windsor, they met while both were living in Calgary and when they contacted me, they were living Victoria, (they've since moved to the East Coast).  That's what you get when you marry a man who flies Sea Kings for the military!  Canada's Wonderland was the perfect choice for them.


The couple were actually married twice, they started with a traditional Muslim ceremony at a nearby hotel, then had a Non-Denominational Ceremony in Wonderland's Medeival Castle.  The wedding ceremony started with a slide show detailing the couple's courtship and showing their friends and families details about their daily life on the other side of the country.  It was a beautiful, romantic way to start their ceremony.

Bride and groom on rollercoaster N841730581_5720873_4565N841730581_5720838_3634Here is a photo of Lara Bassam with all of their guests in front of Wonderland's famous landmark, Victoria Falls.  

N841730581_5720869_3507 6a011570aa8d5b970b011571301b2e970bGuests had a chance to go on rides while the couple and their wedding party took photos around the park.  At lunchtime guests met Lara & Bassam in an elegantly decorated, behind-the-scenes location, similiar to an air-conditioned, permanent tent. 

This wedding had a perfect mixture of family, fun and sentiment.

N841730581_5720883_7309 N841730581_5720967_6834Above the bride and her mother hold the bride's bouquet which features a photo of the bride's father who passed away earlier in the year.  This way the bride got to keep her Dad with all day.


DSC00380  DSC00373

  N841730581_5720971_7977 N841730581_5720884_7610Facepainters, toys, a candy buffet and a visit from Dora, kept kids entertained throughout the entire Luncheon Reception.

After the reception, the couple decided to literally take the plunge on the Extreme Skyflyer.  

Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ A Traditional Irish Ceremony (Post 12 of 12)

Wedding in Ireland by Guest Blogger, Tara Murney Instructor at WPIC and Owner of A Green Tie Affair


A Traditional Irish Ceremony


The Irish have always had a lot of tradition incorporated into their weddings and I thought being of Irish decent, I would share some of my culture with all our beliefs and tradition that I think are not only important but a great part of my heritage. As passed from Nana to Mother, and Mother to Daughter, I now pass to you. Enjoy! 


The tradition of Matchmaking was common in Ireland up into the 20th century and many localities had their own matchmaker. Very little was left to chance and few couples enjoyed a match based solely on love. Marriages between the landless and well-to-do were very uncommon. Families held tightly to their land and social status and tended to move within their respective economic circles. As well as lining up potential mates for men and women, the matchmaker assisted in negotiating a “dowry,” between the groom and bride’s father. A girl brought her dowry with her into the marriage.


Traditional Irish Superstitions 


Let’s begin with one very popular wedding tradition, even regarded as an Irish superstition that states: ‘Marry in May and Rue the Day’ while another states: ‘Marry in April if you can, joy for maiden and for man’. 


Here’s a list of other superstitions the Irish believe in; keep in mind it’s by no means complete… 


  • A fine day meant good luck, especially if the sun shone on the bride. If you’re a Roman Catholic, one way to make certain that it won’t rain is to put a statue of the Infant of Prague outside the church door on the wedding morning. 
  • It was unlucky to marry on a Saturday
  • Those who married in harvest would spend all their lives gathering
  • A man should always be the first to wish joy to the bride, never a woman
  • It was lucky to hear a cuckoo on the wedding morning, or to see three magpies 
  • To meet a funeral on the road meant bad luck and if there was a funeral procession planned for that day, the wedding party always took a different road 
  • It was bad luck if a glass or cup were broken on the wedding day 
  • A bride and groom should never wash their hands in the same sink at the same time — it’s courting disaster if they do
  • It was said to be lucky if you married during a growing moon and a flowing tide
  • When leaving the church, someone must throw an old shoe over the bride’s head so she will have good luck
  • Its bad luck if newly-weds don’t meet a man on their way home from the church
  • If the bride’s mother-in-law breaks a piece of wedding cake on the bride’s head as she enters the house after the ceremony, they will be friends for life 
  • At one time, the groom was locked inside the church on the wedding day in case he got cold feet! 
  • It’ true….It’s good luck if it rains on your wedding day. (Of course, in Ireland, it would be a rare day when a little rain didn’t fall…) 
  • It’s good luck to rise with to the song of birds on your wedding day. 
  • It’s bad luck to put on your own veil; have a well-married woman do the honors.
  • A bride who can sing well is expected to sing at the wedding
  • An Irish bride uses a different road home than she took to the church. This may have been started to frustrate merrymakers intending on delaying the honeymoon, but it is also a symbol of her new life that begins with her marriage. 
  • Your wedding earrings will always bring you luck when you wear them. 
  • The bride shouldn’t take both feet off the floor when dancing with her new husband. It gives the fairies an edge.



When the Irish Marry 


Each culture has its own traditions for uniting lovers in matrimony. The Irish are no exception. Everyone looks forward to “a day out,” which is Celt-speak for the wedding reception. There is plenty of conflicting information with respect to the best time of year for marriages. History shows that up until fairly recently, marriages were unheard of during Lent, the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. 

The old Celtic calendar, which corresponds with the natural cycle of the year states that marriages were ill advised during the “dark half” of the year. The dark half commenced on November 1 and continued until Beltane or May 1st known as May Day. You’ll find that literature tends to see the feast of Beltane as an auspicious time for a wedding, conflicting sources claim that even though May Day and Beltane are wonderful times for finding a mate or “courting,” the earth was often considered to be to “in flux” to bolster such a strong commitment of vows. Lughnasadh, another very important day on the old calendar and falling on August 1st, was considered by many to be the most auspicious day of the year for weddings. However, any time during the “light” half of the year (May 1 to October 31) was considered an acceptable time to marry. Today, people marry all year round. However, if you are looking for “powerful” days on the Celtic calendar to marry, here is a list compiled of the four fire festivals and the equinoxes and solstices. 



Samhain (Halloween) October 31

Imbolc (St. Bridgit’s Day) February 1

Beltane (May Day) May 1

Lughnasadh August 1

Summer Solstice – June 21

Winter Solstice – December 21

Spring Equinox – March 21

Autumnal Equinox – September 21


An Irish Proposal 


There are many ways in which to ask your lady to wed but the Irish have two very well known proposals and they read: 


“Would you like to be buried with my people?”

“Would you like to hang your washing next to mine.”


The Claddagh Ring and It’s History 


Gents-claddagh-ring~100The Claddagn Ring has been named after one of Ireland’s oldest fishing villages, Claddagh . It is located just outside the walls of Galway City where the Corrib River meets Galway Bay. These rings have been in use in Ireland, particularly in County Galway, for several hundred years. Rumor has it that the very first Claddagh ring is believed to have been crafted by the blacksmith Richard Joyce around 1690. At first, it became very popular in Joyce’s local village of Claddagh and around County Galway, but later gained popularity throughout the county. 

Today, you can spot Claddagh rings all around the world. The Claddagh ring was often passed down as a heirloom from mother to daughter. It can serve as an engagement ring or a wedding ring or both. It is designed with a heart at the center, a hand either side of the heart and a crown on top. The heart is of course the symbol of love. The hands on either side represent friendship and the crown represents loyalty and fidelity. The manner in which the ring is worn has a symbolism all its own. If worn on the right hand or with the heart facing away from your heart – it means that you are free to love. If worn on the right hand with the heart facing inwards towards your heart – it means your “heart is taken.” If worn on the left hand facing in – it means you have committed your life to another forever. 


Many couples express their Irish heritage in a very profound way by having “Claddagh” rings as their wedding band of choice. This Irish design can be used as a theme for the entire wedding from start to finish. Many couples use the symbol of the Claddagh wedding rings, the design can be used on invitations, the wedding programs and thank you cards. If you shop around you will find Claddagh vases that can be used for centerpieces and chocolate boxes with the Claddagh symbol serve as favors. Even certain cake décor carry a symbol of the Claddagh which can be placed up atop your wedding cake. 



Choosing Color for an Irish Wedding 


Irish Tradition states: 



Marry in white, everything’s right

Marry in blue, lover be true

Marry in pink, spirits will sink

Marry in grey, live far away

Marry in brown, live out of town

Marry in green, ashamed to be seen

Marry in yellow, ashamed of your fellow

Marry in black, wish you were back

Marry in red, wish you were dead

Marry in tan, he’ll be a loved man

Marry in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl 


Traditional Irish Dress (Linen or Lace) 


As far back as the 16th Century, the Irish started producing lace. It was at the turn of the 20th Century the “white gown” came about and it was often accentuated with Irish lace, a form of crochet lace that was regarded as a couture profession. Crochet Centers were set up all over Ireland by the Ursuline Sisters in order to provide employment during the famine. History documents the first center was started in 1845 in Blackrock, County Cork. Soon, the couture lines of London, New York and Vienna sought out “Irish Lace,” for the fashions of the day. Irish Lace was used to make dresses and to decorate blouse bodices and cuffs, trimmings and ruffles. To this very day, many brides will add Irish lace to their wedding gowns. Brides will carry what is known as an Irish lace hanky. 


It was during the Victorian Era that the favored color became white and became a tradition which spread from Victorian England around the world. Until that time, other pastel shades were favored in England such as yellow and blue. 

Oriental cultures have a love for the color red on their wedding day. They solely believe it will bring good luck to the bride and groom; the traditional old Celtic cultures often favored blue and other bright colors for the same reason. The only color the Irish avoided was Green. It has been said to entice the fairies, who love to own beautiful things which would include the bride of course. 


Traditional Irish Ceremony 


There is a popular Irish vow that reads: 


By the power that Christ brought from heaven, mayst thou love me. As the sun follows its course, mayst thou follow me. As light to the eye, as bread to the hungry, as joy to the heart, may thy presence be with me, oh one that I love, ’til death comes to part us asunder. 

Traditional Irish couples will include an old Irish proverb that states: Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and just be my friend. 


Of course no wedding was complete without Pipers. Pipers play as guests arrive or after the ceremony the piper could pick up the recessional tune and continue it outside as guests leave. Many couples currently have them play as your guests arrive at the reception and when you both make your entrance. NOTE: But make sure the piper(s) plays “Uillean” pipes, known as Irish pipes, which are very different from Scottish bagpipes, they tend to be a little softer than the Scottish pipes. 


Following tradition, Irish dancers should be invited to any Irishwedding. They’re ceremonial dress offers much color and tradition, years ago the were only present during the reception period but these days they are invited to hand out programs during the ceremony then invited to the reception to dance throughout the night. 


Centuries back, many Irish brides wore a wreath of wildflowers in their hair and they also carried them in bouquets for luck. In Wales, brides carried live myrtle and gave a sprig to each bridesmaid which they were to plant. They believed that if it grew, the bridesmaid would marry within the year. Currently, many Irish couples have the florist add a sprig of shamrock to the bride’s bouquet and to the groom’s boutonnière for good luck. Many Irish brides favor wildflower wreaths over these elaborate veils nowadays …and also carry wildflower bouquets. The Irish also favor Lavender and a flower called Bells of Ireland. 


A Traditional IrishWedding Party 


It has been told that the wedding party should always take the longest road home from the church. Years ago, the wedding party was generally celebrated at the home of the bride. 


The wedding party surrounds the bride and groom after filling their glasses with mead (or champagne) the newly wedded couple recites an Irish toast: “Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, ’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.” The guests respond: “On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new. God bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need.” Modern Irish weddings may opt to use this Irish toast and place cards on each table so that the guests may respond. 


Traditional Irish Reception 


DSC03457Known as “Strawing” a wedding, it was said to be very lucky if the straw boys came and danced at your wedding. While there are several different versions of how they came into existence, I seem to favor the story of young men who were being chased because they were rustling the landowner’s sheep would sneak into a wedding reception and mingle with the guests. Eventually, it became a tradition for friends of the groom to disguise themselves with straw masks and suddenly show up. 


Known as the “Jaunting Car”, men of the bridal party would hoist the groom in a chair and parade him around as a newly married man. 

As for traditional Irish music, there’s so much wonderful Irish music available today, you’ll have no problems in finding appropriate selections for both the ceremony and the reception. The difficulty will be in deciding which pieces to play considering the night won’t be long enough to play it all. There are many Irish bands out there that focus on the old traditional music if this is an option for you. 


Bunratty Meade is a honey wine, it’s from a recipe based on the oldest drink in Ireland and if you’ve never tasted it, it’s well worth trying. In the old days, it was consumed at weddings because it was thought that it promoted virility. They say if a baby was born nine months after the wedding, it was attributed to the mead! Couples also drank it from special goblets for a full month following the wedding, which is supposedly where we get the word honeymoon. This was to protect the couple from the fairies coming to take the bride away. 


In the old days, there was an old ancient custom that had the couple eat salt and oatmeal at the beginning of their reception. They would each take three mouthfuls as a protection against the power of the evil eye. Also, when a couple is dancing, the bride can’t take both feet off the floor because the fairies will get the upper hand. Fairies love beautiful things and one of their favorites is a bride. There’s many an Irish legend about brides being spirited away by the little people! For the same reason, its bad luck for a bride to wear green as stated above. Relatives will tell you it’s also bad luck for anyone to wear green at an Irishwedding – but I think it really only applies to the bride. It’s also bad luck for a bride or the groom to sing at their own wedding; traditionally speaking. 


Traditional Irish Dinner 


If you are opting for a traditional Irish themed wedding your meals may include any or all of the following…. 


Your appetizers should include: 


  • Soda bread with a Cheese Selection
  • Smoked Salmon upon Irish Brown Bread (don’t forget to include chopped purple onion, capers, mayonnaise and cream) 


Your starter could be: 


  • Irish Potato and Leek soup 


Your traditional Irishmain course should be: 


  • a potato dish known as Colcannon
  • Melon & Avocado Salad
  • Potato Rolls (yum yum)
  • Salmon en Croute (basically salmon in any shape will do)
  • Known for the brave…. Shepard’s Pie or Beef stew


Your traditional Irishdessert could be any or all of these: 


  • Soda bread served with a selection of jams
  • Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
  • Wedding Cake 
  • White Cake with Strawberry filling
  • Irishwedding cake (rich fruit cake iced in white) 
  • Fresh cream


Traditional IrishDrinks


  • Mead (of course)
  • Irish Coffee or for the brave: Triple Irish Coffee 
  • Apple Cider
  • Hot Irish Nut 
  • Mulled Wine
  • Black Velvets
  • Warm Whiskey


Traditional Irish Toasts and Blessings 


“Slainte,” pronounced SLAWN-cha, is a popular Irish toast. There are many others (too many to list )maybe not as popular but defiantly traditional, here is another one dedicated to the new couple: 


Long live the Irish


Long live their cheer!

Long live our friendship, year after year! 


Traditional Irish Gifts 


The chime of bells is said to remind a couple of their wedding vows and this is why giving a bell as a gift has become an Irish tradition. 


Salt and pepper shakers are a lucky gift.

Wine glasses are lucky as well, though now these days it’s more common to see very tall toasting flutes.

One thing that has always been certain at any Irishwedding new or old, is that there will be some Waterford Crystal and some Belleek Parian China. It’s inconceivable to start out married life without them. Same goes for having a bit of Irish lace and some fine linen tablecloths. In having these items at your wedding it represents a solid commitment to one another. 


Other Interesting Customary Practices


There are many other customs such as the top tier of your wedding cake should be an Irish whiskey cake which is saved for the christening of your first baby. A slice of the cake is saved to be eaten on your first anniversary. Also, a bottle of champagne is saved from the reception so that it can be used to ‘wet the baby’s head’ at the christening. 


Years ago, there was one strange custom where the groom was invited to the bride’s house right before the wedding and they cooked a goose in his honor. It was called Aitin’ the gander, most believe it has to be where we get the expression ‘his goose is cooked!’ The goose was traditionally stuffed with apple stuffing (yum yum). 


 1 The Lucky Horseshoe. Traditionally Irish brides used to carry a real horseshoe for good luck. (Turned up so the luck won’t run out). You can get porcelain horseshoes which most Irish brides carry these days, even one’s made of fabric which the bride wears on her wrist. Originally, this would have been made by a blacksmith. Today, most of these horseshoes are sown into the dress or added to the top of the cake. It’s very rare to see a metal one, usually they are made of plastic. This horseshoe tradition is also carried on into the home where it is placed over the door again turned up so the luck won’t run out.  The horseshoe to the left is made by Belleek Pottery.

The Magic Hanky. This is one of the most delightful customs, it involves having the bride carry a special hanky that with only a few stitches it can be turned into a christening bonnet for the first baby. With a couple of snips it can be turned back into a hanky that your child can carry on his/her wedding day. Nowadays, finding these “magic Hankies” are hard, unless you’ve had one passed down or you could search any local Irish Gift Stores. Your best bet is to have a relative that lives in Ireland, ship one over if one cannot be found here. 

The Make-up bells: The chime of bells is thought to keep evil spirits away, restore harmony if two people are bickering and also remind a couple of their wedding vows. 

So here’s to all future couples…….I hope that during all the chaos of planning that you use timeless tradition to sweeten your celebration. To all those getting married from one Irish to the next I toast to you… 


May your troubles be less,

And your blessings be more,

And nothing but happiness come through your door.


Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ National Trust Properties (Post 11 of 12)

W-070288-castlecoole-property_imageby Danielle Andrews Sunkel

The National Trust is a charity that operates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Their mandate is to protect special places and make them available to everyone.  From their website:  "We protect and open to the public over 350 historic houses, gardens and ancient monuments. But it doesn’t stop there. We also look after forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, downs, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves, villages – for ever, for everyone."

One of the ways the National Trust garners funds to operate these places of historical interest and fulfill their mandate at the same time, is to open the Castle for Weddings.  With our guide, Special Events Manager Kate McAloon, we got to tour 3 of these venues while we were in Fermanagh: Castle Coole, Florence Court and Crom Estate.

Kate McAloon and Tracey Manailescu at Castle Coole in Ireland300 years or so ago, when the aristocracy built their giant castles, there were no labour laws, industry professions or even electricity.   Those who rented and worked the lands had no other opportunities.  Castles were completely self-sufficient and the people who worked at them were happy to have employment and a roof over their heads.  If one married well and used their thousands of acres properly, maintaining a castle was not a problem.  

Today, it costs more to run a Castle (heat, clean, maintain) each year, than it cost to build it many years ago.  For example, it costs about £100 000 to heat a typical castle for the year.  Many families have had to find alternate uses for their Castles in order to maintain them, many people have abandoned them, divided their lands and others turn them over to the National Trust.  

When we visited Castle Coole, I was struck by the amount of people strolling along the castle grounds and around the lake.  It was so nice to see and what a beautiful place for the public to enjoy!

Castle Coole

DSC03562This castle is a very grand and formidable property.  It is an 18th century Neo-Classical structure and has a sumptuous regency interior.  This is not a place that gives you the warm-fuzzies, but my oh my, does it impress!

Picture 27
For weddings you can use the Hall and the Breakfast Room in the main house, the back entrance and terrace or set up a Marquis on their extensive back lawn.  While you are having photos around the gorgeous grounds, your guests can go on a tour of the amazing castle, see "the bedroom that was never slept in" created for King George IV, and find out about the workings of "below stairs" touring the extensive (and VERY interesting) basement and underground tunnel.

Florence Court

DSC03571Unlike the castle their son-in-law built (Castle Coole), Florence Court has a more homey and romantic feeling to it, making it the perfect choice for weddings.  The interior has the most ornate and beautiful plaster work I have seen.  Everytime I looked out a window, I felt as though I was on the set of a Jane Austen novel, and if you know me, you know she is my absolute favourite author, so it was a great experience.

Picture 30_2 Picture 30 Picture 31
Civil Weddings can take place in front of the grand staircase and receptions can take place inside in the Pavillion Room, the Colonel's Room or outside under a marquis.  The extensive and manicured grounds make a perfect photo backdrop.

Crom Estate

W-15789-crom_estateNot to be confused with Crom Castle which is still owned and maintained by the Earl of Erne and his son, the Viscount of Cricton, Crom Estate refers to the 2000 acres and several outbuildings which the Earl gave to the National Trust in the 1970's.  Crom Estate is such a beautiful and tranquil place, the ancient woods and islands are home to many rare species (and more than a few faeries).   One visit to the Crom Estate and you will never want to leave, so luckily there are self-catering cottages (the former staff quarters) available for rent.

Picture 34 Weddings can take place in the Tea Room, their banquet room or at the ruins of the Old Crom Castle, which has a magic all its own.  

For more information about the National Trust and the properties it takes care of, please visit their website at

Photos are a compilation from our trip and the National Trust website.

Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Crom Castle (Post 9 of 12)

By: Tracey Manailescu

Crom CastlePicture from:

Crom Castle is the one I can't stop dreaming of…Literally, 5 out of 8 nights since I have returned (at the time I wrote this) this castle has taken over my dreams.  Not that I mind!  It is a truly magical place, right out of a fairytale.

It has everything a true romantic (like me) wants:

  • History
  • Royalty
  • Ruins
  • Buried treasure
  • Fairies


The original Crom house was built in the early 17th century (1611 to be exact) by Michael Balfour.  It burned down in 1764 (word has it that a maid walking with a candle upstairs, caused the fire). Crom had survived two sieges prior to the accidental fire that destroyed it.  Apparently there is only one picture remaining of the original castle.


The castle was home to many war heroes. The Earl of Erne who inherited the castle at the age of three (after the death of his father and grandfather) still lives on-site with his wife today.  His son, Viscount Crichton owns the West Wing, which can be rented out for personal use by the public such as families, honeymooners and anyone in need of peaceful solitude.


The foundation ruins of the original castle still stand, and were embellished upon in the 1830's with ruined walls and towers. Wedding couples now flock to this area for their photos.

Buried Treasure:

It is said that treasure was buried under an old oak tree in 1689 when one of the sieges took place on the castle. However, don't try to dig it up because it has a "Blood Curse" on it from the Fairies (wee folk).


 "According to local legend, Fermanagh was once a vast plain with a Fairy Well in the middle.  The well was always kept covered from sunlight to prevent it from bubbling over. One day two young lovers met by the well and decided to elope. They drank a last toast from the well and ran off together, leaving it uncovered. The Fairy Well has bubbled ceaselessly for centuries and that is how the Fermanagh Lakelands were formed." Source:

Also, there is a Fairy Stone and Tree that you can make a wish when you sit on it. I did!  Strange thing was, the wish I thought I had wanted for so long, didn't seem so important once I sat down…

Tracey Manailescy on a wishing stoneFairy Stone and Tree 

Old Crom Castle ruins 

Old Crom Castle ruinsWe had the pleasure of staying overnight in the West Wing, which is owned by Lord Crichton (son of The Earl).  It is available for rent for a few days, a week or even a month. 12 people can stay comfortably.  At the time we stayed overnight, Lord and Lady Erne were away in England. This meant we were alone in the castle!

The wonderful manager, Noel Johnston welcomed us, had tea with us, took us on a tour of the West Wing and than handed us over to his talented sister Cynthia, who is the caterer for Crom Castle and Belle Isle functions, who made us such a wonderful dinner.   We started with a wonderful, fresh Smoked Salmon salad.  We have never had such tender chicken, perfectly steamed veggies and potatoes. Than to top it off she made us Rhubarb crumble (just like my grandmother used to make). We were loving it so much, that we didn't even see the Devonshire cream until we were finished!  After dinner was done, Cynthia handed us the key to the castle! (Obviously, there are also security measures in place.)

Danielle Andrews Sunkel with the key to Crom CastleI had some port by the fireplace, and Danielle made some tea.  We felt so comfortable beyond belief. (No, it was not the Diva in me, LOL!) 

Crom Castle has such a warmth and peaceful feeling to it, we even slept in different bedrooms (if you know me, you know this is a huge deal). I had a great sleep!

Ireland 2010 1367This was my room.  Each of the 6 bedrooms has its own ensuite bathroom.

The next morning the beautiful, Violet Johnston, arrived to make us breakfast . Violet was the last housekeeper of Crom Castle.  She worked there for 40 years, since she was 14 yrs. old. She told us that she would start work at 8 a.m and finish at 9 p.m most nights. "I loved every single minute of it!" she told us. Violet is also well-known around Northern Ireland for her special talent of reading tea leaves.  People wait months to have her read their tea cups.

Violet Johnston and Tracey ManailescuAfter breakfast, Noel Johnston took us on a walking tour of the grounds and ruins. I was mesmerized and a bit overwhelmed by it all.  He explained some of the history of the castle, the Cricton family and his family who have worked for Crom Castle for the last 200 years!  I told him that I could have listened to him for days!

Tracey Manailescu and Noel Johnston at Old Crom CastleI asked Mr. Johnston what type of couple would suit getting married at Crom Castle, and he said,   "Crom is open to everyone no matter who they are, or what budget they have. If a bride wants to be princess for the day, Crom is the place to be a princess with her prince, and have her fairy tale wedding!" 

I also asked him why Crom Castle is different:

"Crom Castle is different from any other castle, as its private. You hire it for your ceremony and reception. It's tranquil with great hospitality and everybody is made so welcome."

Understandably, when I left Crom Castle, I cried!

Now I am convinced that I need to have my Wedding Vow Renewals at Crom Castle next year, so my husband and children can see what I am so "over the moon" about 😉

Some photos of Weddings at Crom Castle:

Crom Castle West Wing Wedding
Crom Castle West Wing WeddingWedding Photos from Crom Castle's website

Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Belle Isle (Post 8 of 12)

Belle Isleby Danielle Andrews Sunkel

What a gorgeous and romantic place to get married!  We just loved it here.  The estate is at the Uppermost tip of Upper Lough Erne, on 470 acres spread over 8 islands and includes a working farm. There are so many accomodation and entertainment options at Belle Isle Estate, your wedding can last a week instead of just a day! 

Belle Isle prides itself on being an Ecologically-friendly location.  Energy efficient lightbulbs are used in evey fixture, a wood pellet furnace is used to heat the castle and hot water, 47% of their electricity comes from renewable resources, organic waste from their cooking school is used as compost in their gardens, the list goes on and on.  Its truly incredible to think that a 17th Century castle could become so "Green".

The estate has passed hands several times and was last purchased in 1991 by the Duke of Abercorn, who bought the estate for his second son, Lord Nicholas Hamilton.

The Estate is managed by the most wonderful couple, James and Fiona Plunket.  They were both so welcoming and knowledgable.  Fiona took us for a tour of the Estate, Accommodations and Cookery School and James joined us to show us the Castle and grounds.  Such a great couple, I really liked them, and they have a true love and passion for Belle Isle. 


Wedding & Ceremony Locations

Below is a map of the Hamilton wing, where weddings take place in the castle.  There are three ceremony location options: the Drawing Room, the Dining Room (furntiure will be moved out for both of the prior options) or the Garden.  The garden is my personal favourite!

The Dining Room

Can seat up to 42 for a Wedding Reception.DSC03516 Or be made over for a Civil Ceremony


The Drawing Room  It is much larger than it looks here.

The Garden James Plunket at Belle Isle Here is James Plunket showing us the garden space in winter (above) and as it looks in summer (below)Castle4


The main castle sleeps 14, but there are several other places for guests to stay on Belle Isle. The Courtyard, the Coach House, The Walled Cottage Garden, The Bridge House, The Bridge Cottage, The Garden Cotteage and Glen Cottage.  One of the castle bedrooms is called the Coco Chanel Room, because the bed in there was the one she slept in everytime she visited with one of her good friends!

Here is a photo of James and his wonderful wife, Fiona, showing me around the Castle.  Notice the artwork, there are 950 framed works of art in the castle!  I asked James if would count them to make sure,
but he declined, lol.17059_319158780478_534695478_5165971_965822_n I just had to include this shot of their very special toilet :) Apparently many guests like to get a photo of themselves on the toilet!DSC03529
This is the Courtyard, where Tracey and I stayed.  These gorgeously renovated suites are full self-catering cottages with 2-3 bedrooms, a full kitchen 1 or 2 bathrooms and even a fireplace in each unit! This would be such fun for a close group to take over all of the units!  You could have big dinners set up in the courtyard.DSC03492The interior of our Unit #6


Here is the Coach House, the bell on top would run the farm telling the workers when it was time to work, time for lunch and quitting time.  It is now a large self-catering cottage with three bedrooms.


The Walled Garden Cottage, doesn't it just scream romance? Cott_walled

Things to do at Belle Isle

There is so much to do on this island!  Year-round Pike fishing, Coarse fishing, Driven Snipe and Woodcock Shooting, Tennis, Croquet lawn, Children's Playground, 17ft outboard boats to rent, a BBQ house, the lake and huge lawns for organized games. Within thirty miles there are many castles, Belleek Pottery, the Marble Arch Caves, theatre, shopping, tons of pubs, the possibilities are endless.  Fermanagh County's largest town, Enniskillen, is only 12 kms away.

You can also take a class at their state-of-the-art, on-site cooking school, Belle Isle School of Cookery!  With space for 12 chefs, this would be a fun activity to incorporate.  The school also has a store with home-made preserves, chutneys and  specialty cookware.DSC03539 DSC03541 

All in all, Belle Isle is the perfect Destination Wedding location for a couple looking for a Get-Away Family Wedding in Northern Ireland.  I can not wait to bring my family to stay at Belle Isle!

Photos are a compilation of our photos and photos from the Belle Isle Website.

Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Knockninny Country House & Marina (Post 7 of 12)


By: Tracey Manailescu

Upon arriving at Knockninny Country House & Marina, we got a feeling of home.  Gayle, co-owner (husband and wife team) gave us a tour full of laughs and warm hospitality. Beautifully decorated rooms, cozy and comfortable furniture with modern appliances make this charming venue a hidden gem. Up to 10 people can stay on-site.

DSC03469Ireland 2010 1268Ireland 2010 1267


You can hold your Civil Wedding in one of two places on site. One is in "The Porter Room" which can hold up to 100 guests (60 for a sit-down reception) and has a wonderful view of the Lake. The other is in "Knockninny Gardens" which overlooks the marina, and then rock your reception in the beautiful permanent Marquis, which can hold 180 guests.

Ireland 2010 1260

Ireland 2010 1273 Knockninny is a 4 Star rated Country Guesthouse. This venue would be fantastic for a couple who really wants to have the intimacy of a family-focused wedding.                                                                                                     Location: Knockinny Quay, Derrylin, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Lough Erne Golf Resort (Post 5 of 12)

Lough Erne Golf Resortby Danielle Andrews Sunkel 

Upon arriving at Lough Erne Golf Resort we were struck by the vast amount of green around it. Not one, but two Golf Courses!  The Photo above shows just a section of the beautiful main building which backs not only onto their Champion Golf Course, but also Lough Erne (Lake).  The photo below shows the private 2 bedroom, self-catering cottages.

DSC03433We were warmily greeted outside by the best Bellman in history, Neil. The main lobby is so beautiful and soothing with dark wood, muted walls, plush seating everywhere, including in front of several open fires! Afternoon-tea-in-garden-hal

We were given a quick tour of the leisure facilities and their authentis Thai Spa, where we immediately booked our Spa appointments for that evening (purely for research, you know). 

Infinity-pool (Photo from Resort website)

Neil then brought us to our room, giving us a little tour along the way, he showed us around our gorgeous suite and taught how to work the tricky terrace doors, LOL.  One thing I really liked was a little pamphlet titled, "50 Things to do".  It listed 10 things to do in the rain, 10 things to do in the sun, 10 things to do with children, 10 things to do with a car, 10 things to do without a car.  What a fabulous idea!!

The view was absolutely stunning from our terrace suite.  Here is a photo I took:

DSC03397_2When we informed him we had Spa appointments, he showed us these handy back stairs which led directly in to the spa so no one would see us go downstairs in our bathrobes and slippers.  He was so wonderful our entire stay, that we insisted on getting a photo with him at tea the next day.

Neil, Tracey Manailescu and Danielle Andrews Sunkel

Thai-spa-corridorDown the stairs and in to the Spa we went. Lough Erne possesses the only authentic Thai Spa in Ireland.  We were led in to a room with beautiful music, candles, relaxing lounges and treated to an exoctic fruit juice shot while we waited for our Thai Masseuses. I had a head, neck and back massage and Tracey was treated to a scalp massage.  After our fabulous treatments we were brought to another peaceful room where we were treated to green tea and assorted fruits, set at our individual chaises, we were invited to stay as long as we liked.   If we didn't have dinner reservations, I wouldn't have moved the rest of the night. It was the perfect ending.

Deep-relaxation-room-1As if we weren't already spoiled enough, we headed to Lough Erne's Catalina Restaurant for what we affectionately call, "The BEST Dinner of our Lives!!"  Chef Noel McMeel's amazing menu is based on foods found directly in the County of Fermanagh.  Collette McMeel (no relation to Chef), was the sweetest hostess and sat us in front of terrace doors overlooking the Golf Course.  We started our feast with a selection of homemade breads (Tracey's favourite was the curry bread!), Irish Crab salad and Scallops.

17059_319067920478_534695478_5165722_194173_n DSC03402 

Danielle Andrews Sunkel at Lough Erne in IrelandFor the main course Tracey had the Mixed Grill which is a selection of all the local meats and I had the Fillet of Fermanagh Beef Rossini, we had to savour every single bite as it was just that good.  Our dishes came with entree sides, but little copper pots arrived on the table with seasonal mixed vegetables and the best darn scalloped potatoes in the world!  For dessert I had a souffle, while Tracey had a selection of Irish Cheeses with Port.  With our coffees came homemade fudge and hand-dipped chocolates.  We thought our friend, Alanna McQuaid (Lough Erne's Canadian Groups Representative), was exaggerating when she said Catalina's was the best restaurant in the world, but My Goodness,  she was spot on!

The next morning we went to Catalina's for a fabulous Irish Breakfast plus buffet, then went for a walk around the grounds. 

Tracey Manailescu and Tricia Ellse at Lough Erne Golf in IrelandWe then met with Events Manager, Tricia Ellse, who showed us the many places available to have Wedding Ceremonies and Receptions at the resort.  Ireland's Marriage Laws are such that on-site Civil Marriage was only made legal in 2007. Marriages must take place in a licensed area, if a venue would like to offer multiple Ceremony areas, they must license each one. New-ross-suite-may-09-1I particularly loved their private outdoor terrace for cocktail receptions and the main walkway for the bride and groom to enter from.

DSC03421 Wedding-3
All in all, we had a fabulous time at Lough Erne Golf Resort.  The people who work there are so warm and friendly, they truly make you feel welcome and valued.  The venue is absolutely beautiful and it has all the luxuries modern couples demand with a comfortable, luxurious old-world atmosphere.  For more details about the resort, be sure to visit their website.

Lough-erne-aerial-1Photos are a combination of our own, and photos from the Lough Erne Golf Resort website

Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Beautiful & Unique Places for Weddings in Ireland (Post 3 of 12)

by Danielle Andrews Sunkel

In subsequent Blog posts we are going to feature beautiful Castles and venues that we had the pleasure of visiting and experiencing first-hand. I also wanted to feature venues that, although we didn’t get a chance to view them, had we more time, we sure would have liked to.

Martello Tower Sutton


Located in Sutton, 12kms from Dublin city centre, this tower was built in 1804 with 10-foot walls in effort to keep out Napoleon, Napoleon never attacked, but everyone else did.  Weddings can be held outside on the grounds, or intimate weddings can be held inside the tower.  The newlyweds can then stay in the two bedroom multi-level housekeeping suite inside the tower.

Cloghan Castle

The main tower of this keep was built in 1239!  In 1973, the rest of was you see was added using reclaimed and local materials.  Guests and the wedding couple can stay at the Castle and the main ballroom holds 120 guests.  Civil Ceremonies are available at the Castle as well.

Couplelake200 Bridestairs

Knappogue Castle

Picture 27

Built in 1467, this Medeival Castle has 5 places to hold Civil Weddings or a Blessing in their on-site St. Mark’s Chapel. 

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With many room to host the wedding, their historic Main Hall can seat up to 150 at long tables in Medeival Faire while the Castle Entertainers delights guests. 

Picture 28_2

Boasting a Victorian Walled Garden, a Rose Garden and set amongst rolling hills, there are many ideal places for wedding photos. Mead, of course, will be served.

Dunboyne Castle Hotel


This Castle Resort combines the beauty of old, with the luxuries of new. There are on-site banquet facilties, pools, a spa and very luxuriously appointed guest rooms.


Lough Rynn Castle


This luxurious castle is a fully-functioning hotel on 300 acres and boasts a championship golf course.  Weddings can be held outside or in.  While the castle is traditional, the banquet facilities are quite contemporary.

Kilronan Castle

Kilronan Castle Exterior 1

A castle hotel set on 40 acres, this location has 85 bedrooms and boasts a gorgeous spa.  There are Wedding Packages and a discount for Weekday Weddings.